ReversingMyAge.com is a great source of unusual and often fascinating material ideal for first date conversations. Running, cycling, and lifting weights are fantastic subjects to discuss and intermittent fasting along with high intensity interval training are especially hot topics. Do not, however, under any circumstances whatsoever, discuss this particular post. Make no mistake, if you tell your first date that you tape your mouth shut before bed every night to prevent mouth breathing, there will definitely not be a second. I recently learned this the hard way.
I am convinced oxygen is one of a few key components necessary for good health and longevity. The fact of the matter is that blue zones (geographic areas with especially longevous people) are often at high altitude. This means the oxygen content in the air they breathe is less, not greater. How counterintuitive? Up until very recently, I always thought the more oxygen, the better. I even looked into purchasing an oxygen concentrator and considered trying to buy a used or build my own hyperbaric oxygen chamber, which have a wide variety of reported health benefits. Hyperbaric chambers are supposedly beneficial for a number of conditions including: wound healing, athletic performance, autism, cancer, anemia, carbon monoxide poisoning, and others. They are often used in hospitals to help burn victims heal. They work. It seems, however, the opposite is also good for you. We seem to have stumbled upon yet another paradox.
So, you think taking a deep breath of oxygen rich air will give your muscles, tissues, and brain a burst of needed energy? Wrong. Not so at all. In fact, ironically, you’d be better off holding your breath. Taking a deep voluntary breath does not increase oxygenation to any tissue in your body. Put an oximeter on a finger. If you’re healthy it will read somewhere between 96 and 99%. That means 96 to 99% of hemoglobin molecules are bound to oxygen.1 Your cells are already saturated with oxygen. The trick is to figure out how to release the oxygen bound up in your red blood cells. If you are breathing deeply and/or overbreathing (mouth breathing) all the time, especially when not exercising, you are not increasing the oxygenation of your blood or tissue further, but you are decreasing the amount of CO2 in your blood through exhalation. Just as increased CO2 causes vasodilation, decreased CO2 causes vasoconstriction.2 This is bad.
About three months ago my gums began bleeding, pretty much all the time. I started growing concerned because if I literally sucked in and spit at any time, there would always be traces of blood in my red spit. I began using my water pick nightly in an effort to toughen up my gums. Despite weeks of using it, I just ended up with a mouthful of blood every night. Then I decided I must have given myself scurvy due to KETO and Intermittent Fasting. So, I began taking vitamin C powder even on fast days and swishing it around in my mouth. Then I changed my fasting schedule. Nothing seemed to help.
In addition to bloody gums, I often woke up with a very sore throat. So, I bought a humidifier. It didn’t help either. This was getting serious, but I dreaded the thought of going to the dentist who would indubitably diagnose me with serious gum disease that required some procedure that just so happens to cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. I further dreaded explaining to the dentist how my bloody gums fit into the context of my quest for age reversal. I envisioned getting hauled away in a straight jacket, never to be seen again.
Then while training for my ultramarathon, I listened to the book The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown and discovered a potential solution to my problem. The author made me realize I am a mouth breather. This is very bad because when breathing through the nose, the air is warmed and cleaned by both the hair (cilia) that lines the path through which it passes, and the extreme length that pathway follows on its journey from the nose to the lungs. That is why noses are for breathing and mouths are for eating. I have been inadvertently damaging my health, handicapping myself, both physically and mentally, and been exposing myself to a number of serious chronic conditions for my entire life. I look back and think about my participation in sports and realize that I was working so much harder than I should have been because I was a mouth breather. I also think about all the brain fog and moodiness I suffered from over the years. If only I had known of my affliction and how easy it is to correct!
If you’re beathing through your mouth while you sleep at night, as I was, it’s a really big deal. Unfortunately, mouth breathing while sleeping is a tough habit to break. You’re unconscious, so you can’t control your autonomic actions. I have a solution that may seem extreme, but is, no doubt, effective. Surgical tape! That’s right; each and every night I now put a strip of two inch wide surgical tape over my mouth. I’m not talking loosely either. I mean I’m really taping my mouth shut so no air can enter or exit my mouth. Consequently, I now have no choice but to breathe through my nose while I’m sleeping. I don’t use the “best” tape. I use the most effective, meaning the stuff that won’t come off. It sometimes leaves a faint residue and it can be slightly painful to remove.
