Drooling (Sialorrhea) is the involuntary spillage of saliva from the mouth. Drooling of saliva appears to be the consequence of a dysfunction in the coordination of the swallowing mechanism, resulting in excess pooling of saliva in the anterior portion of the oral cavity and the unintentional loss of saliva from the mouth. There are specific and symptomatic approaches to manage this condition. Treatment options range from conservative (i.e., observation, postural changes, biofeedback, motoric therapy of the mouth, acupuncture) to more aggressive measures such as medication, radiation, and surgical therapy.
Common Causes of Drooling
The most common cause of drooling while you sleep is so simple, you might never have thought of it, and it has to do with gravity. The position that you sleep in often leads to drool pooling inside your mouth. People who sleep on their side, or on their stomach, are more likely to drool when they sleep. Especially if you tend to breathe through your mouth, or if you have narrow sinus passages, the accumulated drool can begin to slip out from your lips when they open to breathe.
If you have nasal congestion due to a cold or an infection, you might find you’re drooling more than usual. If you have regularly inflamed or blocked sinus passages, or narrower sinuses than other people, you might find yourself drooling all the time. Blocked sinuses make you more likely to breathe through your mouth while you’re sleeping, and “mouth breathing” leads to more drool escaping your mouth.
Gastrointestinal reflex disorder (GERD) is a digestive condition in which the contents of your stomach flow back into your esophagus, damaging the lining of your esophagus. GERD can cause dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) or make you feel like you have a lump in your throat. This feeling leads to excessive drooling for some people. Here are some tips for improving your sleep if you have GERD.
Medication side effects
Some medications can make you more prone to drooling. Antipsychotic drugs (especially clozapine) and medications used to treat Alzheimer’s have been shown to cause excessive drooling. Some antibiotics can also result in sialorrhea.
Dysphagia is the term for any condition that creates a difficulty in swallowing. If you’re drooling excessively, your drool might be a warning symptom. MS, Parkinson’s, muscular dystrophy, and even some kinds of cancer can cause dysphagia and lead to difficulty swallowing your spit.
When you have sleep apnea, your sleep is interrupted because your body stops breathing occasionally during the night. Drool can be a risk factor for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can be very serious and should get a proper diagnosis. If you’re drooling a lot at night, ask yourself if you have any of the other signs of sleep apnea, such as loud snoring which will the last item on the list.
waking up feeling startled or out of breath during the night
attention problems or difficulty focusing during the day
drowsiness during waking hours
a sore throat or dry mouth upon waking
See a doctor if you have one or more of these symptoms in addition to drooling.
Common remedies to drooling
The first thing to try is to switch up your sleep position. By sleeping on your back, you’ll be able to better control the flow of your saliva so that it doesn’t end up on your face or soaking your pillow. If you’re having trouble sleeping on your back, if might be because it’s harder for you to breathe when you’re in a new position. Take note of whether you’re feeling “stuffy” or if you get acid reflux while you’re trying to sleep on your back. Simply paying attention to how you feel while you’re falling asleep might hold the key to figuring out if there’s a deeper problem.
It’s important to maintain a healthy balance of saliva in your mouth. Saliva plays a vital role in protecting your body from infection, according to the American Dental Association.
If you’re trying to drool less, you might want to bite on a lemon wedge. Some people believe that citrus can thin out your saliva, making it less likely to pool. You might also consider drinking more water, as staying hydrated will thin out the saliva you produce.
A mandibular device is an oral appliance. It’s something you put in your mouth — like a mouthguard — to make you sleep more comfortably and cut down on drool and snoring. These devices are available for purchase online or in some specialty surgical supply stores.
If the drooling is an indication of sleep apnea, you’ll need to seek treatment. The most recommended treatment for sleep apnea is something called a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. A CPAP machine will not only help you get a deeper sleep, it will make sure that you’re positioned safely and breathing properly at night. You may drool with your CPAP machine on; speak with a sleep apnea treatment specialist about how you can stop this from happening.
Some people choose to take an aggressive approach to hypersalivation. One treatment is to inject Botox into the saliva glands that surround your mouth. This keeps the glands from overproducing saliva. This treatment isn’t permanent, as eventually the Botox will wear off and your glands will become functional again.
There are cases in which a doctor recommends getting your saliva glands removed. People who need their saliva glands removed usually have underlying neurological issues that are far more serious than simply drooling in their sleep. These surgeries are generally successful at curbing hypersalivation, but people considering surgery for this symptom will be advised to try other treatments first.
Drooling (Sialorrhea) in your sleep is nothing to be embarrassed about, and there are simple steps you can take to try to improve this habit. If you’re concerned about how much you are drooling in your sleep, or have reason to believe that your saliva is a sign of another health diagnosis, bring the issue to your doctor’s attention. Waking up often during the night, never feeling rested, and having frequent headaches and other sleep problems could indicate that something serious is at play.