If you want quality shut-eye, consider taping your mouth shut? At least that’s what some popular wellness influencers, including Gwyneth Paltrow, are claiming on social media. But medical experts say this is a trend that comes with some life-threatening drawbacks.
Busy mom of three Chance Culp told TODAY in a segment aired Nov. 16 that she's taped her mouth every night since she tried it for the first time because it helped her sleep "like a baby. I stayed asleep all night long. ... I’ve not skipped a night."
Another mom of three Lindsey Polidore has felt a "huge difference" in the quality of her sleep since trying the trend four months ago, she told TODAY in the Nov. 16 segment. "I noticed that I just have a much deeper sleep I wake up a lot more rested. I do credit mouth taping to becoming more of a morning person so I can wake up now at 5:45 without feeling exhausted."
"It’s a lot more than just some TikTok trend," Polidore added.
One of the first TikTok videos espousing the benefits of practice, which has since racked up millions of views, was posted in 2021 by health coach Cory Rodriguez. In the video, he places an adhesive over his lips — special strips designed for open-mouth snorers, but he noted that “gentle paper medical tape” works just as well.
“The goal is to breathe through your nose while you’re asleep versus your mouth,” Rodriguez explained. He then lists all the supposed benefits, including improved oral hygiene, a better slumber, reduced dry mouth and a decrease in snoring.
Fellow content creator Alexis Fischer is also a fan of mouth taping.
"You're going to get the deepest sleep you've ever experienced," Fischer raved in another TikTok clip.
"It does not completely seal your lips & breath can still pass through your mouth, The tape isn’t crazy strong!” she added in the comments.
Many people credit mouth taping for improving their overall sleep patterns.
“This has changed my life. No more snoring, mouth breathing, or congestion,” one person wrote on Fischer’s TikTok video.
Added another: “This is the single most life changing thing I’ve ever learned from TikTok. I’ve been doing this every night for 6mos. Can’t sleep w/out it now.”
Is this an effective sleep aid? Experts weigh in
We’re meant to be nose breathers, Dr. James Mojica, clinical director of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, explained to TODAY. Noses humidify the air and filter debris before it can get into your lungs, and they boost your oxygen uptake. Breathing through your nose can also reduce allergy symptoms, lower blood pressure and help with anxiety.
On the other hand, breathing through your mouth has been linked to sleep disorders, bad breath, gum disease and misalignment of the teeth. When a person breathes through their mouth during sleep, it can often indicate some kind of nasal restriction or obstruction.
"We often mouth breath when we are trying to intake more oxygen, like after a vigorous sprint," Dr. W. Christopher Winter, a neurologist and sleep specialist in Charlottesville, Virginia, told TODAY.
But if you’re breathing through your mouth at night, Mojica warns that taping it shut is not the solution.
“You want to figure out why you’re mouth breathing,” he told TODAY. “You want to find the source of the snoring.”
One possible cause is sleep apnea, which happens when a person’s upper airway becomes blocked repeatedly during sleep, reducing or completely stopping airflows, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. It can be related to obesity, heart or kidney failure, endocrine disorders and other serious conditions.
A deviated septum, a nasal polyp, allergies or asthma could also be causing you to mouth breathe, Mojica said.
Mouth taping has not been formally studied and is not an approved therapy, but Mojica compares the practice to nasal strips, which are marketed as a tool to open the nasal passages.
“I have had patients swear that with nasal strips, their snoring went away,” he shared. “Then we do a sleep study, and it shows that there’s no difference whatsoever.”
Because of the lack of research, mouth taping isn't recommended, Dr. Marri Horvat, a sleep specialist at Cleveland Clinic, told TODAY in the Nov. 16 segment. Plus, "there's a lot of risks to it," she added. "If your airway’s already obstructed through your nasal passage and now you take away the only area that you can actually get air through, it can cause a lot of problems.”
Side effects of mouth taping, stemming from a lack of oxygen due the airway being blocked, include cardiac arrest, arrhythmia and seizures, Horvat said.
To reduce mouth breathing at night, Dr. Megan Acho, pulmonologist and sleep specialist at University of Michigan Health, recommended paying attention to your sleep position and what you're drinking before bedtime. “Mouth breathing and snoring can be worsened by things like sleeping on your back and drinking alcohol," she said.
Multiple experts also stressed the importance of talking to a doctor before trying mouth taping because if you're struggling with sleep, it may be a bigger problem than how you're breathing. And it's extra important to get help if you have sleep apnea symptoms, such as excessive sleepiness during the day, waking up feeling like you're choking or gasping, or frequent headaches in the morning.