After his raucous snoring caused him and his wife to split, Alex Neist was inspired to turn his health and sleep habits around. Not only did his discovery of the power of nose breathing help him sleep better, but it also fired up his entrepreneurial spirit. Here, the founder and CEO of Hostage Tape shares his story with Sleepopolis contributor Sharon Brandwein.
A few years ago, my snoring was off the charts. I snored so badly that it forced my wife into another bedroom. When I tell this story, I can’t help but think of The Gottman Institute’s magic ratio or the 5:1 ratio. Essentially, this theory states that you have to have five positive interactions to counteract one negative interaction. My snoring was the negative interaction, and at the time, I didn’t know what the positive interactions should be to counter the fact that I kept my wife up at night — night after night.
One fight led to two, then three. And eventually, everything began to snowball. In hindsight, I compare it to Indiana Jones running from the giant boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark — the boulder, in this case, was my snoring.
Not only did my snoring physically separate us, it also robbed us of the intimacy every married couple needs to thrive. Eventually, we divorced. And while that was pretty painful, that was the impetus and my inspiration for starting Hostage Tape.
While we were separated and living apart, I took a hard look at myself. I knew I needed to make some changes. But as a lifelong athlete, I wasn’t overweight, and, to be honest, I was generally in good health. I knew I didn’t have sleep apnea or any other type of sleep disorder, but I also knew my snoring wasn’t normal.
I tried all sorts of fixes — mouthguards, in particular, come to mind. Needless to say, these fixes didn’t work.
As I was digging into any and all possible solutions for snoring, I came across an article written by James Nestor. In this article, Nestor discussed an experiment he did with Stanford University, where he plugged his nose for 10 days, forcing him to strictly breath through his mouth. And the results were bad. Ultimately, Nestor went from snoring for just a few minutes per night to snoring for hours. He developed sleep apnea, and his stress levels skyrocketed — all of which were purely a function of mouth breathing. And when Nestor went back to nose breathing, all the problems went away. That’s when the lightbulb went off for me.
I hit the internet in search of tapes to keep my mouth shut. There were 10,000 different versions of micropore tape, so I tried it. I was a little concerned about surviving this experience, but I did it anyway. I taped my mouth shut while I slept. I woke up the next morning and couldn’t believe how amazing I felt — I felt like I’d become a teenager overnight.
I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and at that moment, I knew that I was going to do something with this. I knew there was a business here. Ultimately, I had to make “tape” fun and inspire people to use it. It took a few years to flesh out the final product.
Other things we had to get past and figure out were overcoming objections to taping your mouth at night. I mean, when you’re putting something on your mouth like this, you’re already anxiety-ridden. It’s like that “flight or fight” response, and most people’s reaction is to rip it away almost immediately. Obviously, if you’re gonna wear this every night and you’re going to tell everyone about it, it’s gotta feel comfy.
Secondly, it has to be strong. That was the tricky part. We wanted something that was strong enough to make it through the night but not something that felt like super glue.
And finally, we had to get the demographic right. Ultimately, I decided we were going after middle-aged men with facial hair. I say facial hair specifically because the mouth tapes I tried prior to my lightbulb moment didn’t work for me. If I decided not to shave, it just popped right off.
We went through tons of different fabric samples and adhesives, but eventually, we nailed it.
Today we’re on our second version of Hostage Tape, we added nose strips to our line of products, and we’re doing quite well. More importantly, though, people constantly leave reviews and comments about how life-changing Hostage Tape has been for them.
And a thriving business isn’t the only happy ending for Neist. Alex and his wife got back together and have since remarried — everyone is sleeping just fine.