Treating Sleep-Related Mouth Breathing: Causes, Risks, and When to Talk to a Doctor

Last updated: September 15th, 2023

What Is Sleeping With Your Mouth Open?

Chronic mouth breathing at night may cause bothersome symptoms or lead to health complications. While most people breathe through their nose during sleep, people may sleep with their mouths open for a variety of reasons. Sleeping with the mouth open may be a temporary response to nasal congestion, a learned habit, or a symptom of an underlying health condition.

Risks of Sleeping With Your Mouth Open

Occasionally sleeping with the mouth open, such as during a common cold, may not lead to significant health issues. However, chronic mouth breathing may cause several complications. Chronic dry mouth due to sleeping with the mouth open can cause dental and other health complications. People with chronic dry mouth have higher risks of cavities, gum disease, and loss of tooth enamel. Because saliva is important to keep the mouth clean and healthy, people with dry mouth can get frequent yeast infections in the mouth or throat. Mouth breathing may also contribute to chronic snoring and sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea have several sleep disruptions throughout the night, where breathing stops for several seconds. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to heart disease, stroke, and other health complications.

Signs of Sleeping With Your Mouth Open

Mouth breathing at night can be difficult to recognize because many people do not remember that they do it. Common signs that a person may be sleeping with their mouth open include: waking up with a dry and sticky mouth; having a sore throat in the morning; snoring frequently; feeling tired and fatigued during the day; and breathing through the mouth most of the time.

What Causes Mouth Breathing at Night?

Mouth breathing as a person sleeps can have a variety of causes. For most healthy people, occasional mouth breathing during sleep is usually a response to temporary nasal congestion due to a cold, allergies, or a sinus infection. Research has found that people who sleep face down often have higher rates of mouth breathing due to nasal obstruction triggering an increase in the pressure inside the airways. Other causes of mouth breathing at night may include: allergies; an enlarged tongue or tonsils; a deviated septum; cystic fibrosis; and asthma.

How to Stop Sleeping With Your Mouth Open

Most people with occasional mouth breathing at night do not require medical treatment and can improve symptoms with lifestyle changes. Some tips to help manage mouth breathing include: avoiding eating too close to bedtime; clearing nasal congestion with saline nasal rinse or a neti pot; avoiding sleeping face down or on your back; using a humidifier, which will help moisturize the air and nose; and reducing allergies and asthma symptoms with medications or an allergen-reducing air filter.

People with chronic mouth breathing as well as any of the mentioned causes may need to see a doctor for further diagnosis and treatment.

When to Talk to a Doctor

Many people breathe through their mouth as they sleep occasionally, and lifestyle changes can help improve symptoms. However, people who breathe through their mouth chronically or have the mentioned causes of sleep-related mouth breathing should talk to their Snoring Mouthpiece Review doctor. A doctor can help diagnose the cause and suggest specific treatments, which may include: medications, such as nasal steroids for allergies; lifestyle changes, such as growling asthma triggers; dental appliances for teeth grinding; nasal surgery for structural issues, such as a deviated septum; and CPAP or other sleep apnea treatments.

Talking to a doctor or specialist can help people with sleep-related mouth breathing get relief from bothersome symptoms and serious health complications.

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