The Mouth Taping Controversy For Better Sleep

Does It Work And Is It Safe?

My wife Kathy keeps making fun of me for using tape to fix all of life’s problems. For example, I take black electrical tape with me while traveling to cover up all electronic LED lights at night to sleep better. I have to admit that I’ve used duct tape on a number of occasions for temporary home repairs. More recently, I have been taping my lips closed at night for better sleep. I have to admit that overall, I do seem to be sleeping better.

Mouth taping has been promoted by dentists, myofunctional therapists and various holistic health practitioners for a number of years. During a cursory search for its origins, I could not see anything mentioned before the past 5 or 6 years, except for lip taping in children with a cleft lip.

Several societies and prominent physicians have cautioned against it. This myofunctional therapy website recommends avoiding lip taping. Dr. Kasey Li, a world-renown ENT and maxillofacial surgeon advises against it in this Forbes article. My specialties (ENT and sleep medicine) are generally against it. Up until recently, I was against it too, until I heard countless patients telling me that they sleep better with mouth taping.

My Personal Journey

About 3 months ago, I decided to take the plunge and try mouth taping for myself. I tried different types of tape and different ways of placing the tape. The most commonly recommended type of tape is the 1 inch 3M micropore paper tape, but I had no problems using other types of tape. It’s a personal preference. The other issue that I played with was tape placement. Most experts recommend a single horizontal position across your lips. There are several commercially available mouth tape options to keep your mouth closed. I’ve even seen some photos of people using nasal dilator devices (Breathe Right strips®) or a Band-Aid.® Remember to use lip balm if your lips get dry. 

One way of tape placement ended up working best for me: vertically from the upper lip (base of the nose) to under my chin. What I found was that if you stop just under your lower lip in front of your chin, your mouth can still open significantly. I see this happening all the time in the operating room during drug-induced sleep endoscopy. With the mouth closed, the space behind the tongue is relatively open, but if your mouth opens about 1/2 inch distance between your teeth, the tongue moves back severely with almost total obstruction (see photo). Try it yourself. While keeping your lips together, open your mouth. See how much you can open?

Next, do an experiment: Tilt your head forward and down somewhat and notice your breathing with your mouth closed. Now open your mouth and notice your ability to breathe. For many of you, breathing with your mouth open will be significantly more challenging. This is why I recommend making the tape long enough to fold under your chin, along with a small folded tab to grab easily when you need to take it off. Don’t make a tab at the other end below. Your nose, since there won’t be enough adhesive to attach to your upper lip. Worst-case scenario, you’ll still be able to breathe in and out through your mouth if you open the corners of your mouth, through your teeth.

What Science Says

So what does science say?  Disappointingly, very little. There are tons of blogs, articles, and videos on why and how to do it, but only anecdotal advice. Here’s an interesting article by my colleague Dr. Howard Stupak. I’m sure there may be others, but the two studies that I found were positive. One study by Dr. Zaghi found that overall, 93.4% of 663 patients were able to breathe comfortably through the nose for 3 minutes. About 2/3 of subjects with moderate to severe nasal congestion were able to breathe with mouth taping for 3 minutes. Another study found that in 30 patients with mild sleep apnea (AHI between 5 and 15), mouth taping lowered the AHI from 12.0 to 7.8, and the snoring index dropped 73%. Even the space behind the soft palate and tongue opened up significantly (7.4 and 6.8 respectively without mouth taping, and 8.6 and 10.2 with taping). This is consistent with what I see during sleep endoscopy. 

There’s also some discussion in the CPAP community about the utility of mouth taping to help CPAP users. One article advises against it and advises instead to use a chin strap. Another study looking at chinstraps concluded that it doesn’t help cure sleep apnea. While it may be helpful for some people, the fabric is usually stretchy neoprene, and in most cases, you can still open your mouth, causing more obstructed breathing. I know because I tried one. Many CPAP users also object to adding one more thing to wear.

One Warning

There’s one step you must take before you start experimenting with mouth taping. You must make sure that you can comfortably breathe through your nose. If you have no problem then go ahead and experiment with mouth taping. If you’re not sure, tape your mouth during the day and see how long you can go. Note that the nose tends to get slightly more congested at night due to gravity and blood pooling, as well as other neurologic and hormonal factors. If you have a stuffy nose in general, it needs to be corrected before taping your lips at night. This is a long subject with many different options, but these include nasal saline, Breathe Right strips®, internal nasal dilator devices, or allergy medications. You may even need to see an ENT surgeon. Personally, I use Breathe Right Strips every night as well. Click here to read my free report, How to Unstuffy Your Stuffy Nose.

Is It Dangerous?

