Drooling or salivation is what happens when excess saliva comes out of your mouth. It’s pretty gross and can feel mildly uncomfortable. No matter who you are, you surely know the feeling.
Sleep is when you’re most likely to salivate or drool. That’s mainly due to the fact that your muscles are relaxed and your body is drifting to a state of rest. This also means that your swallowing reflexes are no longer being triggered and as a result, saliva will start dripping from the sides of your mouth. When it comes to the medical jargon, the terms that are used for drooling are hypersalivation and sialoherra.
Even though drooling is mostly benign, meaning you’ve nothing to worry about. It can be cause for concern if it occurs way too often. In some cases, it might be a symptom for health issues, mainly sleep disorder or some neurological condition. Having experienced a stroke, multiple sclerosis, or cerebral palsy, one might drool more often. In this article, we’ll be going through what causes drooling, and how to stop doing it.
Table of Contents
- 1 Main Causes of Sleep Drooling
- 1.1 Mouth Breathing
- 1.2 Certain Medication
- 1.3 Sleep Position
- 1.4 Certain Diseases, Illnesses, and Disorders
- 2 Is Sleep Drooling a Serious Issue?
- 3 Treating the Issue of Drooling
- 4 Extra Things to Keep in Mind
Main Causes of Sleep Drooling
Well, we mentioned that sleeping is when you’re most likely to drool. You might be inclined to ask as to why that’s the case. The thing is, even if you wake up and notice that you’ve drooled a lot over your pillow, that doesn’t mean that your body has been producing more saliva than it normally does.
The leading cause for drooling in one’s sleep is the fact that the swallowing reflexes tend to relax as one’s body begins to fall asleep. When this happens, your body kind of forgets to swallow the saliva it produces, and so whatever saliva your body produces just drools from your mouth. In fact, while awake, your body produces more saliva, but we don’t really notice as our swallow reflexes prevent us from drooling.
One of the factors that can increase how much you drool during sleep is whether or not you breathe using your mouth or nose. Naturally, the former results in more drooling as you’re basically providing a bigger hole from which the saliva can escape your body. Mouth breathing can be a necessity, especially when the oxygen intake from nose breathing is not enough, be it because of an allergy, a sinus infection, or any other reason.
While mouth breathing is one of the most causes of increased drooling, there are other factors such as some medication which can make you drool more while sleeping. It’s usually a side effect of the said medication. Some of the medicines that are known to increase drooling are Morphine, Pilocarpine, and other CNS (Central Nervous System) depressants. Other nonprescription depressants like alcohol can also cause more drooling.
If you’re taking medication and are experiencing an increased amount of drooling, you can consult your doctor to see whether or not the meds are the culprit.
One of the most common causes of drooling during one’s sleep is also one of the most apparent, and that is gravity itself. Basically, the position in which you sleep is often one of the main causes of drooling. If you tend to sleep on either side or your stomach, then gravity will contribute to drooling during sleep. This is further amplified if you breathe via your mouth when you sleep, be it out of necessity or habit.
Certain Diseases, Illnesses, and Disorders
There are numerous diseases, illnesses, and disorders that might cause drooling during sleep. Here’s a list of some of them.
Allergies and Poisoning
Allergies to food and other allergies can cause increased saliva drooling. Being poisoned can also lead to more saliva drooling. Be it from an insect or a snake, being poisoned by either is likely to result in a spike in saliva production which makes the affected person drool more. Having said that, if you find yourself in any of these situations, drooling would probably be the least of your worries.
Acidity or GERD
This is a condition that makes the gastric acid excite your esophagus which can trigger the esophago-salivary reflex which is the reflex responsible for the production for saliva. This condition can cause drooling during sleep.
Tonsillitis is what happens when tonsils, which are the glands at the back of your throat, become inflamed. What this results in is the drainage of accumulated saliva down your throat being restricted which, in turn, causes drooling during sleep.
