How To Prevent A Dry Mouth While Sleeping

Dry mouth while sleeping

Dry mouth refers to oral dryness or also known as xerostomia or lack of salivation (hyposalivation). Waking up with a dry mouth is very uncomfortable and hard to swallow. It leads to bad breath.1

Why is it happening?

Dry mouth is generally seen in patients with diabetes, Sjogren's syndrome and also with sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome. Some local factors such as smoking, drugs, and mouth breathing may also cause dry mouth. Some components of the saliva decrease with age. So while sleeping, the nasal obstruction may also be a cause that leads people to breathe by mouth, which further leads to dryness of mouth on waking up.

Sleep Apnea This is a sleep disorder that affects your ability to breathe properly during sleep. Having trouble breathing during sleep makes it much more difficult to get a deep and restful sleep. You can exhale through your mouth or snore loudly. Both can wake you up with a dry mouth. The most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. With this, your throat muscles relax while you sleep. Your doctor may prescribe continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy as treatment.

The CPAP machine has a hose and a face mask or nosepiece that provides continuous air pressure to improve breathing. However, dry mouth is one of the most common side effects of using machines, especially if you breathe through your mouth or sleep with your mouth open. A study of 688 people with sleep apnea who used their CPAP machine for treatment found that 45% of the participants woke up with dry mouths.2

If you suffer from moderate to severe sleep apnea, you are more likely to wake up with a dry mouth. Being overweight also increases the risk of dry mouth while using a CPAP machine. Another study found that if the air pressure generated in the mouth when using a CPAP machine is higher than what the machine produces, it can affect saliva flow and production: and this can lead to a dry mouth in the morning.

If you wake up with a dry mouth and loud snoring, it could be a sign of sleep apnea. Talk to your doctor about this. If you think your CPAP machine is causing you to wake up with a dry mouth, your doctor may be able to offer other treatment options.

Aging. Studies show that about 1 in 5 seniors wake up with a dry mouth. Other factors include prescription drugs, nutritional deficiencies, and other age-related health problems.

Drug side effects. Xerostomia has been cited as a side effect of several medications, including those available over the counter.


High blood pressure



Antihistamines, muscle relaxants, and decongestants can also wake you up with a dry mouth.

Cancer treatment. Chemotherapy drugs can reduce the production and quality of saliva and cause dry mouth. This is temporary and salivation may return to normal once treatment is complete.

Radiation therapy to the head and neck can damage the salivary glands and reduce the amount of saliva in the mouth. This may be temporary or permanent, depending on the area and dose of treatment. 

Other health conditions: Certain health problems can also cause dry mouth.



Fungal infections in the mouth (thrush)

Alzheimer's disease

Autoimmune diseases such as Sjögren's syndrome (dry eyes and mouth) and HIV/AIDS


Mouth breathing

Lifestyle: smoking, chewing tobacco, certain habits, such as drinking alcohol, can make dry mouth symptoms worse. Recreational drug use, such as marijuana, can cause a temporary dry mouth until the effects of the drug wear off. Methamphetamines can dry out your mouth, damage your teeth, and cause a condition called "meth mouth".

Dehydration is a condition that occurs when you don't drink enough water, sweat too much, or get sick. It also tends to dry out your mouth.

What are the symptoms?

Saliva is the fluid produced by salivary glands that keeps our mouth and teeth healthy. Functions of saliva include:

  • Cleaning
  • Chewing
  • Keeping the oral tissues moist
  • Nreaking and digesting food

When there isn’t enough saliva it leads to:

  • Sticky feeling in the mouth
  • Thick ropy saliva
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty in chewing, eating and swallowing
  • Sore throat
  • Dry tongue
  • Taste change
  • Problems wearing dentures

 It may also lead to:

  • Tooth decay
  • Skin rashes
  • Joint pain
  • Dry eyes

Can we prevent a dry mouth while sleeping

Natural ways

Drinking plenty of water reduces dehydration which increases the production of saliva in the mouth and also keeps the oral cavity moist.

