If you’ve ever slept while breathing through your mouth, then you’ll be familiar with the feeling of waking up hoarse, dry-mouthed, and in desperate need of water. For YouTuber and self-confessed mouth breather Dr. Ali Abdaal, this is a default state, and so in his latest video, he experiments with taping his mouth shut at night, based on online reports that it can make a difference. While there’s no categorical scientific research to support these claims, there’s enough anecdotal evidence out there to pique his curiosity.
“The idea here is that if we tape our mouth shut while we’re sleeping, we can’t breathe through our mouth, and instead we have to breathe through our nose,” he explains. Inhaling through the nose means that the air going into our lungs has been filtered and warmed to body temperature, whereas breathing in through the mouth means the air is often cool and dry, which is not ideal. Breathing this way at night can dry out the mouth, causing an individual to wake up in need of water, something which Ali often does.
Rather than just applying duct tape to his face, Ali invests in a pack of disposable mouth strips, which are made from a translucent tape which still allow the user to speak, but encourage the lips to stay as closed as possible.
“That worked reasonably well,” he says after the first night. “My mouth is a little bit dry, but I didn’t wake up during the night at all, and it’s a lot less dry than it normally would be.”
After three weeks, Ali stops using the tape to see if it’s made any difference, and finds that when he wakes up, his mouth doesn’t feel as dry as it usually would, causing him to speculate that using the strips “trained” him to stop breathing through his mouth at night, and that in general he has been waking up feeling more rested and refreshed. As far as further anecdotal evidence is concerned, Ali’s housemate states that he is no longer audibly snoring at night, which is another huge plus.
The objective sleep data doesn’t necessarily back up his subjective experience, but Ali acknowledges that a host of other factors are at play. However, he feels strongly enough that there have been some positive results that he has now permanently added the strips to his sleep routine.
“I’d recommend at least giving it a try,” he says. “Especially if you are, like me, a mouth breather… I’ve noticed, since I started doing this, it makes my default mouth position more likely to be closed.”
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