Sleeping 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.