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Why do I drool when I sleep and how to stop?

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Do you ever find yourself wondering, “why do I drool when I sleep?” 

Drooling in your sleep is not something to be alarmed about as it is a common occurrence among young children and adults. 

However, excessive amounts of drool may be a sign of a neurological health condition, sleep disorder, or other health conditions. Your body naturally produces approximately 0.5 and 1.5 liters of saliva per day, but throughout the day the saliva is typically swallowed.

Keep reading to learn more about this topic with your sleep specialist at Polysleep, your Canadian mattress brand!

Why do I drool when I sleep?

When you are asleep, all of your body muscles tend to become much more relaxed. Slobbing in a deep sleep, or REM sleep is more common as you swallow less often. 

In addition to health conditions such as a stroke, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis, the following are common reasons why people drool in their sleep.

Sleep positions

The most common cause of drooling in your sleep is the effects of gravity on your sleeping position. Side sleepers, stomach sleepers, and even mouth breathers are much more likely to drool in their sleep than those who sleep on their back.

Blocked sinuses

A narrowed sinus passage becomes blocked more easily. In addition to sinus passages that are more narrow than usual, an infection commonly causes blocked sinuses. When sinus passages are blocked, people are left to breathe through their mouth, resulting in a higher chance of drooling.

Woman sleeping sideways in bed

GERD

Gastrointestinal reflux disorder, or GERD, is a condition in which gastric contents flow back into the esophagus resulting in damage to the esophagus. The damage to the esophagus can lead to dysphagia, commonly known as difficulty swallowing, leaving one to suffer from more saliva being excreted from their mouth than swallowing it.

Best position for acid reflux

Top view of a woman sleeping with her head positioned sideways in her bed

Medication side effects

Many prescription medications such as antipsychotics, certain antibiotics, and medications to treat Alzheimer’s disease have been known to cause excessive amounts of drool.

Swallowing disorders

Dysphagia is a medical condition classified as difficulty swallowing. Conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Muscular Dystrophy, and certain cancers leave patients suffering from dysphagia. Because the majority of saliva produced throughout the day is swallowed, those suffering from dysphagia find themselves drooling in their sleep and drooling while awake more often.

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition in which your breathing periodically stops and starts throughout the night. Signs of sleep apnea include excessive slobber, loud snoring, feeling out of breath upon waking, and waking with a sore and/or dry throat.

If you have not been diagnosed with sleep apnea but experience the above-mentioned symptoms, you must schedule an appointment with your primary care physician as soon as possible.

Man sleeping in sideways position with open mouth signifying he suffers from sleep apnea

Best pillow for sleep apnea

How to stop drooling in your sleep?

Do you ever wonder why people drool in their sleep? More importantly than wondering why they do, many find themselves scouring the internet to find ways to stop excessive saliva at night. 

Below are common tips and tricks to reduce the amount of drool produced during the night.

Sleeping on your back gives you better control of the flow of saliva produced throughout the night. You are more likely to swallow the saliva that is produced when sleeping on your back versus sleeping on your side or stomach.

If you find yourself unable to catch your breath throughout the night or feel like your sinuses are becoming blocked, it's important to pay attention as this could be indicative of a bigger problem that needs to be talked about with your primary care physician.

Over-the-counter or prescription allergy medication may be used to treat allergies by opening the nasal passages, making it easier to breathe through your nose rather than your mouth.

Prescription medications such as Glycopyrrolate are used to decrease the production of saliva by blocking nerve impulses. The following side effects may occur:

  • Irritability
  • Trouble urinating
  • Flushed skin
  • Decreased sweating

Botox, or Botulinum toxins, is administered by a licensed professional with the use of ultrasound imaging. A physician will inject the botox into salivary glands to paralyze muscles in the area preventing salivary gland function.

This treatment is often provided for those suffering from a neurological disorder where more simple treatments are either unable to be performed or have been tried but proven unsuccessful.

Speech therapy is recommended for those suffering from excessive drooling in their sleep to improve jaw stability as well as tongue strength and mobility. It may take some time to see results, but learning the techniques from a speech language pathologist (SLP) will help.

An oral appliance is a medical device placed within the mouth to assist an individual with swallowing. It also helps with proper tongue position and lip closure. A licensed professional can help you choose the right oral appliance to meet your needs.

Surgery is used as a last-ditch effort to decrease the amount of drool produced by an individual. Common surgery can remove the sublingual or submandibular salivary gland. 

Surgery is typically performed on those suffering from an underlying neurological condition with severe drooling as a result where less invasive treatment options did not work.

Young boy awake and lying in bed, in process of stopping excessive salivation

How to stop drooling while awake?

Many things can be done to reduce the amount of saliva coming out of your mouth through drool versus the amount that is swallowed.

You may:

  • Suck on hard candy
  • Chew sugar-free gum
  • Treat allergies
  • Investigate the side effects of current medications

Sucking on hard candies and chewing sugar-free gum activates the swallow reflex, helping you to swallow your saliva more naturally.

Can drooling cause complications?

Drooling throughout the day, or even at night, as a neurotypical adult, can cause social embarrassment for many. In addition to embarrassment, the excessive amount of saliva around the corners of your mouth as well as on the skin surrounding your mouth leaves someone subject to irritation of the skin or a rash.

When drool becomes too much and you are unable to swallow appropriately, this can result in the saliva entering the airway leaving you to suffer from aspiration pneumonia. It is important to know that aspiration pneumonia can be deadly.

Takeaway

Polysleep has designed and manufactured two pillows to improve the sleeping habits of users: the Polysleep’s wedge pillow and the Polysleep’s customizable pillow. 

Consider attempting simple solutions, such as purchasing a certain pillow or changing sleeping positions, before seeking and implementing invasive solutions.


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