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Try Mouth Taping at Night to Improve Health and Performance

breath holding breathe well breathing exercises breathing mechanics mouth taping muscles of breathing nasal breathing nose breathing nostril breathing Aug 22, 2018
Mouth taping in bed

I started taping my mouth shut when going to bed a few months ago after reading The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown. McKeown practices the Buteyko Method. As you can see by her wide-eyed gaze, my dog, Sasha, is very worried that she can’t give lots of slobbery kisses with my mouth taped. Ha!

The premise of the book is that many of us over breathe, unconsciously taking in more air than we need. Overbreathing reduces blood flow and contributes to multiple health problems, such as asthma, heart problems, anxiety, obesity, and more.

Determine Your BOLT Score

The test McKeown uses to measure for overbreathing, breath volume and breathlessness is called BOLT: Breathing Oxygen Level Test. It is a breath holding test done after an exhale. You only hold your breath until you have a desire to breathe. This video takes you through the process. 

As he says in the video, the ideal BOLT score for an athlete is 40 seconds. However, the average BOLT score for an athlete is between 10 and 20 seconds. I score at the lower end of this range.

While holding your breath, carbon dioxide (CO2) is increasing and oxygen is decreasing in your lungs. Carbon dioxide stimulates you to breathe. The better you tolerate CO2, the longer you can hold your breath and maintain a calm breathing pattern at rest and easier breathing during exertion. A low BOLT score indicates a larger breathing volume and higher sensitivity to CO2, which stresses the lungs to remove excess CO2.

Learn to Nose Breathe

In McKeown’s program, the first step to decreasing breathing volume and increasing BOLT scores is:
“Nose-breathe at all times, including during physical exercise and sleep.”

Hence, at this time, I started with the program. Finding it very difficult to keep my mouth shut when exercising, I started with sleep. I was apprehensive about taping my mouth shut at night, wondering if I would stop breathing and die in my sleep. Silly, I know, since our physiological urge to breathe is so strong it overrides our brain and causes us to inhale while under water and drown. Yet, the idea still made me uncomfortable.

However, once I put the tape on that first night, I found it felt quite normal to breathe through my nose, and I easily fell asleep. Some people recommend taping 30 minutes or more prior to lying down. This allows your body and brain to adjust to the sensation.

The next morning, I was pleased to wake with the tape still affixed to my mouth. Throughout my months of taping, there has only been one time that I removed the tape during the night and found it balled up on my nightstand, and the tape has never fallen off. 

How to Mouth Tape

McKeown recommends 3M micropore tape, which is what I use.

  • Before applying the tape, put on a generous amount of lip balm. I have also read you can use olive oil or coconut oil. This helps protect your lips. Surprisingly, the tape sticks just fine.
  • Tear a piece longer than your mouth and fold the ends under. This will allow for easier removal in the morning.
  • Stick the tape over your mouth and prepare for sweet dreams.

The Benefits of Nose Breathing and Mouth Taping

Aside from being our natural way to breathe, the book lists several reasons for nose breathing. Here are some you may know.

  1. 10-20% more oxygen uptake
  2. Warms and humidifies incoming air
  3. Cleanses air of germs and bacteria
  4. The nose stores nitric oxide, which has numerous health benefits

McKeown also claims that the Buteyko Method and his program stops the following issues:

  • Snoring
  • Sleep apnea
  • Insomnia
  • Asthma
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sinusitis and hay fever

In addition, I found references to reduced cavities with nocturnal nose breathing. When we mouth breathe at night, the mouth dries out and the teeth are no longer bathed in saliva, which promotes remineralization.

And. . . what I personally found was that the popping in my jaw lessened. Unsure if I was just imagining this result, I started searching online for a connection. Sure enough, I found articles on mouth taping and TMJ symptoms from years before. Might have been a good thing to try as I was chewing through my many mouth splints and hundreds of dollars . .  

Results of My Mouth Taping

Since I began mouth taping at night I have noticed five changes:

  • I am able to breathe through my nose longer and at higher intensities during exercise. This reduces the stress on my body and mind, allowing me to push harder and go faster, while perceiving less effort.
  • My neck pain and tension are less. Previously, when I would massage the muscles between my ear and jaw on the right side, it was very uncomfortable and would make me reflexively cough. Now, both sides feel similar.
  • My ribs are better positioned, and my right collarbone cracks less. Previously it would crack every time I lifted up my arms to give someone a hug.
  • The popping in my jaw has decreased.
  • My BOLT score has gone up.

Try mouth taping at night and let me know what you notice by leaving a comment below.

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