How to Deal with Excessive Drooling While Sleeping

If you’ve ever woken up with your face in a puddle of drool or your pillow soaked with saliva, you know what kind of embarrassing excessive saliva I’m talking about. The good news is, you’re not alone—millions of Americans complain about excessive drooling during sleep. The even better news? You may be able to control your drooling if you can determine a cause.

There’s even a medical name for excessive saliva while sleeping; it’s called sialorrhea. Technically, the amount of saliva produced in the resting state during sialorrhea is not actually excessive—it is the secretion of the saliva (the drooling) that causes it to appear like you are creating more saliva than normal. In actuality, you produce much more saliva in a waking state, but you also swallow more saliva. Ideally, in healthy adults, saliva production and swallowing are slowed down proportionately during sleep, and thus drooling is not a major problem. However, there are multiple things that can cause your saliva to get out of control.

Causes of Excessive Drooling While Sleeping

Breathing Through Your Mouth

Homer Simpson Drooling while SleepingThe main cause of drooling is a simple one: breathing through your mouth. If you’re naturally a “mouth-breather,” you can likely attribute your drooling to this characteristic. I know, I know, breathing is an involuntary function even when you’re awake, how are you supposed to control how you breathing when you’re sleeping? Well, most of the time, breathing through your mouth is the result of necessity, or rather, the inability to intake enough oxygen through your nose. This could be caused by any of the following issues:

  • Nasal Congestion
  • Sinus Infection and Inflammation
  • Allergies
  • Deviated Septum

Certain Medications

Unfortunately, many medications present unwanted side effects, including excessive drooling. If a medication is your problem, you may actually be producing more saliva than normal. Medications that are Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants are particularly prone to this side effect. Other (non-prescription) depressants, like alcohol, and also contribute to excessive drooling.

Your Sleeping Position

If you sleep on your side or your stomach, your jaw may likely hang open, encouraging saliva to leak out. When you sleep on your back, saliva collects in the back of your throat and causes an automatic swallowing action. If you sleep on your side, the saliva collects in the side of your mouth and the reflex does not kick in to get rid of the drool. Combine that with your jaw hanging open and you’re bound to have a puddle on your pillow.

How to Stop Excessive Drooling While Sleeping…TONIGHT!

Stop Breathing Through Your Mouth

First, you should locate the cause of your “mouth-breathing.” If you have a cold or nasal congestion for any reason, taking a nasal decongestion, like Sudafed, can help relieve the blockage. Many have also had success with bedtime nasal strips that open up the nasal passages to allow for better breathing. Of course, a nasal decongestant or nasal strips will only temporarily fix the problem. You’re going to have to get rid of that cold if you want to be able to breathe normally through your mouth again. This means lots of water, rest, and Vitamin C!

If you have allergies, you definitely need to take care of them if you want to stop drooling (and breathe better!). A trip to your allergist or nose and throat doctor can do wonders for you. Your doctor may give you a prescription medication or suggest an over-the-counter allergy medication. In the meantime, try using a common over-the-counter medication like Benadryl to help your breathing.

If you have chronic sinus infections, you should also see a doctor for a long-term fix. However, a medication like Sudafed can help you out until you get to the doctor’s office.

Sleep On Your Back

I know, easier said than done. However, it definitely can be done, and you will get used to it. Even starting out the night on your back can be very helpful to prevent drooling (even if you roll over eventually). If you wake up on your side, immediately change your position again. You can even buy a pillow specifically designed to support your neck and head for better (more comfortable) back-sleeping. Some pillows are contoured so that your head will stay put in the middle, meaning you’re not likely to turn your head to the side even if your body position shifts.

Talk to Your Doctor About Medications

If you think a medication may be the cause of your excessive drooling, talk to the doctor who prescribed the medication about switching to a different medication that may cause fewer unwanted side effects. If drooling is really a major problem for you, there are some medications that your doctor can prescribe to reduce the amount of saliva produced by your glands. However, these aren’t typically used for “normal” night-time drooling because they can cause dehydration and dry mouth.

Is Drooling Ever a Serious Medical Issue?

Drooling while sleeping is quite a common problem and rarely is a symptom of any serious underlying medical problem. Very rarely, excessive drooling can result in breathing saliva into the lungs, which can be dangerous, since saliva contains much of the bacteria found in the mouth. This can cause chronic episodes of pneumonia. If you think this is happening to you, you should definitely pay a visit to your doctor who will likely prescribe you a medication to lessen your saliva production.

Prevent Embarrassing Drool-Stained Pillows

Sometimes people who drool a lot in their sleep notice that the saliva forms stains on their pillowcases. This can be quite annoying, as no one wants to wash their pillow cases everyday. Of course, there’s a simple solution: just wrap your pillow in an absorbent towel or other cloth before you go to bed and take it off in the morning. This will prevent your pillows from getting ruined, and no one besides you (and perhaps your partner) even has to know about it.

Still Worried? Relax

When it comes down to it, it could be a lot worse. Drooling in your sleep is common and shouldn’t be a cause for great embarrassment. Of course, it can effect your sleep if you keep waking up because of it, so definitely try some of the “treatments” I’ve mentioned to keep your drooling under control. You’d be surprised how much difference just a small change in routine can make!

About Mariele Ventrice

I am a writer, reader, and expert napper. Sometimes, I sleep with the lights on.

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