As the name implies, a sinus infection can hamper your breathing and can force you to breathe via your mouth, and in that case, you’ll be drooling more while you’re sleeping because of the reasons stated above in the first cause.
Enlarged nostrils, crowded teeth, large tongue, and swollen adenoids can all cause more drooling. If you find it difficult to close your lips while sleeping due to any of the aforementioned problems, then you probably drool during sleep.
Gum infections, teeth infections, and teething among other dental problems can lead to an increase in saliva production which results in more drooling during sleep.
There are numerous neurological disorders that can lead to more drooling, such as Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, Facial Paralysis, Autism, Stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple sclerosis, and other diseases as well. What all of the former have in common is that the afflicted person usually has a hard time controlling their saliva production both while sleeping and being awake.
Nasal congestion is usually associated with a cold or an infection. When your sinuses are blocked you begin to notice that you drool more. This is further worsened when you sleep as you’ll be forced to breathe via your mouth. If you happen to have narrow sinuses, you’ll also have to breathe using your mouth which will make you drool during sleep.
The term associated with any condition that makes it hard to swallow is Dysphagia. If you notice excessive drooling, it might be cause for concern. Diseases and illnesses that can cause Dysphagia are MS, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease and certain types of cancer.
Sleep apnea is the condition that causes difficulties with breathing when asleep. It causes numerous sleep interruptions due to the fact that the body stops breathing during certain time intervals during sleep. Sleep apnea is a very serious condition and anyone who feels that they might have it should consult with a doctor and get a proper diagnosis in order to adequately deal with it. There are a couple of red flags that might be signs of sleep apnea:
- Waking up in the middle of the night feeling out of breath and startled.
- Drowsiness while awake.
- Sore mouth and throat upon waking up.
- Shorter attention span which can create difficulties in focusing during the day.
- Loud and excessive snoring.
If you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms, you’d be better off consulting with your doctor and getting a diagnosis.
Other causes that can be listed are side effects like reflux or nausea during pregnancy, diets high in acidic content or mononucleosis.
Is Sleep Drooling a Serious Issue?
With all that’s been said, a question might arise. Does drooling call for concern? Well, in most cases, it’s benign in most cases, meaning that you probably shouldn’t worry too much about it. However, it might also be a symptom of a much more serious underlying condition. There are also some rare cases in which one might breathe their saliva into their lungs which might cause serious lung problems like pneumonia, given that saliva contains a lot of the bacteria that exist in our mouth which is dangerous for the lungs if inhaled.
Treating the Issue of Drooling
If you’re experiencing severe drooling problems, it might call for a comprehensive medical examination. Also, drooling, in most cases, is just caused by bad habits, and like they say “bad habits die hard” so if you intend on getting rid of drooling, make sure you’re ready to change some bad habits you might have, be it your sleeping position or whether you breathe via your mouth or nose.
In most cases, your doctor might prescribe Atropine sulfate tablets which are mainly used to treat some causes of excessive drooling and saliva production. They might also propose some changes to your behavior which might be the root of the problem.
However, some cases relating to mouth and nose anatomy might require surgical intervention. However, these cases are rare, and surgical interventions pose little to no risk. Keep in mind that surgical intervention is not needed all the time. It’s a final resort in case the medication doesn’t yield any improvements. The surgical operation involves a Botox injection in salivary glands.
So, what are the best options to solve the drooling issue?
The first thing you should look at doing when you begin to experience drooling during sleep is which position you take when you sleep. It’s one of the leading causes of drooling. Try switching up your sleeping position. We recommend you sleep on your back as it’s the optimal position for controlling one’s saliva flow.
If you find it difficult to lie and sleep on your back, it’s most likely due to the fact that it’s harder to breathe when we change to a new position. The key thing to keep in mind is how you feel when you experience these difficulties. Whether it’s a stuffy nose, or acid reflux, paying attention to how you feel might be a good lead to follow to uncover any underlying issues you might have.
Maintaining an optimal amount of saliva is vital as saliva protects our bodies from infections.
