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Mouth Taping: Sleep Benefits, Risks, and What to Do Instead

Mouth taping for energy, snoring, and sleep apnea has gone viral, but there are safer alternatives like lowering sleep debt and improving your sleep hygiene.
Written by
Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
Reviewed by
Chester Wu, MD, Rise Science Medical Reviewer
Our Editorial Standards
We bring sleep research out of the lab and into your life. Every post begins with peer-reviewed studies — not third-party sources — to make sure we only share advice that can be defended to a room full of sleep scientists. Learn more.
Updated Regularly
We regularly update our articles to explain the latest research and shifts in scientific consensus in a simple and actionable way.
Published
2023-01-18
Updated
18 MINS
Woman taping a man's mouth before sleep to help him breathe through his nose

You might have seen the viral mouth taping TikTok trend. It’s a seemingly simple life hack that promises everything from deeper sleep to clearer skin, reduced snoring to better breath. It’s even said to help those with sleep apnea — all by placing a piece of tape over your mouth as you sleep. But is there much scientific evidence behind this trend?

While mouth breathing has been linked to a whole host of health issues, and nasal breathing is better for you, taping your lips closed may not be the answer. There isn’t much research into mouth taping, and the practice can be dangerous. 

Below, we’ll dive into what mouth taping is, what the benefits and risks are, and what you can do instead to improve your energy, snoring, and sleep apnea. Plus, we’ll share how the RISE app can help you get some of the benefits of mouth taping, without the tape.

What is Mouth Taping?

Mouth taping involves placing a piece of tape over your mouth as you sleep. The aim isn’t to seal your lips shut, however, it’s to relax your muscles to make your body breathe through your nose, instead of your mouth. 

You may find that after taping your mouth closed for a few weeks, you don’t need the tape at all and nasal breathing becomes your default.

What Are the Benefits of Mouth Taping?

Taping your mouth shut sounds more like a torture method than a health hack, so why exactly are people doing it? It’s because mouth breathing isn’t the best for you and nasal breathing comes with many benefits. 

Your nose filters out allergens and it warms and adds moisture to the air you breathe in. 

The benefits of breathing through your nose include:

  • Reduced snoring 
  • Increased daytime energy 
  • Improved self-reported sleep quality 
  • Reduced mouth dryness upon waking
  • Reduced anxiety and it can help you relax 
  • Protection from your airways narrowing due to exercise
  • Reduced severity of exercise-induced asthma 

And on the flip side, mouth breathing can lead to:

  • Bad breath
  • Tooth decay 
  • A dry mouth and sore throat upon waking 
  • Sleep disorders like sleep apnea 
  • Symptoms that look like ADHD
  • High blood pressure
  • Lowered blood oxygen levels
  • Impaired brain function
  • Increased stress response (and stress and anxiety can easily disrupt your sleep)

Mouth breathing in children can lead to developmental issues in their face shape, as well as sleep loss — which can impact their growth, academic performance, and behavior (and a potential misdiagnosis of ADHD, which has very similar symptoms to sleep deprivation). 

But, while there are many dangers of mouth breathing, there’s not enough research to say whether mouth taping can stop these things from happening. 

And as mouth taping has gone viral on social media, the internet is full of unproven benefits — everything from improved concentration to clearer skin

Why Do People Mouth Tape?

Mouth taping is said to be an easy and cheap home remedy for better sleep that doesn't involve taking melatonin or sleep aids (which can come with dangerous side effects). 

A few searches on social media and you’ll see the practice is said to have endless benefits, but here’s what has been scientifically proven. 

Mouth Taping for Snoring 

Snoring can often be caused by mouth breathing, so mouth taping sounds like an easy fix to help you, and your bed partner, have a quieter night’s sleep. 

One sleep study found mouth taping helped decrease snoring intensity and frequency. But the study was small — only 30 people — and included those who have sleep apnea. There isn’t much research into how mouth taping can help those who snore, but don’t have sleep apnea.  

Snoring isn’t always caused by something as simple as mouth breathing, though. It might be a sign of sleep apnea or be caused by being overweight, drinking alcohol, taking sleep aids, or by a physical problem like having large tonsils or narrow airways. So, mouth taping may not help at all, or it may offer some relief, but not solve the root cause of your noisy breathing.

Mouth Taping for Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes you to stop breathing temporarily throughout the night. You can learn more about how to know if you have sleep apnea here. 

