Some people are taping their mouths shut during sleep to promote nasal breathing.
Some researchers suggest that the method could be effective, but there are limited studies to back this up.
Experts urge caution when approaching the trend, as mouth taping can be dangerous if a person is unable to breathe through their nose.
Some people are shutting their eyes and sealing their lips to get a good night’s sleep. In a trend known as “mouth taping,” people use tape to keep their mouths closed and encourage nasal breathing at night. But there are limited studies on the safety and efficacy of mouth taping, and doctors offer mixed reviews on its health benefits.
In 2022, a preliminary study of mouth-breathers with mild obstructive sleep apnea found mouth taping to be a simple and effective treatment in reducing sleep apnea and snoring. Among other limitations, the study was small—it only involved 20 individuals—did not contain a placebo or control group, and did not include a long-term follow-up.
Abhinav Singh, MD, FAASM, a medical review expert at SleepFoundation.org and the Medical Director of the Indiana Sleep Center, says that while nasal breathing is important for good sleep hygeine, he doesn’t recommend mouth taping for people with sleep apnea.
"If somebody is truly having apnea, opening the mouth is a natural response to get more air in and overcome the obstructed airway,” says Singh. “If somebody is having a nasal obstruction, opening the mouth is again a natural response to overcome the nasal obstruction.”
Still, he adds that, “theoretically,” consistent mouth-breathing can lead to problems like mouth dryness and dental issues, and that nose-breathing is ideal when possible. Mouth-breathing can lead to dry mouth and decreased saliva production, according to studies.
“Breathing through the mouth is more of a backup,” says Singh. “If you are truly having snoring and breathing disruptions, you should talk to your primary care physician.”
What’s the talk about mouth taping?
Mouth taping has been making its way through social media channels like TikTok, where some users report having “never felt better.” People can now purchase specially designed mouth tape via multiple startups, Walmart, and Amazon.
Different brands appear to offer different coverage and breathability than others, and prices vary. Two mouth tape brands, SomniFix and Hostage Tape, now market specialized tape for sleeping—both priced at about $200 for a year’s supply, or about $25 for a four-week starter pack.
Randal Silver, DMD, a dentist who specializes in sleep medicine in Independence, MO, says that people who are joining the trend should be vigilant about purchasing a breathable kind of tape, as this is important for safety.
“These should be used with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare provider,” Silver says. “Mouth tape should be designed specifically for sleep, as other types can interfere with breathing.”
Other ways to keep your mouth closed at night
Mouth taping isn’t the only method for promoting nasal breathing. There are some lower-risk options.
Silver suggests several methods for encouraging nasal breathing during sleep that don’t involve putting tape on your lips. These include addressing nasal congestion—which can be a cause of mouth breathing—or practicing nasal breathing exercises in waking hours to help get into the habit of breathing through your nose. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, Bilevel-positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machines for people with sleep apnea, or humidifiers can also promote sleep hygiene and address problems like mouth breathing, he adds.
“If you're unable to breathe through your nose due to congestion, addressing the underlying cause—such as allergies or a deviated septum—could be helpful,” says Silver.
However, it is best for people to stop self-experimenting and instead seek professional advice from a healthcare provider, he adds.
What this means for you
Mouth taping could help promote nasal breathing, but there are not enough studies to say for sure. Encourage patients not to completely seal off their lips during sleep, as mouth-breathing can be an essential way to get oxygen if nasal passageways become blocked or congested.