Improving oral hygiene by brushing and flossing everyday along with rinsing the mouth with water or mouthwash to remove stuck food particles. One can also use a tongue scraper to remove bacteria from the surface of the tongue.

Mouthwashes containing xylitol may kill the bacteria in the mouth along with keeping the mouth moist. 

Foods to eat

Sucking on sugar-free lozenges or candies can help prevent a dry mouth. Licking the candy keeps your mouth closed and promotes saliva circulation. This may temporarily alleviate or prevent dryness. Sweet candies can damage your teeth, so it's important to choose sugar-free ones.  

Similar to sugar-free candy, chewing sugar-free gum can help keep saliva flowing and stimulate saliva production, which can help prevent a dry mouth.   

Ginger sprays, tea, and other products with ginger stimulate salivary glands to produce more saliva.  


If home remedies do not relieve symptoms, it is advisable to consult a doctor. If you have HIV risk factors, get tested as soon as possible. If symptoms such as cavities or tooth decay are severe, consult a dentist.

Your doctor will create the best treatment plan for you, depending on the cause. Your doctor may prescribe one of the FDA-approved drugs to increase salivation or treat dryness. These include:

Cevimeline (Evoxac). This drug works to treat dry mouth in people with Sjögren's syndrome. Your doctor may prescribe cevimeline at a dose of 30 mg three times a day for at least three months.

Pilocarpine (Salagen) stimulates saliva production. Pilocarpine is usually 5 mg three times a day for at least three months.


What foods help with dry mouth?

Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Brush regularly along with rinsing your mouth with mouthwashes containing xylitol. Sugar-free chewing gums or sugar-free frozen fruit pops, ginger, grapes, soups, ice creams, potatoes, and rice. Avoid dry foods, biscuits, crackers, and spicy hot foods.

Is dry mouth a serious symptom? 

Dry mouth persistently can be due to underlying systemic diseases such as diabetes, stroke, fungal infection, oral thrush, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, nasal obstruction, sleep apnea, and Sjogren’s syndrome. One should consult a doctor about it.

How long does dry mouth last?

It is a temporary and treatable condition. Once you resolve the cause of it, it goes away on its own.


Xerostomia and hyposalivation remain debilitating conditions for many individuals. This review summarizes the diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to manage xerostomia and hyposalivation. Clinicians with a patient complaining of xerostomia have the opportunity to identify true salivary gland hypofunction using effective diagnostic criteria and functional tests;  therefore preventing secondary effects. Although no standard treatment guidelines are available, many treatment options exist for the management of xerostomia and hyposalivation: topical agents to alleviate and/or prevent xerostomia, systemic therapy, or newer devices. While systemic agents such as pilocarpine or cevimeline have been largely studied, new medical devices require large well-designed clinical trials.


  1. José Pico-Orozco,Marina Carrasco-Llatas,Francisco-Javier Silvestre and Javier Silvestre-Rangil. Xerostomia in patients with sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome: A prospective case-control study. J Clin Exp Dent. 2020 Aug; 12(8): e708–e712.
  2. José Pico-Orozco,Marina Carrasco-Llatas,Francisco-Javier Silvestre and Javier Silvestre-Rangil. Xerostomia in patients with sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome: A prospective case-control study. J Clin Exp Dent. 2020 Aug; 12(8): e708–e712.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Dr. Riya Dave

Bachelors of Dental Surgery – BDS, Gujrat University, Gujrat

Dr. Riya Dave is a dentist with strong skills related to medicine and dentistry. She has a clinical
exposure for 3 years with a knowledge of anatomy, physiology, basic general medicine and surgery,
pharmacology and dental expertise in areas related to oral medicine, restorative dentistry, she is
detail-oriented with keen interest in medicine and pharmacology. She has organizational and
observational skills with attention to detail, analysis of data, verbal and communication skills.

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