Pillow Dribble: Why We Do It and How to Avoid It
5 min read
Last Modified 10 March 2023 First Added 10 January 2017
Occasionally we all drool in our sleep, and this is because we can produce too much saliva. During the day we naturally swallow any saliva produced in our mouth while at night this process is meant to slow down. But for the unlucky, dribbling continues at a rapid pace throughout the night. In fact, there’s even a name for the condition of producing too much saliva: sialorrhea.
There are 2 main causes of pillow dribble:
Your sleep position can greatly impact how much you drool. If you sleep on your front or side, your mouth is likely to hang open, letting saliva drip freely. Whereas if you sleep on your back, the saliva will pool at the back of your throat and activate your swallowing reflex. As Christopher Y. Chang, an ear, nose and throat surgeon says: ‘The mouth is the path of least resistance. The lips are right there.’
More severe problems that can lead to pillow dribble include neurological conditions that can lead to partial or full facial paralysis.
Unfortunately, you are unconscious when this happens to it’s tricky to know for sure if you tend to open your mouth during the night, but if you are a mouth breather, you are likely going to dribble, and you may find your pillow is wet regularly. In general, you will breathe through your mouth because your nose is failing to provide enough oxygen to your body, so your lungs opt for Plan B and use your mouth for air, which is when saliva takes its chance at a quick escape.
If you have sleep apnea, it’s common to sleep with your mouth open to help take in oxygen. You may also open your mouth throughout the night due to stress and anxiety as it activates your sympathetic nervous system. It may also be due to a failure of nasal breathing which can be caused by any of these issues:
We know you’ll be unconscious, but your position in bed can be regulated. Start the night on your back, and wedge pillows to your side to prevent any rollover, you can even get pillows and mattresses designed to support any back sleeper. To protect your pillows from drool whilst you try to fix the issue, make sure you have some waterproof pillow protectors and wash your covers regularly.
Start by identifying the cause of your mouth breathing. If you have a cold or any amount of nasal congestion, then invest in a decongestant to relieve blockage. This will be temporary, for those colds remember to drink plenty of water, get some rest and top up on your Vitamin C. If allergies or a chronic sinus infection are the problems, the best route is to see your doctor about medication.
If you’re comfortable, some people have found taping their mouths shut at night can help them sleep better! By using tape, you can ensure that your mouth stays completely closed while you sleep, which helps to stop mouth breathing, snoring, and drooling. Find out more with our guide to mouth taping for better sleep.
Nose breathing allows your body to receive the oxygen it needs. It produces nitric oxide: this enhances the lungs’ capacity to take in oxygen and their capacity to carry oxygen throughout the body. And that’s not all, here are some more advantages of breathing through our nose:
Mouth breathing does not have any benefits. in fact, it can cause a whole host of health issues including gum disease and tooth decay. Your body only resorts to mouth breathing when nose breathing isn’t possible. Here are some more home remedies to help you stop breathing through your mouth:
If you continue to wake up with pillow dribble after trying to combat it yourself, then your doctor can help you get to the root of your problem. And help you to improve your sleep health, and your overall health, and let’s not forget your pillow.