As far as I know, there have been no reported serious complications of mouth taping. I can argue that there’s a higher risk to continued mouth breathing, with worsening apneas, dental decay, and increased risk of coronavirus infections. Even you do struggle at night while sleeping with your mouth taped, you’ll wake up and take the tape off. Just remember the steps I outlined in this order: tape your mouth during the day as an experiment, optimize nasal breathing, and tape vertically with a tabbed end under your chin. Adjust the tightness of the tape to make it tight enough to prevent your mouth from opening too much, but comfortable enough to sleep with.

What Do You Have to Lose?

If you’ve been on the fence about mouth taping, give it a try. Worst-case scenario, it won’t work. Even if you don’t have any snoring or sleep apnea, it’s a simple health remedy that can only help. If it makes no difference, stop using it and go on to another option to improve your sleep or your health. For more information on what these other options are, click here.

For those of you that already taping your lips, what has your experience been? If you’re going to take the plunge, try it for a few nights and post your response here below. If you have any serious medical conditions, it’s probably wise to see your doctor first before trying this.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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26 thoughts on “The Mouth Taping Controversy For Better Sleep

  1. I started this several weeks ago, and my dentist approves. Use the micropore tape and coconut oil on the lips. Pulling the tape off is not my favorite thing, LOL, but am going to continue, for sure!

  2. Hi! Thank you so much for your work, it has helped me a lot! Ever since finding your work a couple of years ago, I have started mouth taping (while wearing CPAP) and it makes a huge difference in the quality of my sleep. I just read an article by an M.D. that said that mouth taping while wearing a CPAP is dangerous because if you have a power outage and the cpap shuts off, carbon dioxide could build up in your blood, causing you to fall into a deeper sleep, at which point you are not breathing through your mouth and not productively breathing through your nose and then you’re toast (although Somnifix mouth strips have an air vent that you can breathe through if something like that were to happen). I am wondering what you think about this claim? I will still be taping my mouth shut because when I don’t I simply don’t wake up feeling refreshed, but I am curious as to your thoughts. Thank you for this article!

  3. To be honest, when this was recommended to me, I was a bit terrified. The first few nights I had extra anxiety with the tape because for so long I had been a mouth breather until Dr. Park performed nasal surgery to help my breathing. Beyond the first few days, the tape has just become another thing on the to do list before going to sleep that I don’t even think about it anymore.

    Always love seeing the science and research done to support the hypothesis. I noticed ever since my surgery and usage of CPAP, my drooling and snoring have reduced significantly so my wife thanks you! Now I’m very curious to see if my AHI changes with the tape usage.

  4. I use mouth tape (Somnifix) underneath my CPAP full face mask. It works great. My nasal congestion problems disappeared once I started this.

  5. I tried after reading James Nestor – square inch of micropore, works great, doesn’t obstruct my apnea mask, suddenly I have more dreams !

  6. I have been mouth taping for about 3 weeks. My husband says I have totally stopped snoring (even though he thinks I’m crazy for doing it). I can tell I’m getting better quality sleep. I am more alert during the day. I am currently undergoing chemotherapy, and was having trouble staying asleep because of body aches. With the mouth taping, I find I wake up less often during the night.

  7. I have been taping for about 6 weeks now. I heard about it from my cardiologist when I failed a stress test and had emergency heart cath surgery. My LAD was 100% blocked with no other blockages or issues. The cardiologist is researching links between mouth breathing and heart disease due to a lack of nitrous oxide. I am getting much better sleep with taping but must use the horizontal 1″ tape with an additional short piece attached to it down to my chin. I use this with my CPAP nasal mask. I just completed a 3-night sleep study test from SNAP diagnostics. I did one night with mouth taped and CPAP, one night with no taping and CPAP, and one night with no tape or CPAP. I’m interested to see the differences in the test results. I needed a long nap the day after the 3rd night.

  8. Changed my life. No halitosis, no dry mouth, no tartar on my teeth, no sore throat, less colds. The only problem I have is that my mouth still opens significantly as soon as I fall asleep, even with my lips sealed. I will try taping under my chin to see what happens. I’m wondering if strengthening jaw muscles can help keep my mouth shut.

  9. Started about 2 weeks ago. In past, have been using Breathe rite strips. Before beginning using tape, I concentrated a few days on nose breathing during day and when exercising. Tape worked first night and I am very pleased. Feel more energized and find that I’m dreaming more! I use a small horizontal strip that does not cover entire mouth. I now combine the tape with Sleep right dilator which I prefer to strips.

  10. Hi Dr Park, and thanks for this post! I’ve got sleep apnea, but maybe an unusual kind, so I want to warn everybody that my results might be far from the norm. I’m tall and somewhat thin (6’4″ 188, but was ~175 when the apnea really emerged), so my apnea is due in part to my anatomy and in part to muscle wastage brought on by an 18 month bout of hypercortisolemia. I don’t snore and never wake up gasping, so sleep apnea was a very unlikely diagnosis, but my sleep study revealed an AHI of 25.2. (Long story, but I would guess my true number is actually a bit lower than that, however, maybe more like 12-15.)

