Insomnia is one of the worst things to experience and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. Things got so bad a couple years ago that I went a few months straight without sleeping much at all every single night. I decided to take a deep dive into the science of sleep and change many daily habits that were stopping me from sleeping well. I changed my eating and workout schedule, I invested in a new pillow and sheets, I bought a plush eye mask and blackout curtains, and committed to going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day and night.
But there was one sleep hack in particular that made a massive change—I taped my mouth shut to go to sleep. It sounds wacky and a little bizarre, but I'll never look back. It's exactly what it sounds like: I take a piece of tape (I prefer the brand Somnifix) and put it over my mouth so that I'm only breathing through my nose. It may sound claustrophobic to some, but it's actually one of the most relaxing things I've ever done for myself at night. Here are five things that happened when I taped my mouth shut every night.
I Felt Much More Relaxed and Less Stressed
Think about how you breathe when you're stressed out or scared. You take shallow breaths in and out through your mouth. This activates the sympathetic nervous system, which is also known as the "fight or flight" mode of your body. However, breathing through your nose activates the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the "rest and digest" mode. If you sit down right now and simply take 10 deep breaths in and out through your nose, you'll instantly feel more relaxed.
Breathing through your nose activates the parasympathetic nervous system.
Now translate that to nighttime sleep. When you breathe exclusively through your nose, you allow your body to fall into a parasympathetic state, which is much more relaxing and stress-reducing. Breathing through your nose can also reduce symptoms of sleep apnea (while also creating a healthy oral microbiome and increasing nitric oxide production). A common concern is that you won't be able to breathe through your nose if your mouth is shut; maybe you have some congestion or you just aren't used to breathing through your nose. I had the same hesitation, but trust me, you'd be surprised how naturally your body adapts to nose breathing because at night, your body truly craves relaxation.
I Got More Deep Sleep
There are three phases of sleep: light sleep, deep sleep, and REM (rapid-eye movement) sleep. Deep sleep occurs in the first few hours of the night roughly between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. It's the phase of sleep where your heart rate lowers and your breathing slows, both of which are important for good rest and recovery. If you don't get good deep sleep, that's what makes you feel tired and sluggish the next morning.
Breathing through my nose exclusively helped me achieve more deep sleep every night.
Breathing through my nose exclusively helped me achieve more deep sleep every night; I tracked everything on my Oura ring and saw that I was slowly increasing the length of deep sleep. Little by little, I woke up more rested each day. Because I got more deep sleep, I felt more prepared for my workouts, I was in a better mood, and I felt more motivated to make good choices with my diet.
I Didn't Have to Get Up to Pee in the Middle of the Night
This is admittedly a weird one. I don't know if there is any science behind this (I haven't found any research on this yet), but I can tell you from anecdotal experience that taping my mouth shut allowed me to sleep straight through the night without having to get up to pee. I've seen on some online forums that some other people had a similar experience. I don't know why this is the case, but there's something about breathing through my nose that prevented me from getting up every few hours to pee. I suspect it's because I simply didn't get up multiple times in the middle of the night like I used to due to feeling more relaxed and staying in deep sleep longer.
Taping my mouth shut allowed me to sleep straight through the night.
It Helped Me Sleep Better During Pregnancy and Postpartum
Every mother out there knows how difficult it can be to sleep well when you have a huge belly and your body is going through tons of hormonal changes, and I won't lie and tell you that I slept great throughout my whole pregnancy. But taping my mouth shut really did help on many nights. I didn't necessarily sleep straight through the night every night when I was 30+ weeks pregnant, but I was able to get some restful deep sleep when I taped my mouth shut. Even when my daughter was a newborn and I was up every couple hours to breastfeed her, I was able to sleep soundly and achieve deep relaxation in those short bursts of time.
My Resting Heart Rate Lowered
One thing that really concerned me when I was struggling with sleep was my heart rate that I tracked with the Oura ring. It rarely lowered below 60 bpm, which was higher than my previous resting rate. After wearing my mouth tape every night for a few months, I saw that my heart rate lowered to 52-54. This was great to see because it made me feel like I was recovering better from my workouts.
I recommend taping your mouth shut to everyone, especially people who struggle with snoring, insomnia, sleep apnea, etc. It's a simple, accessible hack that you can try no matter what stage of life you're in. There are all sorts of tapes you can try and it doesn't even have to be designated mouth tape. I know plenty of people who use masking tape and put some coconut oil on their lips to lubricate it a little bit. Try a few different options and see what works for you. I think you'll love the relaxing feeling of achieving more deep sleep and waking up more rested and ready for the day.