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Waking Up With a Dry Mouth? Here’s What Your Body’s Trying To Tell You

waking-up-with-a-dry-mouth?-here’s-what-your-body’s-trying-to-tell-you
Waking Up With a Dry Mouth? Here’s What Your Body’s Trying To Tell You

A full night’s rest should leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated come morning, right? So why do you often find yourself waking up with a sore throat, chapped lips, or a dry, tacky feeling in your mouth instead?

You likely didn’t magically transport to the desert overnight, but you may still wonder what the heck happened while you were sleeping to make your mouth so dry. While a dry mouth upon waking is pretty normal every now and then, a chronically dry mouth can point to an underlying health issue in some cases.

Sometimes just drinking more water is enough to get the situation under control, says Chester Wu, MD, a Houston, Texas-based psychiatrist, sleep medicine specialist, and medical reviewer for Rise Science. But other times, you may need to see your doc to make sure you’re not dealing with a health issue that requires medical treatment. The only way to know? Start thinking about your other symptoms. We have a feeling this will help you narrow down the cause.


Experts In This Article

  • Alice Hoang, DMD, dentist and co-owner of Brooklyn Mint Dental
  • Chester Wu, MD, board-certified psychiatrist, sleep medicine specialist, and medical reviewer at Rise Science

Here, read the top causes of waking up with dry mouth, other symptoms to be aware of, and when it’s time to see your doctor or dentist about this issue.

In This Article

  • 01

    Dehydration

  • 02

    Mouth breathing

  • 03

    Snoring or sleep apnea

  • 04

    Medications

  • 05

    Mouthwash

  • 06

    Alcohol or tobacco

  • 07

    Diabetes

  • 08

    Salivary gland disorder

  • 09

    Pregnancy

  • 10

    Treatment

  • 11

    Prevention

  • 12

    When to see a doctor

  • 13

    FAQ

1. You’re dehydrated

This is one of the most obvious causes, but dehydration when waking up isn’t really a big deal.

“It’s pretty normal to wake up feeling thirsty to some degree, especially if your bedroom is warm or you haven’t had enough to drink the previous day,” says Dr. Wu. After all, you just went seven or eight hours without having any water.

How to treat it:

If you have dry mouth from dehydration, drink a big glass of water when you wake up, and be more mindful of drinking enough H2O throughout the day. (The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends aiming for 11.5 to 15.5 cups per day, through drinking and eating water-rich foods.) If that solves the problem, mild dehydration was probably the culprit, Dr. Wu says.

2. You’re breathing through your mouth

Mouth breathing vs. nose breathing: Which one is better for you? Breathing through your nose is actually better, but there are many things that would cause you to breathe out of your mouth while you sleep. It can be something minor and temporary, like congestion from a cold (which may cause you to wake up with a headache and dry mouth). But if mouth breathing lingers for more than a week, it could be one of the following, per the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Chronic allergies
  • Enlarged adenoid glands
  • Deviated septum (when the cartilage and bone that divides the inside of your nose leans more to one side)

How to treat it:

Taking an over-the-counter (OTC) decongestant (like Mucinex Sinus or Vicks Sinex Severe), or an antihistamine (like Claritin or Zyrtec) can help with a dry mouth and stuffy nose from congestion.

If your mouth-breathing continues for more than a week or so, reach out to your doctor to check for a deviated septum, enlarged glands, or other structural problem, Dr. Wu says. These may require surgery to correct.

3. You snore or have sleep apnea

An extremely dry mouth while sleeping could mean you’re snoring at night. Snoring happens when the flow of air through your mouth and nose is partially blocked. That disrupts your breathing, which dries out your mouth, Dr. Wu says.

If it’s severe, it could be a sign of sleep apnea—a sleep disorder marked by pauses in breathing that can cause very loud snoring, daytime fatigue, irritability, and headaches. In fact, around 45 percent of people with sleep apnea report waking up with a dry mouth, per an August 2020 study in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry.

