How To Put Your Snoring to Sleep
Michael Maddaus's lips taped shut

How To Put Your Snoring to Sleep

I snore. A lot. You may wonder how I know this since people are asleep when they snore. Three pieces of strong circumstantial evidence:

  1. My snoring wakes up my wife, which compels her to repeatedly "comment" (Michael!) on my snoring and to "encourage" (shoulder grab and a good shake) me to sleep on my side instead of on my back (unfortunately, I cannot accommodate her request since sleeping on my left or right side causes my hands to fall deeply asleep, which wakes me up after 10 min). So many issues!
  2. I must have a glass of water bedside because I wake up many times a night with my mouth agape and as dry as a dirt road in the Sahara. Just writing this brings back the wonderful sensation of relief when I take a big gulp.
  3. I occasionally startle myself awake with a loud snort, like that of a bull about to charge a Matador.

So, in a court of law, I think the jury would conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, that my wife is correct: guilty of snoring, night after night. The sentence: disrupted sleep every night for me, and my wife.

I figured my snoring situation was akin to a gravity problem—a reality I cannot change. Then, my daughter Anne sent me a YouTube video about mouth taping out of the blue that piqued my interest. I figured it was too far out for me, so I dismissed it as YouTube fodder. Plus, I could just imagine my wife's reaction: overjoyed or laughing at another new thing I am into.

After a few more nights of the bull snort-arousal sequence and crawling to my bedside water glass parched, I decided to look into it.

Here is what I learned.

First and most enlightening is that our nose is lined with erectile tissue. No shit, erectile tissue, the same tissue that covers the penis, clitoris, and nipples. Honeymoon rhinitis is a real thing.

Our noses get erections. Now, when at a dinner party or, better yet, at a medical meeting, instead of saying that your nose is stuffy or plugged up, you can casually say, "My nose has an erection." Before you say it, lock your eyes on theirs to see if they look immediately at your nose!

Not only that but nasal erections cycle continuously. I have always wondered why one nostril is open while the other is closed off or plugged up. Turns out that the nasal cycle is the reason. Every 1-4 hours, the two nose holes trade off getting erections while the other one rests.

In the book Breath, James Nestor writes that the nasal cycles also trigger activation of the autonomic nervous system. The right nostril is more deeply connected to the sympathetic nervous system so breathing through the right nostril increases bodily temperature, increases circulation, blood pressure, and heart rate. The left nostril is more deeply connected to the parasympathetic nervous system, so breathing through it does the opposite in addition to decreasing anxiety.

The thing about the nose is that, like so many things, you use it or lose it. I have a strong tendency to breathe through my mouth, something that my family has commented on repeatedly. It also irritates me. Ann Kearney, a doctor of speech-language pathology at the Stanford Voice and Swallowing Center, used to be a mouth breather, too, and she suffered from chronic nasal congestion at night (like me as I keep a bottle of Afrin in the drawer next to me). She was offered surgery but tried mouth-taping first. By slowly adapting to having her mouth taped at night, she was able to get her nostrils to open up again.

The same is true for laryngectomy patients. After two months of breathing through their stoma, their nasal passages become completely obstructed. So chronic mouth breathers suffer the loss of nasal breathing and lose all of the physiologic benefits, in addition to snoring like a bull and eventually developing sleep apnea.

Bottom line: breath through your nose as much as possible, day and night.

The data on snoring reduction in people with mild sleep apnea looks good. In 20 patients with mild sleep apnea, mouth taping decreased the median apnea/hypopnea index from 8.3 to 4.7 events per hour (47% reduction, p=0.0002), and it reduced the median snoring index from 303.8 events to 121.1 events (47% p=0.0002).

Okay, so armed with some data, I decided to give it a try. Most recommend applying a small strip of tape, like 3M, vertically from the top lip to the bottom lip.

My mouth fought back on partial obstruction, so I decided to go full Monty and tape the gapping hole from left to right, sealing it off completely.

I admit that I surreptitiously applied the tape after I was sure my wife was asleep so as not to be busted. It went great. I literally slept like a baby, waking up once to take a pee and a sip of water. I have been taping for 3 weeks now, and the positives continue. I sleep like a baby, wake up once or at most twice, and no snoring. My wife busted me putting it on one night, and after the "what are you doing" verbal salvo, I explained about the snoring, and she immediately said that she had noticed that I had not been snoring.

Now she loves my mouth-taping.


Subscribe To The Resilient Surgeon Newsletter

Get a dose of The Resilient Surgeon straight to your inbox.

Great! Please check your inbox and click the confirmation link.
Sorry, something went wrong. Please try again.

Written by