💡 Key Takeaways
- CPAP Mouth Taping Defined: This practice involves taping the mouth shut during sleep to prevent air leaks from an open mouth when using a nasal-style CPAP mask. This aims to alleviate side effects like dry mouth and poor sleep quality.
- Mouth Taping for CPAP Effectiveness: While anecdotal evidence suggests that mouth taping can reduce air leaks and improve sleep quality, the scientific proof is limited. That said, many CPAP owners state that mouth taping makes a big difference to their therapy success.
- Safety Concerns of Mouth Taping: Taping your mouth shut during sleep can pose risks, such as suffocation and aspiration. It’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider before attempting this practice.
- Mouth Taping Side Effects: Risks include skin irritation, prolonged breathing pauses, and claustrophobia. Some people may also experience a physiological response called “mouth puffing,” although its health effects are currently unknown.
- Alternatives and Precautions: Before resorting to mouth taping, consider alternatives like nasal strips, CPAP chinstraps, or full-face masks. If you have conditions like a deviated septum, nasal congestion, or claustrophobia, mouth taping may not be advisable.
In recent years, the topic of mouth taping has grown in popularity, from using it to alleviate snoring to managing mild sleep apnea. Despite this recent resurgence, the concept has actually been around for some time and is described as a breathing technique used to discourage mouth breathing and encourage nasal breathing. The idea behind this practice is that it improves your oxygen intake and sleep quality.
One form of this practice is CPAP mouth taping, which involves taping the mouth closed to prevent CPAP mouth leaks. While this practice is becoming more widespread, it can be dangerous if it is done incorrectly, and there are some things you should know before trying it out for yourself.
What Is CPAP Mouth Taping?
Nasal-style CPAP mask wearers use CPAP mouth taping to keep the mouth closed throughout the night, preventing continuous positive airway pressure from entering through the nose and leaking out of an open mouth. This practice alleviates side effects of CPAP mouth leaks, including CPAP dry mouth, poor sleep quality, and increased sleep apnea events.
Does Using Mouth Tape With CPAP Work?
There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that using mouth tape with CPAP can prevent air leaks, improve sleep apnea scores, and boost sleep quality, but the research is very limited.
A small 2020 study found that using an oral shield with a nasal CPAP mask did improve participants’ AHI scores and sleep quality compared to using a full face mask. However, that same study found no significant difference between using a nasal mask alone and using that same mask with the oral shield.
A couple of years ago, one prominent sleep apnea technologist, LankyLefty, opened up about his experience using mouth tape for CPAP. In his video, he examined his CPAP readings using a nasal pillow mask. He explained that while his AHI score wasn’t significantly impacted, the number of CPAP mouth leaks was significantly reduced, leading to fewer arousals and improved sleep quality.
Is It Safe to Tape Your Mouth While Using CPAP?
Mouth taping is a case-by-case issue, and you should always discuss the pros and cons with your doctor before taking action. While mouth breathing has many downsides, it also plays an important role in ensuring that you can continue breathing if you become unable to breathe through your nose.
In some cases, your healthcare provider may feel that the benefits of CPAP mouth taping outweigh the risks of mouth leaks, causing your CPAP therapy treatment plan to become ineffective. If you do choose to use CPAP mouth tape, there are some actions you can take to reduce the risks.
Risks of Mouth Taping
While there haven’t been many studies on the negative effects of mouth taping, a few potential risks of mouth taping with sleep apnea can arise even if you are undergoing CPAP therapy.
Even if you can comfortably breathe through your nose all night, taping off your mouth cuts off the easiest path of entry into your airway. If you are in the midst of a sleep apnea event and your CPAP machine stops working, many people find taking a few quick breaths of air through the mouth helps them resume breathing more quickly. While most people would be woken up by their CPAP machine suddenly stopping, if, for some reason, you were to sleep through this process, it could lead to suffocation.
Prolonged Breathing Pauses
If your CPAP machine stops working for some reason, the good news is that you will more than likely wake up. If that happens during a sleep apnea event, it’s easy to start panicking if you can’t get your mouth tape off quickly. When this happens, the time it takes to either bring in enough air through your nose or remove the mouth tape will likely make that breathing pause last even longer.
Aspiration is one of the biggest concerns associated with mouth taping. Aspiration occurs when a person vomits or experiences acid reflux that is breathed into the lungs. If you were to experience either of those complications with your mouth taped closed, it could lead to serious injury or death.
Skin irritation may seem like one of the more minor side effects of mouth taping, but it can lead to serious injury if you do not use the correct type of tape. After applying mouth tape, some people develop a rash or eczema-like irritation. There is also a risk that removing mouth tape can cause skin tears. Sometimes, you can even lose the top layers of your skin. If you already struggle with CPAP skin irritation, mouth taping could aggravate those sensitive areas.
