Mouth Taping and Sleep Apnea: What to Know Before Trying
Last updated: May 2023
Noses play an important role in our respiratory system because they work to protect our airways and lungs. The nose warms, humidifies, and even filters the air we breathe in.1
However, it is very common to switch to mouth breathing at night for many reasons. Some people breathe through their mouth out of habit. Some people have less muscle tone in their jaw, causing it to fall open at night. Some people have a deviated nasal septum or nasal congestion from allergies. If it is difficult to inhale fully through your nose, you will instinctually begin to breathe through your mouth.2
Mouth breathing is a reflex to ensure that the body brings in enough oxygen. However, it can cause snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Laying down with the mouth open allows the jaw and tongue to fall back further. This closes the airway and makes it more difficult to breathe. To prevent mouth breathing, you may find yourself looking into mouth taping.3
What is mouth taping?
Mouth taping is using medical-grade adhesive tape placed over your lips to prevent the mouth from opening during sleep. Non-medical grade tape such as duct tape or packing tape is never recommended.3
Small study among people living with asthma
There have only been a few small studies researching the effectiveness of mouth taping. The first study looked at 51 people living with asthma. Study participants felt that they were able to sleep comfortably. However, researchers found that mouth taping did not have an effect on asthma symptoms.1
Small study among people with mild OSA
A second study looked at 30 people living with mild OSA. Researchers found that mouth taping improved their snoring and OSA symptoms. However, the study was small and looked at a limited group of people. They did not include anyone who had a history of sinus problems or anyone with chronic nasal congestion caused by allergies. They also did not include anyone with a BMI over 30.3
Is mouth taping safe for people with sleep apnea?
Because these studies are small, they do not have enough information to say that mouth taping is safe. They also only looked at a specific group of people. It is not clear if mouth taping would work for everyone. Nasal breathing works best if you have clear nostrils without any obstructions like congestion or a deviated septum. Mouth taping could be uncomfortable or dangerous in those situations.3
Online sources recommending mouth taping may not be right for you. Before trying mouth taping, speak to your doctor. They can help you decide if it is a healthy choice for you.
What other options do I have?
CPAP is still the gold standard treatment for OSA. However, for CPAP to be effective, it must be used every night. The more comfortable and effective CPAP masks are, the more likely it is that they will be used.4
Consider using a full-face mask
People often find full-face CPAP masks to be uncomfortable. Because of this, many doctors will recommend nasal pillow masks. These masks do not work well for mouth breathers or when someone has a stuffy nose from a cold. Since nasal masks do not prevent the mouth from opening, you may not experience the benefits of CPAP. Switching to a full-face mask may immediately improve this.4
Many mask choices available
There are many types of face masks on the market right now. Each is slightly different to ensure that everyone can find something comfortable. There are models with and without forehead straps, depending on which you would prefer. There are also many low-profile masks. These do not cover the bridge of the nose and may feel less confining.4
Masks should never feel painful
If you are not happy with the way your mask fits, it may help to look into a different model. Some online CPAP stores even offer customer service to help you find the best fit.2
It is important to speak with your doctor before trying mouth taping for CPAP. Your doctor may also be able to help find the best CPAP mask for you.
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