If you want to thin out your saliva in order to drool less, biting on a lemon wedge. It’s believed that citrus is good for thinning out the saliva resulting in less drooling. Staying hydrated is also an excellent way to thin out saliva production.
A mandibular device is like a mouth guard. It’s an oral appliance that you put on your mouth to make you sleep more comfortably during the night. It should significantly limit both drooling and snoring. You buy mandibular devices either online or in some specialty surgical supply stores.
If you suspect that you’re drooling due to sleep apnea, you’ll need to seek treatment. One of the most recommended treatments for sleep apnea is a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP machine). A CPAP machine will ensure that you get deeper sleep and stay adequately positioned during the night. However, you might still drool even with the CPAP machine. In order to prevent this, consult with your doctor.
Some might want to take a risky and aggressive choice to combat hypersalivation. One way of doing it is via a Botox injection into the saliva glands surrounding the mouth. This limits said glands from producing an excess amount of saliva, thus limiting drooling. This treatment is by no means permanent, with time, the Botox will eventually wear off, and the once injected glands will resume function when that happens.
Surgery is rarely required. It involves the removal of the salivary glands. It’s usually needed when drooling is caused by underlying neurological issues that are grave. This treatment is sure to prevent hypersalivation. However, they should only be considered when all else has failed.
If you’re breathing via your mouth during sleep, it might be what’s causing the drooling. Try to find out what makes you breathe via your mouth and look into the possible causes.
If nasal congestion is behind this, then you’re better off taking nasal decongestion meds like Sudafed which can significantly relieve the blockage. This should make it easier for you to breathe via your nose instead of your mouth which will help a lot with the drooling issue.
Either way, it’s best to consult with your doctor and try to figure out what’s causing the problem of mouth breathing in order to take the necessary treatment options.
Consulting with Your Doctor about Medications
If you suspect that the medication you’re taking is behind the drooling issue, then you might want to consult with your doctor to see whether or not it’s caused by the medication they prescribed to you. Some substances are known to cause hypersalivation like depressants and alcohol.
Your doctor might then proceed to prescribe other medications which will limit how much saliva your body produces.
There is some evidence that points towards performing certain facial exercises and movements in order to help limit drooling. Honing one’s facial muscles will help curb the sagging that happens to the facial muscles when falling asleep which in turn can control the problem of drooling during the night.
One of the best things to practice when it comes to breathing is deep breathing. It’s incredibly effective at helping you control your breathing and can help you regulate your breathing pattern. This can significantly curb drooling during sleep as it helps with the issue of mouth breathing and can also ensure that you have less trouble breathing while asleep.
Extra Things to Keep in Mind
Getting Rid of Drool-Stained Pillows
If you’re one to drool a lot and don’t to wash your pillow every single time you find a drool stain, you can just use an absorbent towel to wrap your pad with. It will save you a lot of trouble until you figure out how to deal with the drooling issue. This will also protect your pillows from being ruined thus saving you time and money.
How to Tell If Your Sleep is Restful ?
Even though waking up in the middle of the night because of the drooling can be somewhat embarrassing, it’s also important to look at the bright side of things. For one, drooling is very common and is generally a sign that you’ve slept well and good. For instance, the phase in which your muscles start to relax along with your reflexes is called deep sleep. It’s right there in the name, the fact that you drooled means that you were in deep sleep which is when most of the restoration happens.
In this day and age, sleeping is an extremely valuable commodity. Unfortunately, few can truly say that they sleep well, which is a big shame. Plenty of studies have shown just how vital sleep is, be it for body restoration or information processing. One cannot overstate how important a good night’s sleep is these days!
If you’re one to drool during your sleep, you’ve nothing to be embarrassed of. Drooling is rarely an alarming sign and can be easily treated if you follow the information provided in this article. Hopefully, in your case, drooling is not a sign of any underlying issue. Either way, stay vigilant about your health and always watch out for any alarming sign.
Sleep well and stay healthy!