Dry Mouth While Sleeping? Here’s What To Do About It

Young man sleeping in bed at night, top view

Key Points

  • Dry mouth while sleeping is a common problem, but it has potentially serious consequences.

  • Consequences of dry mouth include tooth decay, oral infections, bad breath, sore throat, chapped lips, and trouble chewing and swallowing.

  • Causes of dry mouth include sleep apnea, alcohol and tobacco consumption, diabetes, high blood pressure, various medications, and aging.

  • There are several at-home treatments for dry mouth while sleeping.

Having a dry mouth while sleeping or when you wake up in the morning might not seem like a big deal. After all, you can easily solve the problem with a drink of water. However, a dry mouth is worth paying attention to because saliva is important to your mouth's health. Dry mouth can also signal an underlying health problem that you need to address.

Read on to learn about the issues associated with dry mouth, the possible causes, and what to do about them. Best of all, you learn how to prevent dry mouth while sleeping in the first place.

Symptoms and Consequences of Dry Mouth

"Dry mouth interferes with your quality of life, and especially, getting a good night’s sleep," explains Brent Cornelius, DDS. "It is quite a common condition and typically exhibits its worst symptoms during the night when you are trying to sleep."

Saliva isn't exactly a topic of polite conversation, but it's actually crucial to your oral health. Salvia constantly washes food debris, acid, and bacteria away from your teeth, gums, tongue, and inner cheeks. All those tissues inside your mouth are mucous membranes that lack the protective keratin layer of your outer skin, so they must always stay moist.

In some cases of dry mouth, saliva isn't absent but is thicker, even stringy. Either way, inadequate salivation leads to many problems.

Man holds onto throat after waking up

Tooth Decay

While regular brushing and flossing help keep teeth clean, constant saliva washing is just as important. Saliva also supplies your teeth with needed minerals. Too little saliva increases the chance of cavities.

Mouth Sores

Saliva helps keep bacteria out of the soft tissues in your mouth. Without that, the chance of infections like canker sores goes up.


Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums and usually results from plaque buildup, which hardens at the gum line. Saliva helps prevent this by preventing plaque formation.

Bad Breath

Bad breath stems from bacteria breeding in the mouth's soft tissues, so you can prevent it by keeping your teeth and gums clean. Saliva prevents bad breath by keeping mouth bacteria at bay.

Woman wakes up after a night of sleep

Chapped Lips

Your saliva helps keep your lips lubricated, so with too little saliva, your lips become dry and cracked. Severely chapped lips can start to bleed.

Sore Throat and Hoarseness

A sore throat often signals a viral infection, but if you get one often without other symptoms, it could be due to dryness. If your voice often breaks when you're talking or singing, that's another possible sign.

Trouble Chewing and Swallowing

You might have heard of, or even attempted, a task that sounds easy but is surprisingly hard: eat six saltines in 60 seconds. The reason it's so difficult is that the dry crackers suck up all your saliva, making it nearly impossible to swallow them. That shows just how important saliva is to eating, even if it seems like your jaws do all the work.

If you have trouble chewing and swallowing when you're not eating crackers, you may have an underlying dry mouth issue.

Trouble Keeping In Dentures

Saliva helps dentures stick to the gums, so they often feel loose when the mouth is too dry. This also aggravates the natural tendency of gums to shrink with age.

Woman bites her lip

What Does Waking Up With a Dry Mouth Indicate?

There are many possible causes of dry mouth while sleeping, so identifying the right one is key to preventing it from happening again. Note also that there might be more than one cause at a time.


Dehydration is the most straightforward cause: You just aren't getting enough water! You can forget to drink if you're very busy and not paying attention to your body. Avoid drinking water right before bed so you don't have to go to the bathroom during the night, which can disrupt your sleep.

Nasal Congestion

Nasal congestion makes you breathe through your mouth, which in turn dries it out. This is typically due to a transient cold or other infection, but chronic allergies that block up your nose are a long-term problem.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition that interrupts breathing during sleep, making you gasp for air. Sleep apnea's causes vary, but you likely have it if you also experience symptoms like grogginess and headaches in the morning.


The act of inhaling smoke through your mouth dries it out for obvious reasons, but tobacco also contains toxins that impair your salivation. Smokers often experience dry mouth even when they aren't actively smoking, and chewing tobacco has the same effect.


The high blood sugar that signifies diabetes also reduces saliva production. Dry mouth is often one of the earliest symptoms that diabetics notice. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetics experience the problem.

High Blood Pressure

Research has found a connection between hypertension and a reduction in saliva. The quality of the saliva also changes, curiously enough; saliva in people with high blood pressure becomes more acidic, which also sometimes happens to diabetics.

Woman places piece of gum in mouth


Many over-the-counter and prescription medications have dry mouth as a possible side effect. Ironically, that includes some of the medicines treating the above-mentioned conditions. Drugs whose known side effects include dry mouth are:

  • Antihistamines

  • Decongestants

  • Antidepressants

  • Antipsychotics

  • Diuretics ("water pills")

  • Bladder medicines

  • Most kinds of stimulants

  • Some muscle relaxants

  • Some sedatives

  • Some glaucoma treatments

  • Some Parkinson's/dementia treatments

  • Some asthma medicines

In addition, radiation therapy and chemotherapy for cancer frequently induce dry mouth.


