Admit it, at some point you woke up to discover wet pillows and it's not from sweating. Other times, you may be jolted awake because you can actually feel drool forming on your cheeks.
Drooling is a common effect of sleeping and contrary to popular culture, is not something to be embarrassed about. Caused by a myriad of factors, it is one of those things that could potentially cause issues down the track, so it’s best to monitor it.
While it may not be necessarily wrong, excess saliva during sleep might be a sign that there are other health-related issues that you should be aware of, such as sleep apnea or sialorrhea.
But is drooling inherently bad? Or is its bad rep brought by something else? Read on to find out.
Drooling may be good when:
Wet pillows may equal good sleep
Excessive production of saliva is not always related to a medical condition. Sometimes, it may just mean that you are so relaxed while sleeping that you just start to drool.
REM sleep and its side effects
Among the common causes for drooling is the simple fact that you're enjoying your sleep to the point that your mouth opens on its own.
Of all the sleep stages, REM sleep is the most associated with higher quality of sleep. This means that an individual who gets more rapid-eye movement sleep is prone to being more relaxed upon waking.
One side effect, albeit positive, of quality sleep is drooling as it reflects the comfort level of a person.
The next time you wake up from a good dream and discover saliva marks on your pillows, you most likely had a relaxing sleep.
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 are suffering from hyper salivation or related medical conditions.
In order 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 that should be given consideration.
One of the sleep disorders related to a huge production of saliva is Obstructive Sleep Apnea which manifests through the sufferer having trouble swallowing and even breathing while asleep. This often leads to snoring and can be indicative of other health problems.
If you feel that your snoring and nightly saliva problem is getting out of hand, you should probably see a specialist about whether or not you’ve got sleep apnea.
Another way to battle sleep apnea and drooling while sleeping 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 like epilepsy, cerebral palsy or Parkinson's disease.
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 with 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 while sleeping could be the onset of complications in your facial muscles, particularly in the sinus.
If you are suffering with 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 present in the sinus and other affected 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 sheet 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.
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. Also, sleeping while cuddling your pillow may leave them soaked with saliva in the morning.
As mentioned, items such as a mandibular device and 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 on 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 it could be a sign of something to be checked. Also, the health, lifestyle, and medical history of the person experiencing it play important roles in deciding whether the degree of drooling is concerning.
What you can do is be observant and proactive when dealing with this seemingly embarrassing but rather prevalent bodily function.