Forget the ‘Google or Bing’ debate when it comes to online search engine preferences. In 2022, TikTok has officially become the go-to platform where internet users seek advice on almost everything under the sun. Looking to cure your awful cold? Just defrost some chicken and marinate it in cough syrup. Want to prevent soreness after a vaccination instead? Windmill your arms in the parking lot of the hospital and you should be good to go!
Now, the so-called health and wellness ‘trends’ that I’ve mentioned above are bound to make those who are hearing it for the first time a little sceptical. Rightly so. Heck, the videos would still fail to convince you even if you’re halfway down the rabbithole. That being said, however, there are some health practices that have become a mainstay on TikTok—convincing users of their ‘miracle’ benefits every time they resurface on the platform. And one of the top contenders in this category is none other than ‘nose breathing’. More specifically, nose breathing by taping your mouth shut at night: Don’t Breathe style.
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What is nose breathing?
With 15 million views and counting, TikTok’s #nosebreathing is all about blocking the air passage through your mouth with bits of tape before bedtime—ultimately forcing you to breathe through your nose when you’re asleep. While some TikTokers are seen repurposing commercial-grade duct tape, others recommend using small strips of porous medical tape to avoid looking like a sleeping hostage.
“Mouth taping. Try it,” a user enthused, holding a skin-grade binding apparatus designed specifically for the practice. “Sleep with it… You’re going to start getting the deepest sleep you’ll ever experience.”
So how deep of a sleep are we talking about here? And why is mouth taping all the rage on TikTok again after it debuted on the platform and instantly vanished for good back in 2021? Well, according to users, mouth taping essentially helps reduce dry mouth, improve your oral health by curbing teeth grinding, cavities and gum recession, slow your breathing process and humidify the air (leading to better oxygen consumption), produce nitric oxide (which helps your body fight infections), as well as reduce your overall stress and anxiety—all the while promoting better sleep and ultimately stopping your bouts with snoring.
Now that’s a pretty long list of supposed benefits we’re talking about. At the same time, however, it should also be noted that all of these are the results of nose breathing in general, without the need to tape your mouth shut and “aid” the process. In fact, several professional experts claim the ‘miracle’ practice not only makes you look goofy but may actually do more harm than good. What a shocker, indeed.
The pros and the cons
For starters, let’s trace back to the root cause behind the popularity of mouth taping. Some of the major reasons for mouth breathing include nasal blockages, a deviated septum and sleep apnea—a sleep disorder where people have trouble breathing at night.
Now, respiring through your mouth isn’t exactly bad. However, it’s neither the healthiest nor the most effective way to breathe. It can also have some serious and long-term side effects, including low oxygen concentration in your blood—in turn contributing to health concerns like high blood pressure and heart problems. According to CNET, mouth breathing can further result in wear and fractures as well as caries and impacted teeth. Mouth breathers also have higher levels of gingivitis and halitosis.
Then comes the ‘habit’ aspect of the entire practice. Chances are that you’re not choosing to breathe through your mouth—and this is exactly what paves the way to the demand for retaining and retraining your nasal passage. Hence, the viral popularity of mouth taping. But as per Doctor Aarti Grover, medical director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Tufts Medical Center, covering your mouth won’t help solve the root issue and could make it even more difficult to breathe.
“Imagine you have an obstruction in your nasal cavity either from allergies or you’re congested and on top of that you tape your mouth, it could be problematic because you’re not getting enough air in from your nasal or your oral cavity,” Grover told USA Today, adding how it could ultimately result in a person not getting enough oxygen at night.
At the same time, the expert also noted the profound absence of data and studies on mouth taping. While a 2015 pilot study found that oral patches can help people with sleep apnea, it only included 30 participants—a sample size too small to draw significant conclusions. Another study in 2009 found that mouth taping isn’t effective for people with asthma. And that’s pretty much all the jury on the viral practice as of today.
Meanwhile, Doctor Kathryn Boling, a primary care expert at Mercy Medical Center in Maryland, explained that mouth taping is a terrible idea—harbouring other potential risk factors even for those who don’t have sleep-related conditions. “There are a lot of TikTok [trends] I see where I am like, ‘Goodness gracious, where do these things come from?’,” Boling admitted.
Most of the videos housed under #mouthtaping feature science journalist James Nestor’s 2020 book Breath: the New Science of a Lost Art. “[The book] completely changed my perspective about mouth taping and breathing through your nose,” a user commented, before reiterating the process and its alleged benefits. However, Dr. Chris Seton, Paediatric and Adolescent Sleep Physician with the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, doesn’t recommend the practice for both children and adults—although there are over-the-counter mouth taping products available in the market.
“If someone has a blocked nose, taping their mouth can lower their oxygen levels even more so they wake up more often,” the expert told The Sydney Morning Herald.
Here’s what you can do instead
A quick scroll through the comments section of mouth taping tutorials on TikTok would plop you into unstable waters—manifested alongside remarks like, “This would just make me feel claustrophobic” and “The way my nose is set up I might sleep forever.”
So if you’re someone who stumbled across the trend on the platform but preferred staying in the comment section with all the justified uncertainty, here are three alternative tips to reap the same benefits of the practice—minus the residue stickiness of the tape and all of the risks that come along with it.
1. Change your sleeping position
The first and foremost hack to reduce snoring and mouth breathing is to switch your sleeping position. On these terms, CNET noted how sleeping on your side is your best bet. “It’s actually pretty easy to train yourself to sleep on your side. Just use a few well-placed pillows to keep you from rolling over. You can use specialised pillows like lumbar or multiposition pillows, but that’s not essential,” the publication added.
2. Be strategic with your allergy medicine
Another tip is to take your 24-hour allergy medication at night, so it’s up and circulating in your bloodstream to bring you relief when you wake up. “Short-acting allergy medication is the most effective shortly after you take it. If you generally have trouble sleeping at night because of your allergy symptoms, try taking your short-acting allergy medication before you go to sleep,” CNET continued.
3. Get off TikTok
This is pretty much self-explanatory. For decades, doctors and sleep psychologists alike have highlighted how screen time is the enemy of sleep. The blue light emitted by electronic screens might impede production of the sleep hormone melatonin, while exciting content might arouse you rather than lull you to bed. Creating a nighttime routine free of digital devices has proven to result in better sleep that doesn’t leave you tired the next morning.
Think of it this way, if you’d put on some music or taken a bubble bath half an hour before your bedtime, you wouldn’t have stumbled across ‘Mouth TapingTok’ in the first place.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.