What Causes Drooling During Sleep?

If you, your partner, or your kids drool while you're asleep, I can assure you that you are not alone, and that it is in fact quite common, though the precise figures are not known.

You will be pleased to hear that drooling while you are sleeping is not necessarily a sign of ill health, and can often occur in people who are otherwise healthy.

In this article, we're going to be exploring some of the main causes of drooling during sleep. And we'll also be answering some of your most frequently asked questions on the subject. Here goes!

Most Common Causes Of Drooling During Sleep

There are many different things that can cause drooling while you are asleep. Some of these are more likely than others to happen, but they do still have a chance of occurring.

Your Sleeping Position

The most common cause for the drool on your pillow when you wake up in the morning is pure gravity.

People typically sleep with their mouth open, so if you are lying any other way than on your back in the coffin position, then any saliva your mouth produces will inevitably drip downwards.

This means that if you sleep on your tummy or alternatively on your side, any excess saliva produced by your mouth will leak outwards.

Blocked Sinuses Or Nasal Congestion

If your body is currently fighting an infection, such as the common cold, or a flu, then your nasal passages may be inflamed and/or blocked.

In which case, you will need to have your mouth open in order to breathe as you sleep.

And this breathing through the mouth stimulates the production of saliva, and leads inevitably to more drool escaping your mouth and hitting the pillow.

Use Of A Pacifier

If your little one uses a pacifier to help them off to sleep, sucking on the pacifier stimulates their mouth and thus also the production of saliva.

The pacifier does not keep the saliva in the mouth, and the drool will escape.

Medication Side Effects

There are several medications that list drooling within their reported side effects, and these medications run across several different categories.

These include the likes of drugs to treat psychiatric disorders, drugs to treat Alzheimer's disease, and certain antibiotics.

We encourage you to check the accompanying leaflet that comes with any medication that you take, to see whether drooling is listed in its side effects.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

People who suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) will usually experience frequent episodes of snoring throughout the night.

This results in them having periods where they stop breathing for short periods of time.

These periods of apnea are generally very brief, but they can sometimes last for minutes at a time.

When someone has OSA, they tend to breathe through their mouths rather than their noses. As a result, they produce copious amounts of saliva.

Other Medical Conditions

Some medical conditions can lead to excessive saliva being produced. For example, Sjogren's Syndrome is an autoimmune condition that affects the salivary glands. People who have it produce large amounts of saliva, even whilst they are awake.

However, there are other medical conditions that can cause drooling during sleep. One of the best known of these is Parkinson's Disease.

The symptoms of Parkinson's Disease include tremors, stiffness, slow movements, and slurred speech.

All of these symptoms mean that people with Parkinson's Disease find it difficult to control their muscles.

As a result, they often end up with uncontrollable muscle spasms. These muscle spasms can make it hard for them to keep their mouth closed, and so they end up producing copious amounts of saliva when they go to bed.

Treatment Options

Treatment Options

Now that we've covered some common and some less common causes of drooling during sleep, let's turn our thoughts towards what can be done about it.

The first thing to do is to try to identify the underlying reason why the person is drooling. Once you know what the problem is, you'll be able to come up with a treatment plan to deal with it.

Sleep Position

Some of the causes are pretty simple and straightforward to solve. For example, you could learn to sleep in a different position, if that's what is causing you to drool.

Even if you have slept on your tummy all your life, you can easily learn to start sleeping on your back, as many pregnant women learn to do.

Nasal Congestion

And if the cause of the drooling is from having to breathe through your mouth due to nasal congestion, then you simply treat this congestion before you go to bed at night.

This can be achieved either by taking anti-congestion medication you buy from the local store, or by using an inhaler to clear your nose, or by using a special rub on your upper chest area to get those nasal passages working and clear, thus preventing you from only being able to breathe through the mouth.

Other Conditions Or Medication Side Effects

If, however, your drooling is caused by your medications or by a health condition that you have, then this is not quite as easy to treat.

You should not alter your health medication without first seeking the professional advice of an appropriate health profession, such as a General Practitioner or Primary Care Physician.

Final Thoughts

So, as you can see, there are many different potential causes of drooling while you sleep. And to be honest, those covered in this article are just the tip of the iceberg.

In many cases, drooling while you sleep is no real cause for concern, and can be easily treated without having to resort to changes in medication.

However, there are also some instances, where referring the sufferer to PCP is the right way to go, in case there is some underlying condition that you need to be aware of.

Our advice is that if there is any doubt of the cause of the drooling, you should err on the side of caution, and arrange an appointment with your physician.