Sleeping With My Mouth Taped Shut

sleeping with my mouth taped shutSleeping with my mouth taped shut is the latest in my endless attempts to improve the effectiveness of my sleep. I track my sleeping patterns obsessively with my Fitbit pedometer and slowly but surely my efforts are paying off.

I first learned about taping my mouth shut from a friend who studied the Buteyko breathing method. This was developed in the 1950’s by Ukrainian doctor Konstantin Buteyko as a treatment for asthma. The Buteyko method proposes the idea that many people are hyperventilating without knowing it.  As I wrote a couple of days ago hyperventilation can lead to low carbon dioxide levels in the blood.

I tried this technique once before with limited results though I don’t honestly remember why I stopped. Since that time I have definitely put more conscious effort into breathing through my nose more regularly in my waking life so maybe that is why sleeping with my mouth taped shut seems so much easier this second time around. The first time I had general issues with panic that would come up when I first put the tape on. Now that is not happening at all.

People are often recommended to sleep with their mouth shut for sleep apnea but in that case there is a sort of mask that they sell that goes around the chin and crown of the head that keeps the jaw as well as the mouth shut. This same device is often suggested to help with snoring, though I think the mouth taped shut might help that issue as well.

As an aside I was asked in a yoga class recently what poses make me angry or uncomfortable and my reply was while the asanas themselves all make me happy the practice of exhale retention freaks me out. I have fairly good access to the breath and don’t have a big problem with holding my breath on the inhale but trying to hold my breath after exhaling takes me to the brink of panic in very short order.

But back to sleeping with my mouth taped shut. Strange positive things happen within minutes of trying to go to sleep with my mouth taped shut. If my nose is stuffed when I first lay down, it clears up within a minute or two and my nostrils clear. I honestly don’t know why this happens but it does consistently.

If I wasn’t taping my mouth shut I would breathe through the mouth all night long and there are many health advantages to breathing through the nose. For one, again relating to Monday’s post about chest breathing and panic, breathing through the mouth tends to activate, or more easily activate, the sympathetic nervous systems which controls our flight or fight response.

Breathing through the nose warms and moistens the air as well as acting as a filter against contaminants in the air. It improves the oxygenation of the blood as well as reducing the heart rate. And it can help with snoring.

For all of these reasons in addition to my compulsive need to improve the duration and quality of my sleep, I will continue sleeping with my mouth taped shut for a while. BTW, I am using a paper tape from CVS that is effortless to remove, and leaves little to no residue in the morning.


Alternate Nostril Breathing
Psoas Major Release: Releasing Hands and Knees
  1. I have some familiarity with the Buteyko technique, but I also sometimes sleep with my mouth taped shut for another reason: my bout with Bell’s Palsy left me with issues around my mouth, and sometimes when I am about to drop off to sleep, my mouth on that side won’t stay closed, or opens involuntarily and it kind of freaks me out. When I tape it, that doesn’t happen. I’ve gotten used to it now–don’t do it every night, but more often than not–and now it actually feels kind of comforting in an odd way. If I hadn’t heard about it through Buteyko, I wouldn’t have had the nerve to try it; it’s always comforting to know that other people use this slightly weird technique too :).

    • The issue with my Bell’s Palsy was that my eye wouldn’t close. I had to tape it shut for about six months when I slept and when I showered. Three and a half years later I am still not used to my lopsided face. Having just past thanksgiving when lots of pictures are taken I was forced to see the downturn of my mouth way more than I would prefer. I would prefer that it not bum me out but it does. Especially when I see pictures of the old me.

  2. And, BTW, the reason your nostrils clear up when you tape might be because you are breathing ‘less’ as the Buteyko people say, hence your CO2 rises, and that helps clear the nostrils. Buteyko recommends pinching the nose closed and walking around a bit to clear a stuffy nose for that very reason.

    • Joyce and Jonathan:
      I am currently a student enrolled in a doctorate program for chiropractic. We work with so much more than just neck and back pain… We are specifically focused on the nervous system of the body. Bells Palsy is a condition that my training has me all too familiar with as it is most certainly an issue that involves abnormal functioning of the nervous system (facial nerve). I personally have witnessed and heard of several more success stories with patients who had Bell’s palsy, received chiropractic treatments, and no longer deal with the problems they once had! It’s amazing to witness. Just suggesting chiropractic as a very real option. You may be able to get back to the “old you” as you put it. It’s worth a shot! Let me know if I can be of any help in directing either of you to a well-respected doc in your area. I have several mentors, one being a world renowned chiropractic neurologist who deals with patients with issues like yours all the time! If I am not familiar with a doc in your area, I’m certain they will be!

      • Hi Brandon, Thanks for your advice. I work closely with an amazing chiropractor in Tribecca (lisa Kirsch). I tried many treatments for my Bell’s Palsy including Chiro, Acupuncture, electrical stim and others. Mine occured following a week of wierd headaches and a dental visit. For five months I had nothing going on on the left side of my face and when I finally got some movmement back it was limited to my mouth which returned to action about 60%. But above my eye I have no muscle response. It is trippy but I live with it. My eye tears when I eat and closes when I smile. Best, Jonathan

    • I can breathe through my nose during the day but have been sleeping with my mouth open forever. Recently my friends teased me with a few embarrassing pictures they clicked when I was fast asleep and that’s what triggered me to read up on this issue. Until now I had taken this very lightly but after reading up ive realized there are much graver issues with mouth breathing during sleeptime than I imagined. Now it all makes perfect sense, my perepctual mouth dryness during day time, not so fresh breath inspire of great oral hygiene.. Wanted to check if mouth taping is the only solution or are there any other recommendations too. Also, can mouth taping not lead to choking up during sleep if I’m not habituated to nose breathing at that time. Is the mouth tape commonly available at any medical store.. Look forward to help from u all.

  3. If the tape helps and you don’t have issues, that is a very inexpensive fix. But if your breathing stops because your throat closes and you wake up frequently to breathe then you should see a sleep doctor. People die in their sleep instead of waking up to breathe. A sign of the problem is having to go the the bathroom several times at night. Not getting the breath triggers adrenaline which wakes you up to breathe, but also stresses the kidneys and produces excess urine, causing the urge to get up.

  4. Great post I may try this, but am currently sporting facial hair so not sure. I want to sleep on my back, but cannot stop mouth breathing all night when I do.
    I would suggest checking out Basis Peak watch. It is a little pricey, but tracks sleep really well and they keep updating the firmware (silent vibrating alarm most recent). I only bought it to figure out what was happening at night and it has helped quite a bit…even on something as silly as turn up the AC.


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