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Neil Godbout: Want to sleep better? Tape your mouth shut

It’s been a year-and-a-half now and a game changer for me.
Illustration of a woman sleeping with tape on her mouth for nasal breathing. I prefer the tape sideways, rather than vertically, but it comes down to personal preference and comfort.

In his book Breath, James Nestor writes about how many people have forgotten how to breathe properly, to the detriment of their physical and mental health.

Long, deep breaths in and out through the nose, not short, quick gasps through the mouth is the ticket, he explains. Military sharpshooters, high-performance athletes and students of meditation are all taught various nasal breathing exercises.

For regular folks, using one of the many apps on the market for breathing exercises reduces stress, boosts energy, increases mindfulness and improves sleep.

When we sleep, however, our breathing gets sloppy, especially as we get older. The mouth flops open and first thing you know you’re waking up with a dry mouth, a sore throat, a headache and a partner complaining about your snoring.

In one line in Nestor’s book, he mentioned taping his mouth shut at nighttime.

So I thought I’d try it.

It’s been a year-and-a-half now and a game changer. Sinus issues in my younger days did not hold me back. Regular fierce sinus headaches were reduced to infrequent dull annoyances.

Got a cold? Take an oral decongestant, use a spray decongestant only at bedtime and no more than a few nights in a row, as per directions on the bottle, and tape up.

Quieter, deeper sleep is good for me at night and the happy wife, happy life benefit from no snoring is good for me, too.

The worst side effect? It’s a little harder to pull the tape off of a freshly-shaved face with short fingernails.

Just Google “sleep mouth tape” to find the various products on the market but there’s no need to get fancy, Nestor says and I agree. Just get some paper medical tape at the pharmacy, rip off a short moustache strip each night and tape those lips together.

My wife was dubious but said if anyone could do it, she said I could, pointing to my big nostrils that she lovingly refers to as “the two-door garage on your face.”

Now she’s a believer and borrowing my tape.

It’s not as restrictive as you might think. Forced nose breathing demands calmness, the exact state you want to be in after the lights go out and your head hits the pillow.

There have been the occasional mentions in my household about daytime mouth tape.

That’s my cue for a nice, long walk.