Those with obstructive sleep apnea often have nasal obstructions, and these obstructions may contribute to the sleep disorder or make it worse. Mouth breathing also makes it harder to stick to sleep apnea treatments like using a CPAP machine, a continuous positive airway pressure machine that pushes air into your airways to keep them open throughout the night. 

A 2022 study looked at mouth breathers with mild sleep apnea. The results showed mouth taping helped to: 

  • Decrease AHI — apnea/hypopnea index, the measure of how many disordered breathing events happen during the night — from 8.3 to 4.7 events an hour.  
  • Decrease snoring from about 304 to 121 snores an hour.

The worse the sleep apnea and snoring were, the greater the improvement mouth taping had. The study concluded: “Mouth-taping could be an alternative treatment in patients with mild OSA before turning to CPAP therapy or surgical intervention.”

However, it’s not clear how effective mouth taping would be for those without mild sleep apnea. 

Mouth taping may also help reduce mouth leak. Mouth leak happens when someone with sleep apnea is using a machine to push air into their nasal airways, but they begin mouth breathing during the night. This reduces how effective the treatment is and can disrupt sleep architecture, or how your body moves through sleep stages, like REM and deep sleep. 

Research shows mouth taping can reduce mouth leak, which can help decrease your arousal index (the number of arousals per hour of sleep) and increase time in REM sleep.

Those with sleep apnea often snore, and mouth taping may help to reduce this, too, helping both the person affected and their bed partner get more sleep. 

However, more research needs to be done. Another 2022 study found those with sleep apnea still tried to breathe through their mouths, even when they were taped shut — also known as “mouth puffing.” 

Mouth Taping for Asthma 

Mouth taping may help those with asthma improve their symptoms. It can be used as part of the Buteyko breathing technique (BBT) program, which includes breathing techniques designed to stabilize your breathing patterns. 

But, as with mouth taping in general, there’s not enough research to be sure. One study found mouth taping didn’t improve asthma symptoms at all.  

Is Mouth Taping Dangerous?

While sleeping with your mouth open can lead to health issues, and there are benefits to nasal breathing, mouth taping to make that happen isn’t widely researched and the risks aren’t well known. 

There is some promising research into mouth taping, but it’s mainly in those with sleep apnea and not the general population. And those with sleep apnea shouldn’t try the health hack without medical supervision.

Side effects of mouth taping include: 

  • Disrupted breathing: If you can’t get enough air through your nose. 
  • Disrupted sleep: If you can’t get enough oxygen, you may wake up throughout the night. 
  • Worsening of sleep apnea: And the health conditions it can cause like heart failure and death. 
  • Irritation or allergic reactions from the tape. 
  • Anxiety: From not being able to breathe through your mouth or simply wearing the tape, which can make it harder to fall asleep.  

Even if mouth taping provides some benefits for you, it may be a quick fix and not solve the root cause of the problem you’re trying to solve. It may help reduce your snoring, for example, but if this snoring is being caused by undiagnosed sleep apnea, it can be dangerous to ignore it and not get proper treatment. 

Plus, mouth taping only really works if you’re a mouth breather through habit. If you breathe through your mouth due to nasal obstructions like polyps, for example, mouth taping won’t cure this.   

How Can I Mouth Tape?

Want to try mouth taping? There are no official guidelines, but here are a few tips if you’re going to try the practice for yourself: 

  • Try breathing through your nose first: If you can’t breathe comfortably through your nose due to allergies, congestion, or another kind of nasal obstruction, don’t try mouth taping. 
  • Speak to a doctor: Get medical advice before you try mouth taping to make sure it’s safe for you, especially if you have asthma or sleep apnea. Your doctor may recommend more effective treatment options.
  • Use surgical tape: Don’t use duct tape, masking tape, or any kind of tape that will be difficult to remove or may cause a reaction. Buy hypoallergenic tape made for skin. If you want to avoid tape altogether, you can also buy chin straps that keep your mouth closed while you sleep.
  • Start slowly: If you’ve never tried mouth taping before, don’t jump into bed for a full night’s sleep all taped up. Start by taping your mouth for short periods of time — try 10 minutes — during the day to help you slowly get used to it. 
  • Tape over both lips: Place a small amount of tape over both lips to stop your mouth from opening. Use a piece of tape that’s longer than you need so you can fold over the edges, making it easier to remove in the morning. 

After a few weeks of mouth taping, you may find you naturally begin breathing through your nose and don’t need the tape anymore. 

How to Sleep with Your Mouth Closed Without Mouth Taping?

There are things you can do to help you breathe through your nose while you sleep that don’t involve taping your mouth shut. 

