Drooling: Why Do People Drool While Sleeping?

Drooling is annoying, and everybody hates it, but it is not just a minor thing as most people think. It is also not intentional and so before you judge someone that drools it is important to understand what drooling in sleep is all about.

The scientific terms for this condition are sialorrhea or ptyalism, and one can define it as the act of saliva flowing from the mouth unintentionally when you are sleeping. It is normal during the first two years of a person's life, but it is a sign that something is not right when it happens for an adult. So why do people drool in their sleep?

Causes of Drooling

It is normal for infants to drool in the first couple of years of life because they do not have full control of the muscles around the mouth and their swallowing ability. It is also common for children to drool during the teething stage. If the drooling happens in different times from these, then there is a problem and causes may include the following.​

1. Sleeping On The Side

sleep on the side

People that sleep on their side are more likely to drool than those that sleep on the back. Sleeping on the side may cause the mouth to open and any saliva accumulation to drool pool on your pillow. If you sleep on your back with a thin pillow, any saliva accumulation will drain through your throat after a while and hence you are less likely to drool. Read more to know what is the best memory foam pillow for your sleeping position.

2. GERD/ Acidity​

GERD or acidity is a common cause of excessive saliva production, and so it is also one of the main causes of drooling. When having acidity, your gastric acid will stimulate the esophagus, and this will, in turn, excite your esophagosalivary reflex leading to an excess production of saliva.

3. Sinus Infections

Sinus Infections

The sinus infection can also be the reason behind your drooling problems because of the breathing and swallowing difficulties that come with it. The condition will also become worse if you have the flu as this blocks the nasal passage and hence forcing you to breathe through the mouth and saliva flowing out in the process.​

4. Allergies And Poisoning

Excess production of saliva is one of the ways that the body responds to different types of allergies and poisoning from venom and pesticides. Allergic reactions and poisoning will always lead to excessive drooling and so it is important to consult a doctor for treatment as soon as possible.

5. Neurological Disorders

Neurological disorders make it difficult to manage saliva and control the facial muscles and so most people with these conditions will drool when sleeping. Disorders such as autism, Alzheimer, stroke and cerebral palsy are some of those that bring about drooling.

​Risk Factors

Why Do People Drool in their sleep

Most people will often think of drooling in sleep as just something annoying that will wet your pillow and distract your sleep. However, several other risk factors come with drooling, and some of them are quite severe, and this is what makes it necessary to deal with the problem once you notice that you have it.

The excessive accumulation of saliva in the mouth can lead to its inhalation. If you inhale saliva into your lungs, you are likely to get pneumonia. Pneumonia is a treatable ailment, but it is a serious condition that can lead to death if you do not get the right treatment.

Maceration of the skin around the mouth is another risk factor that you will face with drooling, and this might not look like something serious, but it also comes with several other issues and risks. Secondary bacterial infections are also common for people that drool and they might have to keep taking antibiotic every now on then.

drooling in sleep

Drooling comes with a bad odor due to the accumulation of saliva and no matter how hard you try to maintain good oral hygiene the smell never seems to go away. It will affect you psychologically due to the notion that others might think that the odor comes from the failure to maintain proper oral hygiene.

Dehydration is also another significant risk, and this is because the loss of saliva also means that you are losing vital fluids. There is also the risk of choking on your saliva as you sleep and this can be severe when sleeping as you might not be able to react promptly.​

How To Stop Drooling While Sleeping

Drooling in infants should go away after their second birthday as they gain more control over their facial muscles and swallowing. However, for most adults, this is not the case, and although changing their sleeping position can solve the problem sometimes additional treatment is necessary. And if this is the case the following are the most efficient remedies.

1. Therapy

If the drooling is severe, you can consult a therapist to teach you posture control and positioning to improve swallowing and lip closure. The therapist will help improve your saliva control and muscle tone. Apart from the therapy, your therapist will also give some recommendations to visit a dietician so as to regulate the level of acidity on your foods.

2. Medications

Some medications can also lead to excess saliva production, and so you can consult your doctor to see whether they can change them. There are also those that physicians can prescribe to reduce the production of saliva and they include Scopolamine that comes in a patch that you can place on the skin.

3. Botox Injections

Inability to control facial muscles is one of the primary causes of drooling, and so a Botox injections can also be a used as treatment. A Botox injection will help tighten the facial muscles, but it should be the last resort because it has some side effects that might be worse than drooling for some people.

4. Surgeries

If the drooling becomes too severe and all other treatments do not work, you can turn to surgery. The most common one entails rerouting the salivary ducts to the back of the mouth so as to prevent the saliva from leaking outside the mouth. Other surgeries will involve removing the salivary glands completely.

5. Dental Appliance/Device

Several dental appliances can help with lip closure and swallowing which in turn helps prevent and treat drooling. Something like a chin cup can be very effective, but it is important to note that most dental devices will only work if you have some level of swallowing control.

Drooling can affect you both physically and psychologically, and it is important to keep in mind that many medical conditions can cause it. You should consult your doctor if it gets out of hand because therapy and medications are effective remedies in most cases.​

  • Jane
  • Updated April 28, 2017

I am Jane Collins, a Founder and a Main Editor of g9sleeptight.com. I decided to create this site to share my knowledge, guides and tips to help you to have a good night's sleep.

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