Waking up feeling refreshed can be elusive for us mouth breathers. We, unfortunately, tend to deal with the not-so-pretty reality of rolling out of bed with issues like a dry mouth and scratchy throat, chapped lips, and drowsiness that may follow us into the afternoon. That’s because your mouth can’t filter and humidify air the way your nose does, so sleeping slackjawed can dehydrate and irritate your mouth and throat. It can also obstruct your upper airway, which can cause snoring, wake you up throughout the night, and generally lower your quality of rest—oh, and not to mention it could also lead to tooth decay or gum disease.
Needless to say, when a TikTok trend promised to fix the way I breathe and sleep at night—without a trip to the doctor—I was intrigued. It’s called mouth taping, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: Slap a piece of tape (preferably the surgical kind, which is gentler on the skin) over your mouth before bed, and voilà: No more snoring. No more dry mouth (or its associated bad breath). No more pillow drool (the likely culprit behind those cracked lips I mentioned). The idea is that if your mouth is physically forced shut, you’ll automatically breathe through your nose, which is the body’s default mode.
“The nose is the humidifier of the body,” Megan Acho, MD, a clinical assistant professor in the division of pulmonary and critical care at the University of Michigan, tells SELF. “So we encourage nasal breathing over mouth breathing because when air goes through the nose, it gets humidified and warmed, and filtered from dust and [other [potential] allergens too.” Basically, breathing through your nose is ideal overall, and if you can’t do it comfortably, that’s a sign that something may be blocking your nasal airway.
Anyway, mouth taping sounds easy enough and, frankly, a little too good to be true. Could my lifelong sleep problems really be solved with a $5 drugstore product? To find out, I asked two experts to weigh in on the viral sleep hack. The verdict? Mouth tape isn’t the cure-all TikTok purports it to be—and it can also be extremely unsafe.
Mouth taping won’t fix your underlying sleep problems.
When someone breathes through their mouth while sleeping, that typically means something is obstructing the nose, Dr. Acho says. That blockage can be caused by a variety of factors, including congestion from a sinus infection, a deviated septum (when the bone in your nasal cavity is off-center), or obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops throughout the night (at least five times each hour, as SELF previously reported).
Regardless of what’s causing you to breathe through your mouth, a piece of tape is unlikely to actually solve the problem, Erich Voigt, MD, the director of general and sleep otolaryngology at NYU Langone Health, tells SELF. “If someone is having difficulty breathing through their nose for whatever reason, they need to address that issue directly, and blocking your mouth airway isn’t going to do any good in the long run,” Dr. Voigt says, referring to mouth taping as a “Band-Aid effect.”