Why Do People Drool When They Sleep?

March 22, 2021 · Mattress Warehouse

How many have you woken up from a peaceful dream only to find the side of your face – as well as your pillow – is covered in drool? Was it because you were dreaming of a delicious meal and decadent dessert? Is there an underlying issue causing you to drool? Why do people drool when they sleep?

There are many reasons why you might drool in your sleep. While some of those reasons are mostly harmless, others can carry serious health implications.

Top 4 Reasons People Drool When They Sleep

As previously mentioned, there are a lot of different reasons why people drool in their sleep, but there are four key reasons to keep in mind.

1. Congestion

This one is probably the most likely culprit of drooling in your sleep. If you can’t breathe through your nose due to congestion (remember, allergy season is always upon us) you will start breathing through your mouth during sleep. With your mouth open, it’s hard to swallow and your saliva will continue to build up.

If your mouth is open and you can’t swallow, you’re going to drool. If you sleep on your side or your stomach, chances are your pillow will receive the brunt of the drool, which is why we always recommend adding a pillow protector to keep your head and face less soggy.


2. Nighttime Indigestion

What you eat before you go to bed can also play into why you drool when you sleep. It could be simple heartburn, or you might suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease, more commonly known as GERD. GERD occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into the tube – the esophagus – connecting your mouth and stomach. This backwash, or acid reflux, acid reflux, can irritate the lining of your esophagus.

The more irritated the lining of your esophagus, the more your mouth will produce saliva to try to flush out the irritant. Much like congestion, sleeping on your stomach will make acid reflux happen more frequently, leading to more drooling.

3. Medications

Certain medications can cause people to drool when they sleep. If you take medicine to help you sleep at night, the chances are pretty good it will knock you right out. When you’re fully asleep, your muscles tend to relax more and, in this case, might make it easier for drool to escape your mouth.

There are other medications for depression, psychiatric disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, and others that will increase the amount of saliva your body produces.


4. Sleep Apnea

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, there are roughly 22 million Americans who suffer from sleep apnea – and 80 percent of the cases are undiagnosed. Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. If you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night's sleep, you might have sleep apnea.

Having unmanaged sleep apnea can cause a world of health issues, including diabetes, heart disease, and more. It will also cause you to snore loudly through your open mouth, which leads to drooling. If you have unmanaged sleep apnea, drooling is probably the least of your worries, but there are options to help.

How to Stop Drooling in Your Sleep

There are ways to help you avoid drooling while you sleep.

  • If you’re congested, there are plenty of safe, over-the-counter remedies to help open up your sinuses so you can breathe easier.
  • There are also over-the-counter medicines to help with heartburn and acid reflux. It is best to speak with your doctor before taking any OTC medicine to make sure it’s safe for you.
  • If you think you have sleep apnea, speak with your doctor about scheduling an appointment with a sleep doctor. If you do have it, the doctor can prescribe a couple of options, such as a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine to help you sleep better at night. The mask will also help to decrease your drooling while you sleep.
  • Finally, a big help in preventing drooling while you sleep is having an adjustable base. Sleeping with your head slightly elevated can help prevent acid reflux, decrease snoring, and slow down the amount of drool you produce during the night.

If drooling continues to be a persistent problem night after night, it’s always good to let your doctor know just so you can rule out serious health issues. In the meantime, do what you can to make sure your pillow and pillowcase stay dry for an optimal night’s sleep.