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Social media platform TikTok has helped spread another dangerous idea: sealing your lips to stop mouth breathing at night.
“If you have obstructive sleep apnea, yes, that can be very dangerous,” said Dr. Raj Dasgupta, associate professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.
Obstructive sleep apnea, which is the complete or partial collapse of the airway, is one of the most common and dangerous sleep disorders: it is estimated that more than 1 billion people between the ages of 30 and 69 have it, according to a study published in 2019. In Lancet Respiratory Medicine. Experts say millions more are undiagnosed.
“There is limited evidence on the benefits of taping your mouth and I would be very cautious, and talk to your health care provider before even trying,” Dasgupta added.
However, none of the TikTok videos seen by CNN mentioned that the practice could be harmful in any way.
A young woman touts the benefits of beauty sleep as a reason to imprison her lips every night.
“I keep my mouth shut every day. … Getting good sleep is so important to anti-aging and looking and feeling your best.”
Despite the downsides of painfully losing facial hair or damaging the soft tissue around your mouth, another TikTok video recommends “plain paper tape.”
“I know there are a lot of fancy tapes on the market, but you don’t need them. You just need this little square right here on top of your lip.”
All of this can be dismissed as stupidity, while those who seem to find one video begets another take on the challenge. One woman couldn’t remember why she started hitting her mouth at night:
“Honestly, I don’t know. I saw it on TikTok and I don’t remember what the benefits were. But it helps me sleep!”
As with many things that TikTok presenters have “discovered”, taping your mouth It is not the new People have been looking for ways to shut up at night for years, and with good reason. Mouth breathing can lead to snoring and excessive thirst at night, as well as dry mouth and bad breath in the morning. Over time, this is how you breathe it is associated with dental disease and malocclusion, where the upper and lower teeth do not align.
In childhood, when the tendency to breathe through the mouth often begins, the condition can lead children to develop a “mouth-breather face” — a narrow face with a receding chin or jaw, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Children are also at risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea, which has been linked to it learning difficulties and behavioral problems in childhood.
Journalist James Nestor allowed scientists to plug his nose with silicone and surgical tape for 10 days to see how mouth breathing would affect his health. As he described in his book “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art,” the impact was incredibly swift. He developed obstructive sleep apnea, his blood pressure, pulse and heart rate rose and his blood oxygen levels dropped, sending his brain into a dark fog.
“We didn’t know it was going to be this bad,” Nestor told CNN in 2020. “The snoring and sleep apnea were so terrible, and it came on so quickly, everyone was pretty freaked out.”
Breathing through the nostrils is healthier, experts say. Fine nasal hairs called cilia filter dust, allergens, germs and environmental debris. Breathing through the nose moistens incoming air, while dry air inhaled through the mouth can irritate the lungs, Dasgupta said.
“Nasal breathing can lower blood pressure by increasing nitric oxide, a compound in your body that can help keep your blood pressure under control,” he added.
In addition, nasal breathing is relaxing, which is why it is often recommended, along with yoga and meditation, as a way to promote sleep.
However, if you decide you want to try taping your mouth, don’t tape your mouth horizontally like you’re a serial killer’s hostage – even TikTok users insist on this. Just a bit of tape placed vertically over the lips seems to work.
A small March study, however, found that those who replaced mouth breathing with a “mouth puff” had the study participants breathe in and out on each side of the treadmill.
Overall, the “most important message” is to first assess for obstructive sleep apnea before trying to sleep with your mouth taped, Dasgupta said.
“When obstructive sleep apnea is completely ruled out, then we can call it snoring,” he said. “Also, there are many other options for dealing with snoring besides taping your mouth, such as nasal strips, nasal dilators, and mouth (and) throat and tongue exercises.”
Also avoid sleeping on your back, a position that encourages the mouth to open and the tongue to fall down the throat. Air passing through this blockage is what causes snoring.
Mouth breathing is often associated with allergies, colds and chronic nasal congestion. A deviated septum, which is the cartilage that separates the nostrils, can also be the cause; A deviated septum can block the airway. Nasal polyps can do the same, Dasgupta said.
Children can have enlarged adenoids, glands behind the nose designed to ward off bacteria and viruses. They shrink with age, so it’s not a common cause of mouth breathing in adults, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
All of them below medical problems can lead to a visit to an ear, nose and throat doctor or a sleep specialist who can create a personalized treatment plan for you.
“Before recording the mouth, these issues must be worked out and evaluated. I don’t think keeping your mouth shut will help you sleep better,” Dasgupta said.