How to Control Drooling in Your Sleep

Learn out to control and eliminate nighttime drool.

By Sheryl Grassie

Apr 25th, 2022

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Everyone has saliva, and it is a healthy part of the human body. When saliva escapes from the mouth it is called drooling, and it seems to happen more frequently at night. Drooling in your sleep, when it happens occasionally, is considered perfectly normal. But, if you are waking up to a wet pillow on a regular basis, you might want to investigate further and consider our tips to eliminate nighttime drool. Let’s take a look at what causes drooling, if you need to be concerned, and what you can do about it.

What Causes Drooling?

Drooling from excessive salivation is referred to medically as hypersalivation or sialorrhea. It can be associated with various medical conditions or can be the sign of a developing condition. Children with neurological conditions can have issues with drooling, as well as people with Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), or Cerebral Palsy (CP). If you start to notice drooling in your sleep, it might need to be addressed.

Drooling occurs when saliva pools in the mouth and is not swallowed; it spills over and runs down the face. It can be caused by excess saliva that is too much to swallow being produced by the salivary glands, saliva that is too thick and pools in the mouth, or throat muscles that aren’t working properly. Sometimes it is caused by neurological conditions or other health issues. When saliva is not being swallowed, there is generally a reason: here are the most common ones.

  • Age: It is common for babies to drool as they have not yet learned to work their swallowing muscles. Similarly, older individuals who are losing muscle control can drool.
  • Acid Reflux or GERD (Advanced or Chronic Acid Reflux): When stomach acid travels up into the throat, it can cause restrictions that lead to trouble swallowing and drooling.
  • Difficulty Swallowing: Dysphagia is the medical term for difficulty swallowing. It can be part of numerous disorders like muscular dystrophy, happen from illness, or have unknown causes.
  • Medication Side Effects: Some prescription drugs, like antibiotics, antipsychotics, and Alzheimer’s medications can have drooling as a side effect.
  • Neurological Conditions: As mentioned earlier, some neurological conditions can cause drooling. These conditions may result from an accident, like a brain injury, or from strokes. Other neurological conditions can be genetic like Down’s Syndrome.
  • Poison: An unusual or unexpected episode of drooling can be the body’s reaction to poison. The body produces extra saliva to flush out toxins. Acute drooling can mean exposure to pesticides or mercury. As well, it can be a reaction to the venom from a bite.
  • Short-Term Illness: Colds, flu, and allergies where nasal passages are blocked can cause mouth breathing while sleeping. This, in turn, can cause drooling.
  • Sleep Apnea: Drooling can occur due to blocked airways and mouth breathing. Saliva can leak out of the open mouth of an individual with sleep apnea.
  • Sleep Position: If your sleep habits include sleeping on either your side or your stomach, this can set you up for nighttime drooling because both of these positions may make swallowing difficult.
  • Stress: Interestingly, stress causes a response in the body that can produce excess saliva. If you notice you are drooling in your sleep, it might be worth noting your current level of stress.

Correcting the Problem

If you want to address drooling in your sleep, consider some of the following fixes to see if they create improvement. Some of these solutions are simple do-it-yourself remedies, others will require medical support.

At Home Fixes

  • Sleeping on Your Back: An easy fix is to try a different sleep position. Sleeping elevated with a wedge pillow on your back can open the airways and throat and improve drooling.
  • Staying Hydrated: Drinking enough water helps keep saliva thin, so it is easy to swallow and doesn’t pool in your mouth.
  • Lemon or Lime: Tart citrus fruits also help thin saliva and prevent drool. Add some lemon or lime juice to a glass of water or suck directly on the fruit.
  • Lose Weight: Weight can be responsible for restrictions in the ear, nose, and throat area. It is a factor in sleep apnea and can cause mouth breathing. Losing weight can stop drool by opening airways.
  • Oral Appliance: These can be purchased inexpensively online or in stores to align the mouth and jaw to improve breathing. For some, this will stop drooling.
  • Acupuncture: Needles inserted into the salivary glands can reduce excess saliva and curtail drool.
  • Botox: As an agent that paralyzes muscles when injected into the salivary glands, botox can reduce drooling. It only last for a period of time and needs to be repeated.
  • CPAP: This machine, which is used for sleep apnea to keep airways open and ensure adequate oxygen supply, is obtained through a physician’s prescription after having a sleep study done. If sleep apnea is behind your drooling, this can help.
  • Medication: Your doctor can prescribe medication that can stop your drooling.
  • Surgery/Removal of the Salivary Glands: When all else fails and drooling is excessive and interfering with quality of life, surgery to remove the salivary glands can be performed.

While everyone drools at some point, excessive drool can be the sign of some health issues. Consider some of these ways to stop drool and, when all else fails, make sure you talk to your doctor.