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Can a piece of tape help you sleep?

NEW YORK — In a video on TikTok, one person claims it gives her more energy. Others, a sharper jawline; improved skin, mood and digestion; reduced brain fog, cavities, gum disease and bad breath; and a strengthened immune system.

The purported benefits of mouth taping, a life hack that has taken social media by storm, might have benefits for some people, but not everyone is a good candidate and existing studies on mouth taping are limited.

The purported benefits of mouth taping, a life hack that has taken social media by storm, might have benefits for some people, but not everyone is a good candidate and existing studies on mouth taping are limited.

NEW YORK — In a video on TikTok, one person claims it gives her more energy. Others, a sharper jawline; improved skin, mood and digestion; reduced brain fog, cavities, gum disease and bad breath; and a strengthened immune system.

The purported benefits of mouth taping, a simple life hack that involves gently placing a piece of skin-friendly tape over your lips to keep them shut while sleeping to encourage breathing through your nose, have taken social media by storm.

But are these perks backed by science? And is it safe to have your mouth taped shut while you’re fast asleep? We asked a few experts to find out.

What are the benefits of nasal breathing?

Dr Ann Kearney, a voice and swallowing specialist at Stanford University who studies how mouth taping might help people who snore, said that there are significant benefits to breathing through your nose — whether at night or during the day.

Nasal breathing is a “more efficient, effective way of breathing” than inhaling and exhaling through your mouth, she said, because it humidifies and filters the air, and activates the lower lungs, letting you take deeper, fuller breaths. It can also help your body relax as you ease into sleep.

Breathing through your nose can also help filter out allergens, pathogens and dust, potentially helping to defend against infections and ward off allergies, said Dr Marri Horvat, a sleep specialist at the Cleveland Clinic.

When you breathe through your nose, your sinuses naturally produce a gas called nitric oxide. As nitric oxide flows from the nasal sinuses to the lungs and into the blood, it can help lower blood pressure, said Dr Raj Dasgupta, a pulmonary and sleep medicine specialist at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. The gas can widen blood vessels, he said, potentially also improving blood flow.

Sleeping with your mouth agape may cause you to wake up with a dry mouth, Dr Kearney said, which can contribute to cavities, bad breath, a hoarse voice and dry, cracked lips.

Are there any proven benefits of mouth taping?

Despite its recent popularity, mouth taping has not been extensively studied. A few small trials have looked into whether mouth taping can alleviate snoring in people with sleep conditions like obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when part or all of your upper airway is blocked while you sleep, causing breathing to stop and start repeatedly throughout the night.

In one small study in people with mild obstructive sleep apnea, researchers found that among 20 patients who slept with their lips taped shut, 13 snored less with the tape than they did without it. In another study, including 30 patients with mild obstructive sleep apnea who tended to breathe through their mouths while sleeping, researchers found that they snored less severely, on average, when they wore a patch over their mouths than they did when they didn’t.

But the studies on mouth taping are limited, Dr Kearney said, and we know little about how the practice could benefit people in general.

Dr Andrew Wellman, a sleep medicine specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who has studied mouth taping, said that while the practice won’t cure a condition like sleep apnea, it may improve a person’s airflow and reduce snoring, which in turn may help a bed partner have a deeper, more restful sleep.

But some of the other claims are less definitive.

“There is zero evidence that you’ll be more beautiful or will have clearer skin,” said Mr James Nestor, a journalist and author of “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art.”

Is mouth taping safe?

Not everyone is a good candidate for mouth taping, Dr Kearney said. If you struggle to breathe through your nose or can hear yourself when you attempt to nasal breathe throughout the day, you should not try mouth taping. Instead, she said, get evaluated by an ear, nose and throat doctor.

An anatomical issue like a deviated septum, or allergies, sinusitis or chronic congestion, may explain any difficulty breathing through your nose.

And if you regularly snore or wake up feeling more tired than refreshed, Dr Horvat said, consider seeing a sleep specialist before reaching for mouth tape.

A condition like sleep apnea can cause snoring and fatigue during the day, so it’s important to understand the root of your problem first. Even if you do not have obstructive sleep apnea, you should consult with a doctor before trying mouth taping, Dasgupta said.

If you do decide that you want to try it, it is important to use the right tape, Mr Nestor said. Don’t reach for duct tape or anything that isn’t easily removable, he said.

“The tape should be able to effortlessly come off, without any tension or resistance,” Mr Nestor added, like surgical tape. The goal of mouth taping isn’t to seal your lips shut — it’s to remind your muscles to relax.

Mr Nestor recommended easing into the practice by starting during the day. Place the tape over your mouth for about 10 minutes at a time, he said, and then work up to 20 minutes or so the next day. After a few weeks, your body may acclimate to breathing through the nose, and you can try out mouth tape while you sleep.

If that doesn’t sound appealing, there are other lifestyle tweaks that can address mouth breathing, Dr Dasgupta said. Smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol can cause people to sleep with their mouths open by irritating and congesting the nasal passages, he said, so if you partake in those activities, cutting back can encourage nasal breathing and alleviate snoring.

He noted that nasal strips, nasal dilators, and throat and tongue exercises can also address snoring. Sleeping on your back may also cause you to mouth-breathe, so changing your sleep position may help, Kearney said.

But tweaks — from a piece of tape or otherwise — are unlikely to radically transform your health or the quality of your rest, experts said. The disparaging truth is that most “health hacks” won’t solve your problems overnight.

“There is no one easy way to fix your sleep,” Dr Dasgupta said.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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