One common complaint about CPAP therapy is that the CPAP mask makes them feel claustrophobic. In fact, this is one reason why nasal pillow masks have become so popular. Mouth tape can worsen CPAP claustrophobia, making it difficult to fall asleep or even stay asleep.
Mouth taping during CPAP therapy can cause a physiological response called mouth puffing. This phenomenon is thought to occur when a person attempts to breathe through the mouth despite having their lips taped closed. A recent study found that mouth puffing is more common in people with narrow airways or severe sleep apnea. Currently, we don’t know if mouth puffing has any negative health effects.
Should You Tape Your Mouth While Using CPAP?
Experts agree you should only begin mouth-taping after speaking with your healthcare provider. If you are considering CPAP mouth taping, there are a few factors that you must keep in mind.
If you have any of the following complications, it’s probably best to avoid mouth taping with CPAP.
- Deviated Septum: To safely use mouth tape, you must first be able to breathe through your nose all night long. Even if you can do this, having a deviated septum makes you more prone to nasal inflammation and blockages that can arise throughout the night as a side effect of CPAP.
- Nasal Congestion: Similar to having a deviated septum, you should never use mouth tape if you are experiencing even mild nasal congestion. If you are congested, taping your mouth shut will make breathing more difficult.
- Adhesive Allergies: Most mouth tapes and lip sealers utilize some sort of adhesive backing to hold the lips closed. If you have skin sensitivities or are prone to allergies, you should not try mouth taping.
- Claustrophobia: As mentioned above, CPAP claustrophobia is almost always worsened by mouth taping. Claustrophobia can lead to rapid, shallow, ineffective breathing, so using mouth tape may actually suppress your respirations even more.
- High Continuous Positive Airway Pressure: If you use high-pressure CPAP therapy, you’ll likely agree that it can be difficult to get used to. Taping your mouth shut may increase that discomfort, resulting in mouth puffing.
- Facial Hair: It is technically possible to use mouth tape with facial hair, but you must be pretty careful regarding the type and size of tape you select. Never mouth tape over your facial hair.
Alternatives to Mouth Taping for CPAP Users
Try Nasal Strips
Nasal strips are adhesive strips applied to the outside of the nose. They work by gently lifting and widening the nasal passages, which can help improve airflow and reduce snoring. Nasal strips may work to alleviate snoring, but studies suggest that they are ineffective for any type of sleep apnea.
Use a CPAP Chinstrap
Chin straps wrap around the chin and are usually held in place by velcro straps that attach at the top of the head. Like mouth tape, they keep the mouth closed, encouraging breathing through the nose. When deciding between a CPAP chinstrap vs. mouth tape, some people may prefer using a chinstrap because it may be less likely to cause claustrophobia since you can technically still open your lips. But because of this, in some cases, chinstraps may be slightly less effective compared to mouth taping.
Treat Nasal Blockages
Nasal blockages, such as deviated septum or nasal congestion, can cause you to begin breathing through your mouth. While the treatment for deviated septum is surgery, nasal congestion can usually be treated with over-the-counter nose sprays or medications.
Choose a Full Face Mask
If you are undergoing CPAP therapy and experience chronic nasal blockages or cannot seem to get your mouth leaks under control, we highly suggest trying a full face CPAP mask. While full face masks may be more uncomfortable for some people, newer styles, like the ResMed AirFit F30i, are compact and less invasive.
Adjust Your CPAP Humidity
If you are taping your mouth to prevent dry mouth from your CPAP machine, it may be helpful to increase your CPAP humidity. Keep in mind that if you are struggling with CPAP dry mouth, you are also likely experiencing CPAP mouth leaks, which will not be fixed by increasing your humidity levels. If you have maxed out your humidity settings and are still struggling, you can also purchase a heated tubing accessory, which increases CPAP humidity even more.
Discuss Reducing Your Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Setting
If you are undergoing high-pressure CPAP therapy and you have tried to eliminate CPAP mouth leaks or are continuing to experience CPAP dry mouth despite trying the above suggestions, it may be time to talk to your doctor about reducing your continuous positive airway pressure setting.
How to Tape Your Mouth For CPAP Therapy
Your doctor has given you the “go ahead” to try mouth taping with CPAP. So, how do you put on CPAP mouth tape? The key is practice! This will probably require some trial and error, from selecting the right type of tape to putting it on just right.
If you choose to go with a product designed for mouth taping, be sure to follow any manufacturer’s directions. However, if you use medical-grade tape, here is how to apply it!
- Make sure your tape is medical-grade and/or approved for mouth taping.
