T1D Life-Saver: 3 Easy Ways to Stop Mouth Breathing at Night

Our cat after restful sleep with his mouth sealed shut with “sleep tape” from Sweden.

A reader from Wisconsin asked: “How do you continue nasal breathing during sleep?  During the day I have been conscious to nasal breathe but I wake up in the morning breathing through my mouth.”

As I’ve been writing about over the last few months, nasal breathing 24/7 may be an essential component to healing diseases such as type-1 diabetes and kidney failure. The multitude benefits of inhaling and exhaling solely through the nose include everything from lower blood sugars to better brain function. My wife, Nicole – who has had type-1 diabetes for 39 years – was in a wheelchair last October. Switching to nasal breathing 24/7 is a big reason why she can now complete 3km walks outdoors.

Simple perseverance can keep the mouth shut during the day. But at night, subconscious breathing patterns take over. The mouth can easily hang wide open for hours. This leads to low CO2 and nitric oxide in the blood. Without these life-saving gases, blood vessels constrict and hemoglobin releases less oxygen. No wonder so many people die in their sleep…

I know of three ways to stop mouth breathing while we sleep:

1. 3M Surgical Tape:  When I first mentioned the of idea taping the mouth shut to a friend, she responded by saying: “That’s psychotic!” Fast forward a few months later and she won’t sleep without it. There’s a few ways to apply the tape: vertical, diagonal, horizontal. Whatever works. Some people need a complete seal, others do better with room for moisture to escape. 3M surgical tape is available at most pharmacies or from amazon.com, amazon.ca and amazon.co.uk.

2. Sleep Tape from Sweden: Rather than tape, this actually looks and feels more like a band-aid. Nicole and Jonah get a slight skin rash from the 3M surgical tape. Sleep Tape, distributed by the Conscious Breathing company in Sweden, is made from hypoallergenic rayon and acrylate. Ironically, it’s actually more sticky and creates a better seal than the surgical tape. It comes pre-cut to fit adult lips. We cut it in half for our son. If you’re white, it blends right into your skin (unlike the surgical tape that makes you look more like a hostage victim). They offer free shipping to the entire world, so the price is comparable to surgical tape from your local chemist. We order a package every few months directly from the Conscious Breathing company’s website in Sweden.

3. Tie the Jaw Shut: I’ve only tried this once. It may work better for some people and worse for other. Simply take a scarf or other long pieces of cloth and tie it around the jaw and head. This way the jaw can’t drop at night. Of course, this may affect circulation a little and cause over-heating of the head. But it’s still better than mouth breathing all night. It’s also cheaper than tape and doesn’t bother the skin.

Forcing the mouth shut should be looked at as a temporary solution. Already, Nicole can have naps without any tape, and her mouth stays closed. I’ve heard from one Buteyko Breathing practitioner that once one’s body oxygenation test remains at 20 seconds or higher (day or night) then sleep tape is no longer necessary.

But for the moment, for us, sleep tape has too many benefits to pass up on. As Lindsay Gopin, a mother of three with type-1 diabetes from Chicago, said: “I am OBSESSED with my mouth tape! This was has been life changing.  I sleep much better at night and when I wake up in the morning I am not stuffy at all and actually feel like I can breath thru my nose (which has not happened in years when I wake up).”

Editor’s Note: Please don’t confuse sleep tape with Jeff Bridges’ Sleeping Tapes. These audios are so bizarre and creepy they’re hilarious. Avoid listening to them right before bed (when most people need it). I recommend you stick with “real” sleep tape from the Conscious Breathing company’s website. If you try it out, please drop me an email and let me know the results you get. For more information on the importance of nasal breathing check out Close Your Mouth and Lower Your Blood Sugar and How Mouth Breathing Can Cause Insomnia for People with Type-1 Diabetes.

About the Author: John C. A. Manley researches and writes about alternative treatments for type-1 diabetes and its many complications. His wife, Nicole, of 13.5 years has had type-1 diabetes for nearly four decades. Together they have lowered her HgbA1c below 5.5%, regained thyroid function, increased kidney function and reversed gastroparesis.

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