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What Causes Extremely Dry Mouth While Sleeping And How to Prevent it

man sleeping with dry mouth at night

Waking up with a xerostomia or dry mouth at night can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience, affecting the quality of one’s sleep and overall well-being. This condition occurs when there is a significant decrease in saliva production during sleep. Several factors can contribute to this problem, including lifestyle habits, medical conditions, medications, and pregnancy.

This article will explore what causes extremely dry mouth while sleeping and discuss preventive measures to alleviate the symptoms and improve sleep quality.

What Causes Dry Mouth at Night?


1. Sleep Apnea


Often associated with nighttime mouth breathing, obstructive sleep apnea is a condition where your airways are partially or completely blocked during sleep. It leads to a lack of oxygen, causing one to gasp for air and sleep with their mouth open. This excessive oral airflow can dry out the saliva, leaving a dry mouth during sleep.

2. Dehydration

Dehydration, characterized by insufficient water intake, can lead to dry mouth symptoms like a dry tongue or throat. When not consuming plenty of water, saliva production can drop, leading to insufficient moisture in the mouth. Counter this by staying hydrated and sipping on cool water or unsweetened drinks.

3. Medication Side Effects

Numerous prescription drugs, such as blood pressure medications, muscle relaxants, or pain medications, can cause dry mouth as a side effect. They can hinder the function of salivary glands, affecting the production of saliva, and lead to a dry mouth condition during the night.

4. Health Conditions

Several medical conditions can lead to dry mouth at night. Autoimmune diseases like Sjogren’s syndrome directly affect the salivary glands, causing them to produce less saliva. Also, other health conditions that lead to congestion or a stuffy nose may cause mouth-breathing, which, in turn, can cause dry mouth at night.

5. Radiation Therapy or Cancer Treatment

Radiation therapy, especially in neck cancer or similar areas, can damage the salivary glands, leading to decreased saliva production and, ultimately, a dry mouth. Cancer treatments often involve medications that contribute to mouth dryness, altering the function of the salivary ducts and resulting in reduced saliva flow.

6. Alcohol and Caffeine Consumption

Alcohol and caffeine have diuretic properties and may also interfere with salivary glands, which can cause your mouth to dry out during sleep. Drinking alcohol at night, using alcohol-containing mouthwashes, or excessive caffeine consumption through caffeinated drinks can affect saliva output, eventually causing dry mouth at night.

7. Poor Oral Health

Poor oral health conditions such as oral diseases, tooth decay, and gum disease not only give you bad breath but also cause the mouth to dry out. Sugary, spicy, and acidic foods can disrupt the health of your mouth and affect saliva production, causing a dry mouth.

8. Use of Recreational Drugs

Certain recreational drugs, notably marijuana and methamphetamine, significantly reduce the salivary gland function, leading to dry mouth, commonly referred to as “cottonmouth.” This lack of saliva production can have oral manifestations such as cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.

9. Diabetes

High blood sugar levels can lead to dehydration, resulting in dry mouth symptoms. Diabetic neuropathy, a kind of nerve damage that can occur with diabetes, can also directly affect the salivary glands, leading to a dry mouth.

10. Thyroid Disorders

Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can cause dry mouth. Hypothyroidism compromises your body’s ability to produce adequate amounts of saliva, while hyperthyroidism can cause you to become dehydrated due to excessive sweating. Both can result in a dry mouth.

How to Prevent Dry Mouth While Sleeping

Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day maintains your hydration levels and promotes saliva production. Keeping a glass of cold water on your bedside table can provide immediate relief for dry mouth symptoms should you wake up during the night.

Limit Alcohol and Caffeine Consumption

Alcohol and caffeine can dry out your mouth. This applies to recreational drugs, too, such as cannabis and methamphetamines. If you find yourself waking up with dry mouth more often, consider cutting back on these substances and opt for alcohol-free mouthwash before bed.

Chew Sugarless Gum 

Chewing on sugar-free gum or using sugar-free sweets helps stimulate saliva flow. The activity can send signals to your salivary glands to produce saliva. Avoid sugary foods or drinks as they can increase the risk of tooth decay.

Use a Humidifier at Night

Keeping nasal passages and the throat moist at night might reduce the frequency of mouth breathing, one of the common causes of dry mouth. Use a humidifier in your bedroom at night to add moisture to the room’s air.

Healthy Oral Hygiene Practices

Maintain an adequate oral health routine that includes brushing with fluoride toothpaste, regular flossing, and dental check-ups. Dental health is directly related to the health of your salivary glands. A mouth infection can lead to dry mouth symptoms.

Review Your Medications

Certain counter medications, blood pressure medications, and other prescription drugs could negatively affect saliva production. Review your medication side effects with your healthcare provider. If necessary, they might adjust the dosage or provide alternative medications.

Artificial Saliva and Other Moisturizing Products

Artificial saliva or saliva substitutes can provide temporary relief from dry mouth symptoms. There are also specific moisturizing spray products that can help keep the mouth wet throughout the night.

Avoid Mouth Breathing

Try to breathe through your nose as much as possible. Mouth breathing can dry out the mouth. If you have a blocked nose due to a medical condition such as a deviated nasal septum or enlarged nasal passages, it might be worth exploring treatment options with your healthcare provider to facilitate better nasal breathing.

Is Dry Mouth a Sign of Pregnancy?

Yes, dry mouth can be a sign of pregnancy, but it is not a standalone confirmation. Various other factors may cause dry mouth as well. Nevertheless, if dry mouth accompanies other early pregnancy signs such as missed periods, morning sickness, and increased fatigue, it could likely indicate pregnancy. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can lead to oral health issues, including dry mouth.

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is listed by the American Pregnancy Association as a common symptom during pregnancy, particularly during the first trimester. Although it’s a possible indication, taking a pregnancy test would be the most reliable course of action for confirmation if dry mouth is experienced alongside other potential signs of pregnancy.

Can Dry Mouth Be Caused by Anxiety?

Yes, dry mouth can be a symptom of anxiety. According to studies, dry mouth is a possible physical symptom associated with anxiety disorders. When experiencing anxiety, your body’s response can be to go into a ‘fight or flight’ mode, which often includes an increase in heart rate and heightened senses. This response can temporarily lead to dry mouth, as saliva production may decrease due to these physiological changes.

Additionally, certain medications used to treat anxiety disorders can produce dry mouth as a side effect. The American Academy of Oral Medicine includes dry mouth as a possible side effect of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), a common class of drugs used to manage anxiety. However, many conditions and lifestyle factors can cause dry mouth, so it’s best to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.

Take Control of Your Sleep Health With Healthy Sleep Midwest

Are you tired of tossing and turning all night, waking up at night with a dry mouth, and feeling exhausted during the day? It’s time to prioritize your sleep health with Healthy Sleep Midwest. Our team of experts specializes in diagnosing and treating sleep disorders, including conditions that can cause dry mouth while sleeping. Don’t let sleep issues affect your quality of life any longer.

Contact Healthy Sleep Midwest today and start enjoying restful nights and energized days.