“Our mouths are for eating, and our noses are for breathing.”
If you haven’t heard that quote before, it’s the quick explanation for why I love mouth-taping so much. If you haven’t heard me talk about mouth-taping yet and you’re thinking, “What in the world is that?!,” let me explain.
While making many life changes in order to focus on my health, hormones, work/life balance, and so on, one thing I’ve really been working on is optimizing my sleep. I’ve never been one to get enough sleep. Definitely never 8 hours. On average I’d get about 6, but in college that would range anywhere from 2 to 7. In high school, mostly 3-5 hours a night. That definitely took a toll on me.
After graduating, I was able to get in closer to 6 or 7 hours a night consistently, but the problem was that despite having plenty of time to sleep, I wasn’t getting HIGH QUALITY sleep. I always woke up multiple times a night to “use the bathroom.”
Most people don’t realize this, but waking up in the middle of the night “to use the bathroom” on a regular basis indicates that something is wrong. It’s not normal. As a practitioner, my clients’ sleep always gives me a big clue into something else that might be going on with their health. There are a few different reasons why someone might be waking up in the middle of the night, but it’s usually because of a spike in cortisol. This could be caused by a number of things – undereating the day before, eating too close to bedtime, overtraining, an underlying infection, general HPA axis dysregulation… the list goes on.
Our autonomic nervous system has two modes – “rest and digest,” which is the parasympathetic state, and “fight or flight,” which is the sympathetic state. The sympathetic state comes into action when we are responding to a stressor, and this response is meant to be acute, not chronic. Our heart rate speeds up, blood rushes to vital organs and way from others, digestion “turns off”, our pupils dilate, and our bodies get ready to fight the stressor. The opposite happens when we are in the parasympathetic state. Obviously, our bodies are meant to be in the parasympathetic, “rest and digest,” state when we are in our ultimate state of rest – sleeping! We all know that good quality sleep is incredibly important to our health for a number of reasons – it is when our bodies and brains rebuild, repair, and recover. Sleep is when the body is REALLY getting to work! It is one of the most overlooked aspects of reaching any health goal.
The way that we breathe affects the state our body is in. Breathing through your nose actually puts your body into that calm and relaxed parasympathetic state, and that’s why it’s optimal for us to breathe through our noses when we sleep. When we nose-breathe, it keeps our bodies in the parasympathetic state so it can actually “rest and digest” and carry out all of the processes necessary to recover. Mouth-breathing, though, can put us back into the sympathetic state. Turns out, this is why I was waking up so often!
I first heard about mouth-taping through my friend Mike Mutzel from High Intensity Health. He was on Straight Up Paleo podcast awhile back, and you can listen to his episode here. Mike is incredibly smart and I’m always interested in his recommendations, so I wanted to give mouth-taping a shot after hearing him speak so highly of it. He recommended Somnifix mouth tape to me, which was originally designed to help people with snoring, but turns out to help almost everyone improve their sleep in general. I don’t snore, but I had nothing to lose!
I’m all about simple biohacks, so I was really excited to try the Somnifix. I was a little nervous at first to tape my mouth shut while I slept, but I felt much better about it after I actually saw the mouth tape. You can mouth tape with any type of tape you want, really, but I only use Somnifix because it’s totally hypoallergenic and has been tested extensively to make sure it won’t irritate the skin. The adhesive was specifically designed for the lips so that it’s really easy to remove and doesn’t hurt, and it doesn’t leave a sticky residue when you take it off either. If you want it to come off, all you have to do is pop your mouth open! The big selling point for me, though, was that there is also a mesh-covered breathing vent in front that allows you to breathe a bit through the tape, if needed. Once I saw that, I felt better about trying it out while I slept. If I REALLY needed to breathe, I could simply part my lips a bit to do so.
The first few nights were interesting. My body was definitely not used to having tape on my mouth, so I kept removing it while I was sleeping. I woke up with the tape somewhere else in my bed, wrapped around my thumb, and on another part of my face. After that first week, though, my sleeping hands left that mouth tape right where I put it! Once it stayed on the whole night through, I was shocked to find that I wasn’t waking up anymore multiple times during the night “to pee.” Because I was able to sleep throughout the whole night, I had REALLY deep sleep. Every morning, I can tell that my body gets into a deep state of REM the night before. I always vividly remember my dreams the next morning, and I wake up feeling SO rested. I also always sleep at least 8 hours now, unless under special circumstances, like having to wake up early because I’m traveling. I used to never be able to sleep 8 full hours even when I had the time to!
