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Can mouth taping really improve your quality of sleep and athletic performance?

SINGAPORE – Mixed martial arts fighters are known for their loud, colourful trash talk leading up to their bouts. So it may come as a surprise that top Singapore exponent Amir Khan prefers to seal his mouth shut before his fights.

Specifically, he practises mouth taping – placing a piece of porous tape over one’s lips to keep them shut during sleep – which encourages breathing through the nose.

The unique habit came to the fore in August after football superstar Erling Haaland said he swears by it as part of his strict sleeping regimen.

The free-scoring Manchester City striker revealed in an interview with YouTuber Logan Paul that he tapes his mouth every night as he believes it aids his performance on the pitch.

Looking for a similar edge in his sport, Amir, 29, said he began the practice after reading about nasal breathing from a book by breathing expert Patrick McKeown in 2021.

“After two to three weeks, I started seeing benefits,” said Amir, who competes in One Championship.

“The quality of sleep is much superior compared to if I breathe through my mouth, and I also fall into a deeper state of sleep.”

Amir will face Filipino fighter Eduard Folayang at the One Fight Night 14 event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Sept 30. He added that he was always open to trying methods that may benefit his health, “because everything outside the gym affects my performance in the gym”.

But not every athlete who has tried mouth taping is convinced.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu exponent Constance Lien, 24, said: “I tried it for one night and never did it again because it was so uncomfortable.

“It is not a one-size-fits-all method and may not work for someone else.”

The purported benefits of mouth taping are yet to be backed by sufficient evidence and research, said experts.

Lucas Tay, a physiotherapist at Prohealth Physio Focus, noted that breathing through the nose increases the amount of nitric oxide in the body, which improves cardiac health and enhances the respiratory system.

But Dr Vyas Prasad, ear, nose and throat specialist at Nuffield Medical Orchard, called the practice “controversial” and said it may restrict deep breathing and irritate the skin.

Mouth taping is also not a cure for sleep apnoea, a sleep disorder where one stops breathing repeatedly in their sleep because of a complete or partial block in their airway, he added.

“Despite rare studies and TikTok videos which suggest its merits in patients with snoring and mild sleep apnoea, it is not usually advocated by medical professionals,” said Dr Prasad.

Dr Kenny Pang, ear, nose and throat specialist at Asia Sleep Centre, described nasal breathing as “the best form of breathing”, and highlighted that inhaling and exhaling through the mouth may lead to the tongue blocking one’s airway.

But he added that mouth taping does not work for everyone and should be practised only if one does not have a blocked nose or sinus allergies.

For regular Joes without such allergies or symptoms who are intrigued by the routine, there appears little harm in giving mouth taping a go, said the experts. Just do not expect to wake up with Haaland’s scoring prowess, or Amir’s ability to throw a right hook.

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