Many people use an eye mask before heading to bed, but using a mouth tape?
Apparently, mouth taping is becoming increasingly popular as it offers numerous health benefits including improved focus, memory and concentration.
The last time I had my mouth sealed with cellophane tape was during kindergarten when teachers found me overly chatty and animated. That was my punishment for being a distraction to fellow kiddies.
I would obediently keep the tape on and was only allowed to remove it during singing class, or during snack time.
My mother immediately knew I had been misbehaving by feeling the stickiness around my lips. For that, I would receive an earful. Perhaps that’s why I resorted to movement to express myself.
So, when I heard that mouth taping comes with benefits aplenty, it brought back childhood memories. If the gains are to be believed, the kindergarten teachers were actually right in meting out punishment!
All of us are designed to breathe through our nose but our modern lifestyle has somehow modified this. Instead of nasal breathing, we have this habit of mouth breathing: open lips, clogged sinus, inhaling through the mouth when talking, sleeping with an open mouth and snoring louder than a lion’s roar.
Mouth breathing elevates blood pressure and heart rate, worsens asthma, allergies, and deprives the heart, brain, and other organs of optimal oxygenation, says Dr Mark Burhenne, a California, US-based dentist.
“Nasal breathing is important because of nitric oxide, which your body produces in the sinuses. When you nose breathes, you get the benefits of nitric oxide, which are extraordinary. The body produces 25% of its nitric oxide from nose breathing. Breathe through your mouth and you will be short on nitric oxide,” he says.
Why is nitric oxide important? It enhances memory and learning, regulates blood pressure, reduces inflammation, improves sleep quality, increases endurance and strength, improves immune function, and prevents cavities.
Dr Berhenne says, “A dry mouth promotes cavities because the teeth are not being bathed in saliva, which helps teeth resist cavities through a process called remineralisation. And the ever so crucial pH of the mouth lowers into the acidic zone, promoting cavities. Besides, mouth breathing can also be the cause of bad breath.”
Nitric oxide also can kill bacteria, viruses and other germs. You often hear yoga instructors emphasise inhaling and exhaling through the nose during classes.
According to Dr Steven Y. Park, ENT specialist and author of Sleep, Interrupted: A Physician Reveals The #1 Reason Why So Many Of Us Are Sick And Tired, if you can’t breathe well through your nose, your sense of smell will suffer and so will your sense of taste, since your smell and taste buds are connected.
“This can lead to disturbances in your appetite and satiation levels, wreaking havoc on those struggling with weight issues. Your nose also has vital nervous system connections to your lungs and heart. Not breathing well through your nose can alter your heart rate and blood pressure, as well as increase your stress responses.
“Your nose makes about two pints of mucous every day. If your nose isn’t working properly and mucous isn’t cleared, the stagnant mucous can lead to infections such as sinusitis or ear infections,” he says.
There is no clear evidence on how mouth taping came about but it is part of the Buteyko breathing method, founded by a Russian medical doctor, Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko, who theorised there was a profound relationship between our breathing pattern and our level of health.
Buteyko practitioner and owner of Yogshakti yoga studio in Kuala Lumpur, Shilpa Ghatalia, has been practising it for over 10 years and never travels without a Micropore paper tape in her bag.
“I’m sure I was mouth breathing before I learnt how vital it was not to mouth breathe. Now, I feel refreshed in the mornings and have better quality sleep. If I slept with a slightly runny nose, it would be clearer in the morning.
“I have also begun to incorporate it into my yoga classes and have found tremendous benefits in my students. They report their minds have become quieter and experience fewer thoughts,” she says.
Research has also revealed that mouth breathing children have poorly formed jaws. It affects the teeth and more dentists are now beginning to advise parents to help their children with mouth tapes.
Shilpa adds, “The idea itself could be revolting for most people. Plus, many mouth breathers may feel claustrophobic and find they’re unable to breathe. However, I suggest that people wear the tape an hour before they sleep while they are reading or winding down so that by the time they go to bed, they would have gotten used to the tape.”
I put it to the test, though I don’t think I mouth breathe often.
The first night, I woke up trying to cough and had to forcefully yank the tape off my mouth to get some air. That was a little unnerving.
It took me a few days to get used to the tape, and after a week or so, yes I definitely slept better and experienced fewer dreams.
Now, I tend to wake up before the alarm goes off, and that has never occurred as far as I can recall. Mouth taping has become a habit and I try to do it nightly.
And even when I forget, I still sleep as soundly.
An interesting observation I noted was that despite not doing cardio workouts for two consecutive weeks, my endurance level stayed the same on the third week.
Previously, I would have felt my stamina dip if I had a recovery week. I’m not sure if this can be attributed to sleeping with my mouth taped at night.
The only drawback is that the tape doesn’t come off easily and leaves the corners of my mouth sticky, so I apply a light layer of lip cream for gentle removal the next morning.
It doesn’t matter whether you place the tape horizontally or vertically. But, if you are afraid to seal the mouth completely, tape only one half of the mouth leaving space for emergency breathing.
All that said, to stop mouth breathing, you have to assess what is blocking your nose in the first place. If it’s a chronic nasal congestion or an anatomical abnormality like a deviated septum, get that fixed before trying mouth taping.
Revathi Murugappan is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance to express herself artistically and nourish her soul. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.