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Mouth taping: should I start surgically taping my mouth shut at night?

Tess Daley is a fan of mouth taping (Tess Daley / Instagram)
Tess Daley is a fan of mouth taping (Tess Daley / Instagram)

Taping my mouth shut at night is a rigamarole. A complete nuisance. It entails making sure my skincare has time to penetrate and that my nose is free of blockages beforehand, strategically drinking plenty of water so I won’t need to have any during the night, and bleating out my final words of the day in a frenzy to make sure they’re all said.

And then on goes the tape. Initially just some surgical stuff I had in a drawer from the time I cut my finger quite deeply, but as time progresses and I get more serious, I switch to VIO2tape, which is pre-cut and doesn't irritate my skin.

Mouth taping is a hot topic of conversation in the wellness world and proponents include Gwyneth Paltrow (naturally), Ashley Graham and Tess Daly, who all espouse its virtues. I've decided to give it a go because I want to up my sleep quality, which I am told by the various apps and trackers I use is appalling. Could it be that I am breathing through my mouth and not my nose? According to anyone I’ve slept next to, yes: my mouth remains open like a dead fish, with snores and sleep talking making their way out of it at intervals.

Other than snoring and talking, breathing out of ones mouth can apparently be bad news. Firstly, unlike the mouth, the nose filters air, trapping large particles in hairs, and smaller ones in mucous membranes, so you’re less likely to suffer from allergies and irritated airways.

Oxygen uptake can be lower when mouth breathing due to the reduced resistance to the air stream the nose provides. It can also contribute to bad breath and dental decay. On the other hand, breathing through the nose can improve immunity and foster better sleep. Joe Bansal, cosmetic dentist at London Smiling, agrees that mouth taping can result in, “improved nasal breathing, enhanced oxygen uptake, reduced snoring, and potential for improved sleep quality."

Madeleine Spencer with her mouth taped shut (Madeleine Spencer)
Madeleine Spencer with her mouth taped shut (Madeleine Spencer)

I'm still skeptical as I begin my mouth taping experiment — another day, another wellness trend, and all that. I am also nervous about not being able to talk through the night, given that I talk at all times. It turns out my body solves this one for me: I sleep nicely until it’s talking time, when I tear off the tape while asleep and words pile forth. I once did this while sleeping next to my sister on a trip and she told me it was one of the most terrifying things she’d ever seen.

Even though my desire to speak means that I’ve yet to complete the night with my mouth shut, I’ve soldiered on for a couple of months now and have noticed some benefits. Before embarking on mouth taping, I’d had visions of mornings like that moment in Hocus Pocus where Billy cuts open his mouth after three hundred years of it being sealed shut and out come puffs of moths. But rather than having a dry mouth after a night of no sips of water, I’ve actually found it feels more hydrated. As a knock on, I *think* I have achieved minimal morning breath. I’ve definitely found colds are lingering on less, and my allergies are reduced. And, yes, sleep is, according to the apps who berated me for not getting enough of it, a little better — deeper, evidently.

All in all, I’d encourage you to try it for a month or two if it sounds like you might profit from it, then assess if you want to carry on. It won’t be for everyone, these things never are. On my part, I think I have acclimatised to breathing through my nose more often. I might tape again if that ceases to be the case, but it’s not something I’ll do nightly, mostly because it's a bit of a faff.