  • Quit smoking: Smoking irritates your nasal passages and can cause congestion, making nose breathing more difficult to do. 
  • Cut down on alcohol: Alcohol can also irritate your airways, so cutting down may help you breathe easier. Alcohol also disrupts your sleep, so cutting back is a win-win. We’ve covered how long before bed you should stop drinking alcohol here.  
  • Treat nasal congestion: The treatment depends on what’s making you congested. Consider nasal strips, dilators, sprays, neti pots, breathing in steam from a hot shower or bowl of hot water, or kicking your pet out of bed. 
  • Try sleeping on your side: Sleeping on your back may encourage mouth breathing. Try switching to side sleeping and investing in a special pillow or vest that encourages side sleeping if you find yourself rolling onto your back in your sleep. 
  • Speak to a doctor: If you can’t breathe through your nose, speak to your healthcare provider to find out if there’s an underlying reason for this and treatment options. Treating nasal obstructions with a corticosteroid spray has been linked to improved sleep apnea severity and symptoms. And surgery for nasal blockages — such as a septoplasty (to straighten the bone and cartilage between the nostrils), a turbinate reduction (removing excess tissue inside the nose), a rhinoplasty (or nose job), or sinus surgery — have been shown to improve sleep apnea-related quality of life and CPAP tolerance.

How to Improve Sleep Without Mouth Taping?

Looking to reduce your snoring, improve your sleep apnea, or boost your energy levels? Put down the tape and try these safer, science-backed options instead. 

Snoring 

We’ve covered how to stop snoring in detail, but here are some methods to get you started: 

  • Sleep on your side: The frequency and intensity of snoring can be improved in some people just by becoming a side sleeper. Try training yourself to sleep on your side or investing in special pillows and devices to make side sleeping easier. 
  • Elevate your head: If you’re a die-hard back sleeper (or have to sleep on your back due to sleep apnea treatments, pregnancy, or injury) try elevating your head. You can do this with an extra pillow or an adjustable base bed. 
  • Keep sleep debt low: Sleep debt is the measure of how much sleep you owe your body compared to your sleep need, the genetically determined amount of sleep you need. One small study found when participants only slept for four hours a night for six nights, their snoring got significantly worse. Make sure you get enough sleep for you each night, and pay back any sleep debt through well-timed naps or spending a little longer in bed. More on this soon.
  • Consider surgery: Severe snorers can opt for surgery to fix the issue. This could include fixing a deviated septum or removing the tonsils or adenoids.

Sleep Apnea 

There are many mouth taping alternatives for treating sleep apnea. We’ve covered how to get rid of sleep apnea here. 

Talk to a doctor or sleep specialist if you think you have sleep apnea. They can test you for the sleep disorder and recommend the best treatment. 

Treatment options include: 

  • Sleeping with a CPAP machine: This machine pushes air into your airways to keep them open throughout the night.
  • Weight loss: Being overweight increases your odds of developing sleep apnea and can make the disorder worse. Although it’s hard to lose weight when you have sleep apnea, weight loss is often recommended as a treatment option.
  • Oral appliances: Mouth guards or retainer-like devices can help to keep your tongue from falling back and blocking your airway or bring your lower jaw forward to create more space to breathe.   

Energy Levels 

One reported benefit of mouth taping is improved daytime energy. This benefit hasn’t been proven, and even if it does boost your energy levels, it may only help a small amount. Luckily, there are scientifically backed ways you can get more energy.

Lower Your Sleep Debt

RISE app screenshot showing how much sleep debt you have
The RISE app can work out how much sleep debt you have.

The more sleep debt you have, the more tired you’ll feel. We recommend keeping sleep debt below five hours to optimize your energy levels. 

The RISE app works out your individual sleep need and tracks your sleep times to tell you how much sleep debt you have each day. 

Got more than five hours? You can pay sleep debt back by: 

  • Taking naps: Check RISE for the best time to do this. 
  • Going to bed a little earlier. 
  • Sleeping in a little later: Sleep in for only an hour or two to avoid messing up your body clock.
  • Improving your sleep hygiene: Focus on sleep hygiene habits that can cut down the time it takes you to fall asleep and how often you wake up during the night, helping you get more sleep overall. More on what to do soon.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep debt.

 thinkLive in Sync with Your Circadian Rhythm 

RISE app screenshot showing your melatonin window and tells you the best time to go to sleep
The RISE app can tell you when your body naturally wants to sleep.

