Snoring and sleep apnea not only represent holistic health risk to an individual, the irritating noise at night can often create conflict to a couple’s relationship. I’d like to share with you a convenient alternative remedy that have helped all of my clients to reduce snoring and sleep apnea, which is by wearing a tape to keep their mouth closed during sleep. A new study published this year also showed that patching your mouth closed can help you reduce snoring and sleep apnea.
Major Cause of Snoring and Sleep Apnea
One major cause of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea is mouth breathing during sleep, especially when you sleep in the supine position. When you sleep in the supine position with an opened mouth, gravity easily pulls down your jaw and tongue which compresses your throat. As a result, your airway gets suppressed and narrowed, leaving smaller space for the air to pass through.
Mouth breathing also introduces stronger air flow as you inhale and exhale, which exacerbates the airway soft tissue vibration, causing the loud snoring noise. Strong air flow during mouth breathing also induces strong negative pressure that sucks in the soft tissues around the throat area, which further narrows your airway, and eventually causes your airway around the throat area to collapse, resulting in obstructive sleep apnea.
The Quick Fix? Wear a tape to keep your mouth closed
As I’ve discussed earlier, one of the main cause of snoring and sleep apnea is mouth breathing. A quick fix to keep your mouth closed during the night is to apply a small piece of a tape over it. When your mouth is closed and lips together, your jaw is harder to fall back even when you lie in a supine position. Keeping your mouth closed also forces you to breathe through your nose, which not only helps to regulate the airflow to reduce the negative pressure inside your airway, but also reduces soft tissue vibration.
An otoralyngology study published this year on American Academy of Otolaryngology Journal, demonstrated the effectiveness to reduce snoring and obstructive sleep apnea by using a patch to keep the patients’ mouth closed, which showed significant reduction in median AHI (Apnea-Hypopnea Index) score and snoring index .
In the past few years, ENT specialist Dr. Hung Cheng Tseng and I have recommended wearing a tape for all of our clients as part of our AirwayFit training program, and the feedback have been great. For some CPAP users, wearing a tape on their mouth can help to eliminate the air leakage issue. In addition, if you often find yourself waking up with a dried mouth and throat, this method will also help you keep your mouth and throat moisturized throughout the night.
How To Apply?
In practice, wear a tape to sleep is actually a lot less daunting than it sounds.
Visit any drug store near you, and pick up a small roll of medical grade paper tape. It should cost you no more than $10. I recommend ones that are hypoallergenic, porous, and non-waterproof. When you wear the tape, you want to roll your lips slightly inward so you don’t apply directly onto your lips. Otherwise your lips can really hurt when you remove the tape in the morning. Some people apply some lip balm or vaseline onto their lips first as a layer of protection.
You don’t have to wear the tape over your entire mouth. You can start by wearing the tape vertically, in the center, right beneath your nose, and that should suffice; as long as the tape keeps your jaw up. I also recommend you to pre-fold one of the corners of the tape, just so that there’s a corner you can grab onto easily in the morning to tear the tape off. If you have a sensitive skin and you find removing the tape off hurts, you can wet the tape with water before you remove it in the morning. You could also reduce the stickiness of the tape prior to use, by sticking the tape onto your forearm a couple times before you put the tape on.
If you really are panicked by the idea, then like I’ve suggested, you can wear the tape only at the center portion of your mouth. This will leave gaps on the two sides of your mouth, but still keeps your jaw in the upright position during sleep. Also, if it’s your first night trying this method, wear the tape 30 minutes before you go to bed can help you accommodate.
Most people who have tried wearing a tape method to keep their mouth closed find it convenient, more comfortable and cheaper than the alternative methods. However, I would caution against wearing a tape to keep your mouth closed if you experience the followings: feeling nausea, or are epileptic, or if you have consumed alcohol or any pill or medicine prior to sleep. Otherwise, give it a try today and you will find yourself waking up much more energized with a moist mouth the next morning!
 Huang TW., Young TH., “Novel Porous Oral Patches for Patients with Mild Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Mouth Breathing: A Pilot Study” American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery 152.2 (2015): 369-373. Print.