Dry mouth is a classic hangover symptom because alcohol is a diuretic, and loss of water causes dehydration. If the drink is strong enough, you lose more liquid than you take in. Even if you don't drink enough to get drunk, you can still experience some nighttime dry mouth if you consume alcohol before bed.


Dry mouth is more common among older adults, though it's unclear whether this comes directly from age or because they're more likely to experience the already listed conditions. Your body does generally dry out as you get older, though.


Women are more likely than men to experience dry mouth. The reasons are unknown, though it appears to be a factor independent of age and medications.

At-home bedroom humidifier rests on rug

How Can You Stop Dry Mouth While Sleeping?

Obviously, some of those causes are more treatable than others. You can't avoid aging, but if you suspect an underlying condition like diabetes or sleep apnea, ask your doctor about it as soon as possible.

Some general methods help you increase saliva and manage the symptoms of dry mouth.

Drink Enough of the Right Kinds of Drinks

As noted, forgetting to stay hydrated is easy if you're busy, so try scheduling hydration into your daily routine. If you work in an office, program a reminder in your phone to visit the water cooler every hour or two. If your job involves moving about, figure out how to keep a water bottle or flask in your gear and where you can refill it.

To prevent dry mouth while sleeping, make sure you drink enough fluid in the evening. If you enjoy drinking alcoholic beverages, have at least one glass of water for every alcoholic drink. Keeping a glass or bottle of water on your nightstand also comes in handy if you wake up thirsty.

You can drink fluids other than water for variety's sake, but be mindful of what's in your drink. As noted, alcohol is a diuretic, so alcoholic drinks can actually dry you out. Caffeine is also diuretic. Although caffeinated drinks still hydrate you, they're less effective than caffeine-free beverages.

Use a Humidifier

Dry air doesn't cause dry mouth per se, but it can certainly aggravate it. Dry air also frequently worsens allergies that lead to mouth-breathing at night. If you live in a climate with dry air, try adding a humidifier to your bedroom and see if it helps.

If your dry mouth is due to sleep apnea, be aware that the CPAP machines commonly used to treat the condition sometimes cause dry mouth themselves. There are humidifiers available that work within CPAP machines, so ask your doctor about them if dry mouth continues to bother you when you use one.

Adjust Your Medications

If you experience dry mouth as a side effect of a drug you're on, ask your doctor if there are any substitutions you can make. You might be taking too high a dose of the medicine, so inquire if it's possible to reduce it.

The over-the-counter medicines most often to blame for dry mouth are oral antihistamines for allergies — which is a double whammy because the nasal congestion from allergies also causes dry mouth! Still, you might be able to address your allergies with different drugs. Because oral medicines work systemically, they dry out all your mucous membranes and nose. A nasal spray unclogs your nose more directly; fluticasone spray may be an especially useful substitute because it's a steroid rather than an antihistamine.

Use a Saliva Substitute

You can get saliva substitutes over the counter, so ask your doctor or dentist what they recommend. Products containing xylitol, an alternative sweetener, are beneficial because they also fight tooth decay.

Woman drinks a glass of water while making salad

Chew Gum

Gum-chewing stimulates your mouth's saliva production. To help out your teeth, choose sugar-free gum, especially one that contains xylitol as a sweetener. Chewing gum shortly before bed helps moisturize your mouth for the night.

Switch to Alcohol-Free Mouthwash

Alcohol in mouthwash kills germs but also parches the tissues inside your mouth. Try alcohol-free varieties of mouthwash — some of them double as saliva substitutes.

Quit Smoking or Chewing Tobacco

Yes, it's easier said than done, but there's really no better way to alleviate the mouth-drying effects of tobacco than to stop using it. Bonus, you get a lot of other health benefits from doing so.

Pick Up a Lip Balm

If you've never used lip balm or makeup before, coating your lips can feel a bit odd at first, but it's the best way to prevent chapping. Choosing a natural flavor you like makes it easier to get used to!

Use a Saliva-Stimulating Drug

This is a last resort, but a couple of prescription drugs are available that stimulate saliva production. They target dry mouth associated with particular medical conditions, so you're not supposed to take them for run-of-the-mill dry mouth. If you experience severe dry mouth as a side effect and the usual home remedies don't work, ask your doctor about them.

Stop Waking Up With Dry Mouth

As you've learned by now, dry mouth while sleeping is a problem to take seriously. Saliva is actually a lot more valuable than the saying about "a bucket of warm spit" would lead you to believe. By addressing your dry mouth now, you can prevent many problems. A dry mouth in the morning may signal a more serious health problem that needs attention, so be sure to discuss symptoms with your doctor.

There's no miracle cure for dry mouth, but many ways exist to help prevent it. If none of the home remedies work, ask your doctor about it because there could be an underlying health problem that's impairing saliva production. You might find that more than just your mouth is feeling better with proper treatment.

Learn how to conquer all sorts of sleep-related health problems at Snooze.

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