Your circadian rhythm is your body’s internal clock. It runs on a roughly 24-hour cycle and dictates your sleep-wake cycle, body temperature fluctuations, and hormone production, among other things. 

Living in sync with your circadian rhythm maximizes your energy levels, as well as your overall mental and physical health

Here’s how to get in sync: 

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule: Wake up and go to sleep at roughly the same times each day, even on the weekends.  
  • Eat meals at roughly the same times: Eat when your body naturally expects it (i.e. during the day) and at roughly the same times each day. Avoid eating too close to bedtime as it can keep you up. 
  • Go to bed during your Melatonin Window: Your Melatonin Window is what we call the roughly one-hour window of time when your body’s rate of melatonin production is at its highest. Melatonin primes your body for sleep, so aim to go to sleep during this window to help you fall and stay asleep.

The RISE app predicts your circadian rhythm each day based on factors like your inferred light exposure and last night’s sleep times. You can then see when your body naturally wants to wake up and go to sleep, and sync up your daily life with it. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to see their circadian rhythm on the Energy screen.

Improve Your Sleep Hygiene

RISE app screenshot showing you when to get and avoid bright light
The RISE app can tell you when to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits.

Meeting your sleep need and staying in sync with your circadian rhythm are key behaviors for health, performance, and energy — but they can be hard to do. That’s where sleep hygiene comes in. 

Sleep hygiene is the name for the behaviors you can do each day to help you feel sleepy at the right time, fall asleep faster, and wake up less often throughout the night. 

This includes: 

  • Get bright light first thing and avoid it close to bedtime: Get at least 10 minutes of light as soon as possible after waking up to reset your circadian rhythm for the day. Avoid light about 90 minutes before bed, though, to stop it from keeping you awake. Dim the lights and put on blue-light blocking glasses in the evenings. We dig into the benefits of blue light blocking glasses here.
  • Avoid caffeine, large meals, intense exercise, and alcohol too late in the day: All four can keep you up or wake you up during the night. Check RISE for the best time to avoid each one. Bonus: cutting down on alcohol can help to improve your snoring and sleep apnea, too. 
  • Do a relaxing bedtime routine: Make time for calming activities in the run-up to bedtime like reading, journaling, or doing yoga. This will help slow your brain down for sleep. Audio guides in the RISE app will walk you through four science-backed relaxation techniques for better sleep.
  • Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet: Set your thermostat to 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, use blackout curtains, and wear earplugs and an eye mask to stop anything from keeping or waking you up during the night. 

The RISE app can remind you to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits each day and tell you the ideal time to do each one to make them more effective.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications.

Skip the Mouth Taping Trend and Try Safer Sleep Treatments, Instead

Mouth taping has taken TikTok by storm, but there’s not much scientific evidence behind the wellness trend. From the research that has been done, mouth taping may help reduce snoring and sleep apnea symptoms, but further studies are needed. 

Speak to a doctor before you try mouth taping or opt for safer, science-backed methods to improve your snoring, sleep apnea, and energy levels. 

The RISE app can help on your journey to good sleep. RISE keeps track of your sleep debt, predicts your circadian rhythm, so you can sync up with it, and guides you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits to help you get the sleep you need each night for maximum energy each day.

Summary FAQs

Why do people tape their mouth when they sleep?

People tape their mouth when they sleep to force themselves to breathe through their nose. This can help reduce snoring and sleep apnea symptoms and may improve energy levels and bad breath.

What can I use to keep my mouth closed when I sleep?

You can use surgical tape, special mouth tape products, or a chin strap to keep your mouth closed when you sleep. You can also treat nasal congestion or obstructions to make nose breathing easier.

What are the benefits of sleeping with your mouth taped?

The benefits of sleeping with your mouth taped may include reduced snoring and sleep apnea symptoms. There isn’t much research into the practice, but people claim they have more energy, better breath, and better sleep quality when they mouth tape.

Is mouth taping dangerous?

Mouth taping can be dangerous. You may not be able to get enough oxygen through your nose if you have congestion or nasal obstructions. Mouth taping can also cause sleep disruption, anxiety, and allergic reactions.

Can mouth taping help with snoring?

Mouth taping may help with snoring. Some studies show mouth taping can reduce the intensity and frequency of snoring in those with sleep apnea. More research needs to be done into people who snore, but don’t have sleep apnea.

Can mouth taping cure sleep apnea?

More research needs to be done into whether mouth taping can cure sleep apnea. While some research suggests mouth taping can improve the symptoms of sleep apnea, it may not be able to cure the sleep disorder altogether.

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