    CPAP helps but not enough. Mercifully I can fall asleep fine with the mask, but my unconscious mind hates it and invariably takes it off in the middle of the night, at least if my conscious mind hasn’t taken it off already. (It’s constantly waking me up with leakages, steam discharge, humidity issues, etc.) I rarely make it more than 4 hours a night with the mask, but even if I keep the mask on all night my AHI still averages 3.2, which is way better than I was but still bad enough to give me stomach issues, mild insomnia, headaches, and irritability. (Turns out being throttled three times an hour all night isn’t conducive to good health.)

    My ENT encouraged me to try the tape to force myself to nosebreathe for better sleep. (I’ve got a deviated septum, so as soon as I fall asleep my mouth drops open. My unconscious mind is thus a mouth breather.) I was skeptical and put off trying it for months, but lo and behold, the tape has been so much more than I could’ve ever asked for. With it on my AHI is usually <0.5, and even more amazingly it seems to work as well without the CPAP on at all! Since I've been taping I typically wear the CPAP for 2.5-3 hours but never wake up with any issues, despite being asleep with nothing but tape for 4-5 hours. My sleep has also been the best it's been in maybe a decade, just otherworldly in both quality and duration. Think I will be a lifelong taper.

  11. I’ve been taping vertically for three weeks, and just added a horizontal strip so I wouldn’t make so much noise through the sides of my mouth a few times a night. I don’t have sleep apnea, and don’t use a CPAP machine, but I was always a mouth breather at night, and found it hard to breath through my nose. Now it is much easier. Not just at night, but throughout the day. I guess I have been training myself. I know there are many claims about the benefits, but just not having a dry mouth makes it all worth it. SO glad I learned of this. My wife says it’s much quieter in the bedroom as well.

  12. Thank you for your evidence and support. I have been mouth taping for 6 weeks now. I have notice much improved sleeping, few interruptions to empty my bladder, and my dental hygienist notice less plaque around my third molars after only one month of taping. More energy and focus during the daytime. I am hoping I won’t need to do this the rest of my life but I will if I have to!

  13. I use blue frog tape or painting tape under resmed f30….cut 1” wide slit & put over mouth. Used same roll for 2 months now. $20 a month for somnifix was absurd a d doesn’t stick unless you shave 1-2 days…and if you have dry sandpaper mouth & tongue as I did from cpap this solves it plus use less distilled water nightly.

    I have no problem breathing thru nose & if cpap goes off you feel the loss of pressure easily…

  14. Hi Dr Park!

    Sorry, I forgot about this thread! At first I taped my mouth up as if I were hiding 5-carat diamonds inside – way, way too much tape – but I settled on two long horizontal strips that my wife calls “Joker bands” (they’re about as long as the Joker’s scars) with one vertical strip across them.

    Oddly, once in a while the tape actually *causes* apnea. I normally have no sleep onset insomnia, but sometimes for whatever reason the tape and my nasal breathing don’t get along and every time I nod off I’ll have an instant apnea, up to twelve times an hour. Dilating my nostrils with Afrin and/or a humidifier usually resolves this, but not always.

    I will say that the tape doesn’t seem to get me to normal sleep. If it doesn’t cause a rash of apneas/hypopneas as I just described it always reduces the AHI below 1, but I often wake up with some stomach issues anyway, so there may still be RERAs that my CPAP isn’t catching. I’m due for some oral surgery to open my nasal airway, though, so my setup might work much better after that.

  15. Dr. Park et al: Is it dangerous to mouth tape using 3M surgical tape using a full face mask? Just thinking what if it loosens, would the CPAP pressure push the tape into my mouth with risk of choling or asphyxiation?

    I’ve hesitantly tried it a few times and the tape stays stuck to skin. My AHI go down to almost zero. Trying to do this to minimize existing perio/dental issues. Thanks.

  16. Dear Doctor Park,

    Thank you very much for the informative and necessary article. I recently read James Nestor’s book “Breathe”, and it has provided me with a rationale for working to transition to nasal breathing. It’s a work in progress, as you’d suspect. To that end, I apply a strip of 3M Durapore tape to my upper and lower lips at night, and when alone during the day, to facilitate this transition. My question and concern is: in general, many adhesives and tape adhesives contain chemical formulations that should not be exposed to certain surfaces of the body (mucous membranes, etc.) due to the likelihood of absorption with potential adverse affect; In this context, is it safe to apply the 3M product to the human mouth/lips? Do we know if it is safe, or is this unknown? Thank you for taking the time to consider and reply my question; it’s much appreciated.