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Sleep Disorders

Saliva coming form out during sleep

05/31/2007

Question:

When I`m sleeping sideways on a pillow saliva comes out from my mouth during the sleep. I don`t know if my mouth stays a little bit open during sleep or if there is another problem because its hard to have control on your body during sleep. I was wondering if there is any kind of treatment for this. Thank you.

Answer:

There are many reasons for the salivary secretions to increase, and most causes are related to oral (mouth), dental (teeth), and pharyngeal (throat) disease. Other causes may include acid reflux, certain medication use, and disorders of the nervous system that interfere with swallowing. But your question seems to be specific to sleep.

During sleep our muscles relax. And in certain stages of sleep (like during dreams) our skeletal muscles are usually near-paralyzed, with the exception of the muscles of the eyes and the muscles of breathing. The mouth may become open during these periods of sleep. This is usually related to body, neck, and head position. If the mouth happens to be open during sleep, saliva may run out of the mouth (drool). This is mostly a normal occurrence and does not need to be treated.

Please note that there are sleep related disorders that may lead to drooling. Some of these problems include acid reflux disease, seizures that occur during sleep, sleep behavioral abnormalities, and sinus disease that gets worse when sleeping on the back. A sleep specialist can help identify if any of these problems is of concern, and how to manage them.

I understand that drooling during sleep may cause some social embarrassment. There are medications that can decrease the production of saliva, but having a dry mouth during wake hours will interfere with eating and speaking, and may adversely affect the health of the teeth. So, the side effects of these medications may outweigh the risks associated with their use. A dentist or an oral surgeon can discuss these issues further.

If you would like additional information regarding sleep and sleep disorders, you can obtain it on the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website. This website also contains a list of Sleep Centers across the country so you can locate one near you if need it. Good luck, and sleep well.

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Response by:

Ziad  Shaman, MD Ziad Shaman, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University