Yes, I agree, taping your mouth shut at night is not normal. It is, ostensibly, abso-friggin-lutely crazy. Yet, when you take the time to really contemplate the matter, it’s really not. Nasal breathing is the normal, healthy way to breathe. Furthermore, what’s truly crazy is what has become “normal” today: obesity, diabetes, ADHD, fatigue, brain fog, heart disease, stroke, and dementia. The normal adult today is fat, weak, unconditioned, and sick. “Normal” isn’t normal anymore. These are all chronic conditions that I believe are, for the most part, preventable. Taping your mouth at night is a remarkably simple, yet extremely powerful tool that if you’re a mouth breather, has the potential to change your life and reduce your chances of becoming afflicted by one of the aforementioned conditions.
Hard to believe, right? That’s what I thought at first, but the health benefits and improvement in sleep quality are undeniable. Mouth tapers report better focus, memory, and concentration, while simultaneously anxiety is greatly reduced as are incidents of cavities.3 According to a Breathe Right survey or 1001 Americans, 61% of people mouth breathe by default.4 Mouth breathing elevates blood pressure and heart rate, worsens asthma and allergies, and deprives the heart, brain, and other organs of optimal oxygenation.5
Benefits of Mouth Taping
- Forces Nasal Breathing – Applying tape to your mouth at night is an easy and inexpensive way to ensure that your mouth stays closed and respiration must, therefore, occur only through your nose.
- Prevents Overbreathing – If you sleep with an open mouth your breathing will automatically exceed your body’s needs and you will hyperventilate, which upsets the oxygen/carbon dioxide balance and causes oxygen deficiency.6 This is why my O2 saturation levels were so low early on in my quest. It further explains why even as I got healthy and fit, my O2 saturation levels were alarmingly low upon waking (I kept an O2 Saturation device on my bed).
- Gives a deep sleep – Restless sleep is common amongst nightly mouth breathers. Nasal breathing lowers heart rate and Adrenaline and improves blood oxygen levels. Snoring and sleep apnea can respond to mouth taping.
- Reduce attention deficit and hyperactivity – Mouth breathing because of nasal obstruction is likely to cause sleep disorders, and by day, it may give rise to symptoms similar to those of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In these ways, it has been suggested that breathing through the mouth instead of the nose can adversely affect brain function.7
- Reduces Asthma and Allergies – The nose warms, filters and moisturizes air. Mouth breathing sends cold dry air to the back of the throat and lungs. Nasal passages secrete excess mucus trying to alleviate the dryness, causing congestion in the nose and creating more allergies and mouth breathing – a vicious cycle.8
- Improved Dental Health and Better Breath – Mouth breathing dries your mouth, harming the oral Microbiome affecting the entire digestive tract. A dry mouth can lead to cavities as teeth are robbed of their protective coating of saliva and oral pH is altered. Bad breath can result from increased bacteria in the mouth.9
- Reduced Anxiety – Mouth breathing can activate the fight or flight response. Learn to stop mouth breathing during the day too. This is a basic health improvement tool that can change your life. Overbreathing can make you sick. It’s not hyperventilation like a panic attack, but the more you watch your breathing and slow it down, the less anxious you’ll feel, day or night.10
- Increased Nitric Oxide – We produce 25% of our Nitric Oxide in the sinuses but only when we breathe through the nose. Breathe through your mouth and you will be short on nitric oxide.Nitric Oxide is key to athletic endurance and strength, regulation of blood pressure, arterial inflammation, and sleep quality. Nitric oxide enhances memory and learning, reduces inflammation, improves sleep quality, increases endurance and strength, and improves immune function.11
My Mouth Taping Experience
As I stared myself in the face in my bathroom mirror, I said to myself, “Ok, this is it. Tonight you will sleep with your mouth taped shut for the first time.” I applied the tape and couldn’t help but notice how ridiculous I looked. I also noticed that almost immediately after covering my mouth, I was struggling for air. This was probably largely psychological. I felt kinda like a freak and thought to myself as I lay down in bed, “Now, I’ve finally gone too far. This is absolutely ridiculous.” I soon began to really struggle to breath. It was a little scary, but not terrifying, as I knew I could always just tear the tape off. As I tried to fall asleep, I pondered, “Will I wake up if I am lacking oxygen?” Eventually, I must have drifted off to sleep. Much to my dismay, I woke up without a taped mouth. I must have panicked and ripped it off it during the night.
