What Causes a Dry Mouth at Night?


Waking up with a dry mouth is something that happens to everyone at some point. Whether your mouth and tongue feel sticky, your throat is sore or your morning breath is noticeably worse, it’s not a great start to the day.

Dry Mouth Symptoms

It’s pretty self-explanatory but here is a list of the most common symptoms of dry mouth:

  • Dry or sticky mouth
  • Stringy or gluey saliva
  • Sore or dry throat
  • Bad breath
  • Cracked lips
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dry tongue

Most of the time it’s nothing to worry about and drinking some water, brushing your teeth and getting on with your morning will usually do the trick. If you have persistent dry mouth, however, contact a medical professional as a lack of saliva can lead to tooth decay, sores in your mouth and a decrease in nutrition if you find it harder to chew or swallow.

Causes of Dry Mouth

Dry mouth happens when your salivary glands are not producing enough saliva and it’s also known as xerostomia. Saliva is important in the mouth as it neutralizes acid produced by bacteria and washes bacteria and food off the teeth, helping prevent cavities and tooth decay. It also aids in the chewing, swallowing and digestion of food so a lack of it can really start to cause you some issues.

Dry mouth can happen for a number of reasons:

  • Dehydration

Maybe the most obvious culprit of dry mouth when you’re asleep. Not drinking enough water, and / or sweating excessively can dehydrate you, leading to dry mouth, amongst other things.

  • Sleep apnea

You may not realize you have sleep apnea, until you continually wake up with a dry mouth. This sleeping disorder affects the way you breathe at night, usually meaning you breathe through an open mouth or snore loudly, both of which will lead to a dry mouth in the morning.

  • Side effect of medication

If you are undergoing cancer treatment or radiation therapy, this can cause a reduction in your saliva production, leading to dry mouth. Medications for conditions such as anxiety, high blood pressure and over the counter pain relief can also cause dry mouth.

  • Aging

Dry mouth is more common as we age, although this bundles multiple factors together, including medications, prolonged poor diet and other age related health concerns.

  • Tobacco, Alcohol and Drug Use

Smoking and chewing tobacco, drinking alcohol and using drugs such as marijuana and meth can increase incidences and the severity of dry mouth.

How to Treat Dry Mouth at Night

If you don’t have any of the issues mentioned above, drinking more water will probably go a long way in treating your dry mouth symptoms. If you are experiencing dry mouth as a side effect of medication, for example, there are certain steps you can take to treat it and get your saliva flowing again:

  1. Take frequent sips of water
  2. Chew sugar-free gum or lozenges containing xylitol to kickstart your salivary glands
  3. Drink less caffeine
  4. Use a non-alcohol mouthwash aimed at combating dry mouth
  5. Try and breathe through your nose
  6. Use a humidifier in your bedroom to add some moisture to the air
  7. Cut out tobacco products

While waking up with a dry mouth is not pleasant, it shouldn’t usually be a cause for concern. If you suffer from persistent dry mouth, however, you may be more at risk for tooth decay and a general decrease in your oral health. This in turn affects your overall well being so don’t feel shy about speaking to a medical professional about your dry mouth symptoms.

Skip to content