Since using the Somnifix regularly, I feel so much better during the day because I’m getting such great sleep at night. I wake up feeling like I actually have gotten rest, and my brain feels much more productive the next day. My body, in general, just feels better. I feel like I recover better from workouts and have more energy during the day. It’s also really important for me to sleep because I’m still working on my gut health and hormones, and sleep is crucial for that.
I use the Somnifix mouth tape religiously now, and I will not go to sleep without it. There have been a few nights that I didn’t put it on, and I woke up feeling like crap, to be blunt. It affects everything from my mood to my overall energy – I really notice the difference. Now that I know what it’s like to wake up after a good night’s sleep, I refuse to go back to a poor night’s sleep!
After seeing how much one simple thing could transform my sleep and then have a huge impact on my overall life, I obviously wanted to work with Somnifix and tell everyone in my life about it. Mouth taping helps not only with keeping you in parasympathetic mode throughout the night (which might help you sleep soundly instead of waking up “to pee”), but also has a ton of other health benefits. In general, breathing through our noses is much more optimal than breathing through our mouths. Breathing through your nose can lead to quiet sleep, deeper sleep, a better regulated heart rate, more efficient carbon dioxide-oxygen exchange, nitric oxide production to boost immunity, reduced headaches when waking up, reduced nasal congestion and sore throats, better focus, stamina, and strength because of optimal breathing patterns, improved weight loss and digestion, and better memory. Breathing through your mouth while you sleep, however, can lead to dry mouth, sore throat, nasal congestion, snoring, lowered blood oxygen saturation, and worsened immunity.
Let’s talk a bit more about those points, if you’re curious. Nose-breathing helps to lower your heart rate and adrenaline and improve blood oxygen levels, which means deeper sleep! It can also help if you have asthma or allergies. The nose warms and filters out air, but mouth-breathing sends cold, dry air to the back of the throat. The nasal passages try to fix that by secreting more mucus, but that can lead to more congestion and allergies, leading to more mouth-breathing. The cycle continues unless you break it.
Nose-breathing can also protect your dental health and improve your breath. Mouth-breathing dries out the mouth and can negatively affect the oral microbiome, which also affects your digestive tract. Dry mouths have an altered pH and less saliva to protect against cavities, and the increased level of bacteria in the mouth can lead to bad breath. No one wants that.
We also really need to talk about nitric oxide. We create 25% of our nitric oxide in the sinuses when we nose-breathe, and more nitric oxide in the body has been linked with improved athletic strength and endurance, weight loss, a reduction in anxiety and depression, stronger immunity, better concentration, sleep quality, memory, regulated blood pressure, and less arterial inflammation.
During the day, it’s easier for us to notice if we are breathing through our noses or mouths, but it’s not so easy while sleeping. During the night, we are “paralyzed” for certain parts of our sleep, which is called atonia. This particularly affects the muscles around the mouth and neck. This is why the mouth tape is so helpful – it keeps our mouths shut instead of letting them fall open, which also impacts where the tongue falls in the mouth. I really think this should be part of almost everyone’s nightly “sleep hygiene” routine – the way that we should all brush our teeth before bed.
Somnifix is well-studied. They’ve done clinical trials with researchers from Harvard showing that the strips are extremely effective in reducing “mouth” snores and improving breathing efficiency. Plus, everything inside the box is totally recyclable, which is another plus. Everyone I’ve recommended this to so far has loved it, and SO many readers / podcast listeners have told me that Somnifix has totally transformed their sleep, too. I know a lot of people who have finally stopped snoring because of this, so if you or a significant other has a snoring problem, give this a shot! Turns out that many people snore simply because their mouths are open while they sleep! It also helps with drooling…
If you’re ready to try, give it a few days or weeks to get acclimated to the mouth-tape. After that, get ready for a lifetime of better sleep.
If you have a medical condition that makes it so you physically cannot breathe through your nose, then you should not be taping your mouth shut while you sleep. You need to breathe! However, most of the population CAN breathe through their nose. If that’s you, I HIGHLY recommend trying out Somnifix mouth tape! It has seriously changed my life. I’m proud that Somnifix is a sponsor of both of my podcasts, and grateful that I have an amazing discount code for you to get 15% off! You can use the code “CRWSLEEP” for 15% off – and you can order right from Amazon.
If you decide to buy a box and try it out, I would love to hear about your experience. I also love seeing your mouth-tape selfies, so if you snap a picture, be sure to tag me! Happy sleeping!