By the second night, however, I suffered through the first few uncomfortable minutes and soon found that my nose became totally clear. Breathing through my nose, miraculously, was easy. Now that I have been doing this for awhile, one of the amazing things I’ve noticed is that if my nose is stuffed when I get into bed at night, it clears up within a minute or two and I begin to breathe easily. Ironically, it’s actually quite calming once you get used to it. Just like with inclined bed therapy, sleeping with my mouth taped shut is now “normal” to me, and surprisingly, preferable.
First and foremost, figure out if you’re a mouth breather. In a way, it could be a blessing because your quality of life and ability to perform mentally and physically is likely about to improve dramatically if you utilize this simple technique. Don’t wear tape if you’ve been drinking heavily, are nauseous, or take sleeping pills, and as always, consult your doctor before trying this.
As I grew up, I often found myself wanting to fit in and do what everyone else was doing, just like any other kid (and many, if not most, adults). If for some reason my parents did not want me to do whatever it is I sought permission or money to do, my father would often ask, “Are you an intelligent, critically thinking human being, or are you a sheep, blindly following the herd.” He would then invariably begin bleating, “Bahh, bbaahhhh, bbbaaaahhhhhhhhh.” Decades later, I realize he was right more often than not. He taught me to think critically and independently. As such, I’m not afraid to try seemingly strange methods if there is evidence the therapy supports my objectives, no matter how unconventional they may seem.
I am certain mouth breathing has immediate detrimental health effects. I strongly suspect mouth breathing has totally devastating long term health effects. Consequently, taping my mouth before bed has become part of my nightly routine. I no longer suffer from very sore throats upon waking. My gums no longer bleed. I sleep deeper and wake up less often and feel more refreshed upon rising. I have better breath and am more calm. I am now exponentially less likely to develop high blood pressure and/or heart rate, asthma and allergies, diabetes, adhd, and, I suspect, cancer and dementia. Yeah, I tape my mouth shut every night. There’s a 60% chance you should too. So tell me; now who’s the crazy one?
1 D. (2012, February 07). The Fallacy of “Deep Breathing.” Retrieved from https://yogaforums.com/t/the-fallacy-of-deep-breathing/8384
2 D. (2012, February 07). The Fallacy of “Deep Breathing.” Retrieved from https://yogaforums.com/t/the-fallacy-of-deep-breathing/8384
3 How to Mouth Tape for Better Sleep. (2018, February 21). Retrieved from https://askthedentist.com/mouth-tape-better-sleep/
4 GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare. (2015, March 04). New Survey Takes A Peek Into Americans’ Bedrooms To Reveal What’s Keeping People Awake: Mouth Breathing. Retrieved from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-survey-takes-a-peek-into-americans-bedrooms-to-reveal-whats-keeping-people-awake-mouth-breathing-300044836.html
5 How to Mouth Tape for Better Sleep. (2018, February 21). Retrieved from https://askthedentist.com/mouth-tape-better-sleep/
6 Olsson, A. (n.d.). The Sleep Tape. Retrieved from https://www.consciousbreathing.com/product/sleep-tape/
7 Sano, M., Sano, S., Oka, N., Yoshino, K., & Kato, T. (2013, December 04). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4047298/
8 5 Reasons I Tape My Mouth at Night. (2017, July 15). Retrieved from https://www.ondietandhealth.com/why-tape-my-mouth-at-night/
9 5 Reasons I Tape My Mouth at Night. (2017, July 15). Retrieved from https://www.ondietandhealth.com/why-tape-my-mouth-at-night/
10 5 Reasons I Tape My Mouth at Night. (2017, July 15). Retrieved from https://www.ondietandhealth.com/why-tape-my-mouth-at-night/
11 Nahman, H. (2017, May 17). Can Mouth Taping Grant You Better Sleep, Better Health, Better Everything? Retrieved from https://www.manrepeller.com/2017/05/what-is-mouth-taping.html