Admit it: at some point, you woke up to discover wet pillows, and it’s not from sweating. You’ve been jolted awake at other times because you felt drool dripping down your cheeks.
Drooling is a common effect of sleeping. Contrary to popular culture, it’s not something to be embarrassed about. A myriad of harmless elements factor into why it happens. It’s not necessarily wrong, but excess saliva during sleep could be a sign of underlying medical conditions you should be aware of, such as sleep apnea, Bell’s palsy, or Parkinson’s disease.
But is excessive drooling, or sialorrhea in medical terms, inherently wrong? Or does it just get a bad rep? Sometimes, it can be good, and you don’t have to worry about dire health conditions. You’ll also read below when excessive drooling becomes a sign for you to check in with a health care professional.
Drooling May Be Good When:
Wet Pillows May Equal Good Sleep
Excessive production of saliva is not always related to a medical condition. Among the most common causes of drooling is the simple fact that you’re enjoying your sleep to the point that your mouth opens on its own.
REM Sleep and Its Side Effects
In addition, drooling may be an indication that you’re hitting the required quality of sleep.
Of all the sleep stages, REM sleep is most associated with higher sleep quality. This means that an individual who gets more rapid-eye-movement sleep is prone to being more relaxed and rested upon waking.
So, because of your high comfort level, you’ll likely open your mouth and drool, a positive side effect of excellent sleep.
The next time you wake up from a good dream and discover saliva marks on your pillows, you’ll know and feel that you’ve had a wonderful night’s rest.
Drooling Is a Cause for Concern When:
Sleeping Positions Affect Drooling
Much like everything else, drool is affected by gravity, and the way and manner that we sleep can cause or prevent excessive saliva build-up.
Whenever we sleep face down on our pillows, chances are our facial muscles will contort in our sleep and result in saliva leaving marks. This doesn’t mean that you’re suffering from hyper salivation or related medical conditions. Nonetheless, wet marks on your pillows can be discomforting.
To prevent drool from travelling from your salivary glands to your freshly washed pillows and sheets, opt for a sleeping position that includes lying on your back or the like.
However, many people find that sleeping on your stomach or while cuddling a pillow is better than lying on your back and that a trade-off between comfort and a saliva-painted pillow is worth it.
Excessive Saliva May Be Related to Sleep Apnea
Drooling while sleeping in itself is not a substantial problem, but it can be a precursor or symptom of a more serious medical condition. You’ll do well to get a checkup with your healthcare provider.
One of the sleep disorders related to a huge production of saliva is Obstructive Sleep Apnea which manifests through the sufferer having trouble swallowing, or dysphagia. You may even have trouble breathing during sleep.
Although opening your mouth to breathe may seem like a solution, mouth breathing actually increases snoring, drooling, and Obstructive Sleep Apnea itself.
If you feel that your snoring and nightly saliva problem masks a health problem, you should probably ask for medical advice from a specialist about sleep apnea. One of the treatment options to battle sleep apnea and related drooling during sleep is through the use of continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP therapy. It works by introducing pressure in airways such as the throat to allow for easier breathing.
Excess Saliva and Neurological Disorders
Drooling is also a common symptom of neurological conditions or nervous system diseases like epilepsy, cerebral palsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Parkinson’s.
While it may be treated with doses of botulinum toxin, excessive drooling remains a complication for these individuals.
More of a byproduct of a neurological problem than a symptom, drooling while sleeping remains a worrying condition, and if you have family history related to these disorders, it is better to address it as soon as you can.
Drooling and Sinus-Related Problems
One of the reasons for excessive drooling during sleep could be the onset of complications in your facial muscles, particularly in the sinus.
If you are suffering from a sore throat, blocked nose, or other cold symptoms, especially while sleeping, you may be drooling a lot due to breathing through your mouth instead of your nose.
Aside from blocked passageways, these illnesses also lead to difficulty swallowing. The back of the throat is affected by viruses in the sinus and other parts of our heads.
One of the ways to prevent this is through the use of a mandibular device that will act as a stopper to avoid soiled pillow sheets and beddings.
Triggered by GERD
One of the medical conditions associated with drooling is GERD, which is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Sufferers of this disease experience acidic buildup from their stomach all the way to their throat, causing heartburn.
One of the unfortunate side effects of GERD is that the body produces excess saliva, making it harder for the sufferer to eat normally, much less sleep soundly.
Handling Negative Causes of Drooling
While there is no definitive way to handle saliva buildup and the inevitable spillover to your pillows, there are ways to lessen its effects.
For one, lying on your back counters the gravitational pull that leads to drooling on your sheets. Otherwise, sleeping while cuddling your pillow may leave them soaked with saliva in the morning.
As mentioned, items such as a mandibular device or a mouth guard can minimise drooling while also helping out against other sleep-related problems.
Lastly, while some saliva may not be a cause for concern, recurring and substantial drooling should be brought up at your next doctor’s appointment as it may be a sign or symptom of a bigger problem.
The Verdict on Drooling
In the end, you’re the best judge if your drooling is harmless or not. When deciding, consider that the health, lifestyle, and medical history of the person experiencing it plays essential roles in deciding whether the degree of drooling is concerning.
Drooling may seem embarrassing, but it’s a rather prevalent bodily function.