- Clean the skin around your mouth and lips to ensure there is no leftover residue or debris that could cause your mouth tape to lose its adhesiveness.
- If using medical tape, cut it to extend about a centimeter past each corner of your mouth.
- If you use wide medical tape, we suggest cutting a small slit into the middle of the tape, right where your lips meet. This will ensure you can slightly part your lips and continue breathing during a CPAP power outage.
- Take one small corner of the tape and fold it over so that you have a dogear that is easy to grab onto if you need to quickly remove it.
- Purse your lips together. Some people suggest tucking them slightly inward toward your teeth.
- Apply the tape so that it is centered over the mouth.
- Make note of where your folded corner is located in case of an emergency. Be sure to orient your mouth tape so it is easy to grab onto it when it’s time to remove it.
- Take a few minutes to practice nose breathing. Make sure that you do not feel any congestion or resistance as the air moves through your nose into the upper airway.
- Put on your nasal CPAP mask like you normally would.
- When you turn on your CPAP machine, ensure the tape does not interfere with your mask seal.
- If at any point you feel as though you are not breathing efficiently through your nose, take the tape off.
- To remove the tape, gently lift the tape starting from the folded corner. If your tape is very sticky or you have skin irritation, go slow and steady.
- If you’re struggling to get the tape off, take some rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and rub it along the entire outer surface of the tape. This will loosen some of the adhesive.
For more information on using mouth tape safely with CPAP, check out this video from sleep apnea technician LankyLefty.
How to Choose CPAP Tape for Your Mouth
When choosing the best mouth tape for CPAP, there are a lot of options, ranging from medical-grade paper tape to products designed specifically for lip taping. These products are easy to find and do not have to cost an arm and a leg.
When selecting your CPAP mouth tape, do not use anything not approved for the skin. Make sure that any adhesive that you use is easy to remove. Medical tape is generally safe to use if it is not too strong. If you have sensitive skin, go with something that features an allergy-friendly adhesive.
Best Mouth Taping Products for CPAP
- Hush Sleep Stips: The perfect blend of security and flexibility.
- Hostage Mouth Tape: Has a long-lasting seal but doesn’t hurt to remove.
- SomniFix Mouth Strips: Sensitive, skin-friendly and includes tiny breathing vents.
- VIO2 Mouth Tape: T-shaped for a unique design that may feel less claustrophobic.
Best Medical Tape for CPAP Mouth Taping
- 3M 1 Inch Micropore Medical Tape: Very easy to remove and is pretty thin.
- Cover-Roll: Fairly wide and will remain sealed throughout the night.
- Nexcare Sensitive Skin Tape: Sensitive, skin-friendly, and easy to remove.
Worst Tapes for CPAP Mouth Taping
Under no circumstances should you attempt to use any of the following for mouth-taping with CPAP:
- Duct Tape
- Athletic Tape
- Kinesiology Tape
- Scotch Tape
- Painters Tape
- Packing Tape
- Construction Tape
Can You Use Mouth Tape Instead of CPAP?
Recently, a few small studies have suggested that mouth taping for mild Obstructive Sleep Apnea may be beneficial. However, when comparing CPAP vs. mouth tape, there is no evidence to suggest that mouth taping comes close to competing regarding safety, track record, and effectiveness.
While CPAP has unpleasant side effects, those can usually be managed with the right information and trial and error. All in all, the benefits of choosing CPAP therapy outweigh the risks of treating your sleep apnea with mouth tape.
If you struggle with snoring or believe you have undiagnosed sleep apnea, we encourage you to speak with your doctor about your concerns rather than trying to treat it by yourself with mouth taping. If you’re interested in getting tested for sleep apnea, check out our Home Sleep Apnea Tests!
Frequently Asked Questions About Mouth Tape for CPAP
Should I Tape My Mouth With a Nasal CPAP Mask?
Many people, including doctors, state that CPAP mouth taping reduces CPAP air leaks and improves dry mouth. However, it is also associated with difficulty breathing and a risk for aspiration. You should always speak with your doctor before mouth taping with CPAP.
What Is the Best Mouth Tape for CPAP?
If you want a mouth tape product, we suggest trying Hush Sleep Strips, Hostage Mouth Tape, or SomniFix Mouth Strips. You can also try mouth taping with medical-grade tapes, such as Micropore tape or Cover-Roll.
CPAP mouth taping is a relatively newer trend. Unfortunately, that means there isn’t a whole lot of research to support its use at this point in time. That said, millions of people swear by it, and there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that it could be beneficial for preventing air leaks and improving sleep quality. It is important for individuals considering mouth taping to consult with their healthcare provider or sleep specialist before trying this technique, as it may not be suitable for everyone.