CAN MOUTH TAPING BE USED AS A TREATMENT FOR SNORING AND SLEEP APNEA
When we sleep, all the muscles of our body relax. This also applies to the muscles involved in the upper airway. When they relax, the muscles of the upper airway tend to collapse, interfering with breathing. This interference generates a sound which is known as snoring. This sound mainly occurs when we breathe in rather than out.
Not everyone snores at night. People who are obese, with a large tongue, big tonsils, and short necks, tend to snore more than others. Snoring leads to incomplete rest of our body and mind and is a big problem for the partners.
Various treatment modalities exist and are recommended for patients who snore. However, currently, a new trend is getting viral on TikTok. Wellness creator @lexfiish taped her mouth shut, improving her snoring symptoms. Many others claimed they tried the same and had significant improvement. Let's look at this viral trend from a scientific perspective.
This trend relies on a simple principle. If we tape the mouth, breathing will only occur through the nose, a natural phenomenon.
Nasal breathing holds several advantages over mouth breathing.
- The hairs in the nose act as a filter and keep dust and debris from entering the airway.
- The nose helps humidify the air.
- The sinuses contain Nitric oxide, the chemical that acts as a vasodilator. Vasodilator dilates the surrounding blood vessels, so the oxygen can easily reach the bloodstream.
- Nasal breathing has a direct effect on the nervous system. Breathing through your nose helps in activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows for rest and digestion. Thus, one can sleep more peacefully.
The people who snore tend to breathe through their mouths. In moderate to severe cases, the patient wakes up at night unable to breathe. This condition is known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Mouth breathers with OSA seem to encounter several health issues due to oxygen not being sufficiently delivered to the vital organs in the body. This results in hypertension, aggravation of chronic airway issues, diabetes mellitus, etc. Also, it leads to dryness of the mouth and foul breath.
To tape your mouth, all you need is 3mm tape. Make sure you use skin-safe tapes. Apply an adequate quantity of petroleum jelly around the area of your mouth to prevent irritation and rashes from the tape. Then, put the tape horizontally over the mouth to cover the entire length and width. If inadequate, apply tapes above and below the first one. In the end, fold the strip to form some sort of a handle.
However, take care not to tape your mouth if breathing through the nose is complex, i.e., if you have nasal allergies or severe deviation of the nasal septum.
Although many claims, there is not enough study-based evidence to show that mouth taping is effective. A preliminary study was conducted in September 2022 in which participants significantly improved their symptoms after taping the mouth. Taping the mouth and breathing through the nose has increased the airway dimensions behind the palate (retropalatal area). The Retropalatal area is the most common site of airway collapse during snoring. During mouth-breathing, the soft palate is displaced more posteriorly than in nasal breathers.
However, this study only included 20 participants with mild OSA, so it cannot be used as definitive evidence.
There are various treatment modalities, medical and surgical, for which your doctor will advise you. Apart from these, other measures that can be tried to treat snoring are:
- Lifestyle modification: As snoring is more common in obese people, weight reduction can effectively decrease snoring. Also, try to maintain a healthy sleep schedule. Quit smoking and avoid caffeine and alcohol before going to bed.
- Positional therapy: Supine position aggravates the intensity of snoring as the airway collapse is more prominent. Hence, various side-lying maneuvers are adopted, which are seen to relieve snoring. An example is the ‘tennis-ball position’ in which a tennis ball is strapped to the back of the t-shirt when sleeping.
- Nasal strips: Nasal strips are available in the market. These can only be used if the level of airway resistance is the nose.
- Over-the-counter medications: Certain anti-allergic medications and decongestants can be tried if you have allergies or an infection leading to a blocked nostril. These medications open your nose so you can breathe easily through the nose.
Snoring is a common problem encountered by a lot of people in daily life. Various treatment modalities are available for its management. A new viral trend of mouth taping has been seen to improve snoring by encouraging the natural phenomena of breathing through the nose. However, very few evidence-based studies have been conducted, and the risks and benefits are yet to be weighed.
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- Lee, Y. C., Lu, C. T., Cheng, W. N., & Li, H. Y. (2022, September). The Impact of Mouth-Taping in Mouth-Breathers with Mild Obstructive Sleep Apnea: A Preliminary Study. In Healthcare (Vol. 10, No. 9, p. 1755). MDPI.
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