How to treat it:

See your doctor if you think you might have sleep apnea (or if your partner or roommates say you snore like crazy). If you have sleep apnea and dry mouth, the problem can be treated with CPAP (or continuous positive airway pressure)—i.e., a breathing mask that keeps your airways open during sleep, per the Mayo Clinic.

4. You’re taking certain medications

There’s a whole host of meds that can make your mouth dry. You may notice some medications especially exasperate your morning dry mouth. especially morning dry mouth from not getting water for hours. Common culprits include the following, per the National Library of Medicine:

  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Diuretics
  • High blood pressure meds
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Antihistamines
  • Sedatives
  • NSAID pain relievers

How to treat it:

If you think a medication you’re taking is making your mouth seriously dry, let your doctor know. Together, you can decide if it’s worth switching to a medicine with a different side effect profile, or changing up your dose. And of course, never make a medication change without your doctor’s guidance.

5. It’s the mouthwash you use

A quick swish of mouthwash can give your mouth that fresh, tingly feeling. But mouthwashes that have alcohol can dry you out. “Alcohol kills the mucosal cells in your mouth that provide immune support, and changes the quality of saliva,” says Alice Hoang, DMD, a dentist in Brooklyn, New York. So if you use it before bed, you might feel parched throughout the night or in the morning.

How to treat it:

Trade your alcohol-based mouthwash for one that’s alcohol-free, like Listerine Cool Mint Zero Alcohol. You could also try a mouthwash made specifically for dry mouth, like ACT Dry Mouth Mouthwash. If you’re unsure about what to use, ask your dentist about good rinses for dry mouth.

6. It’s from alcohol or tobacco

Both can be a ticket to waking up with a cottonmouth, especially if you smoked or drank alcohol before bed. Alcohol is a diuretic that increases fluid loss, so it temporarily dehydrates you, notes the Mayo Clinic. And tobacco can reduce your saliva production, so you have less hydrating fluid in your mouth, per Dental Research, Dental Clinics, and Dental Prospects2 research.

How to treat it:

Steering clear or booze a few hours before bedtime can help cut down on your chances of dry mouth in the morning. If you are planning to drink, try to limit yourself to one to two drinks, with a full glass of water afterward, per the Mayo Clinic. If you smoke, talk to your doctor for advice on quitting.

7. You have diabetes

Waking up with a dry mouth “isn’t just about what happens during sleep. Your overall health plays a role, too,” Dr. Wu says. Case in point: High blood sugar can make your mouth crazy dry, and tends to be one of the first symptoms of diabetes, according to the Cleveland Clinic. This is often why people with diabetes feel increased thirst. Other signs you might notice include the following, per the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Peeing more often
  • Fatigue
  • Extreme hunger, even after eating

How to treat it:

Managing diabetes and dry mouth requires making lifestyle changes that can help keep your blood sugar in check. This might include eating a well-balanced diet with less carbohydrates or ultra-processed foods, or taking medications like insulin. If you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes and you’re having complications, reach out to your doctor to let them know. They can help you come up with some relief options.

8. You have a salivary gland disorder

A problem with the glands that make saliva can cause your mouth to feel drier in the morning—and even throughout the day. This can be due to a salivary gland blockage, or an autoimmune disorder like Sjögren’s disease. You might also notice symptoms like the following, per the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR):

  • A bad taste in your mouth
  • Pain or weakness around your mouth or face
  • Trouble opening your mouth
  • Swelling around your mouth or face
  • A lump near your ear, cheek, jaw, lip, or the inside of your mouth

How to treat it:

Treating a salivary gland problem depends on what’s causing it. Medications may be needed to treat an underlying disease or infection, while surgery may be needed to correct a blockage, the NIDCR says.

9. You’re pregnant

If you’re pregnant waking up with dry mouth, you’re not imaging things. Sky-high levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone that happen when you’re pregnant can make your body do sooo many weird things, including zapping your saliva production and making your mouth dry, per a December 2022 study in Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics3. Unfortunately, you might notice this one throughout the day, not just when you’re waking up.

How to treat it:

Dry mouth from pregnancy will likely ease up after you give birth and your hormones get back to baseline. In the meantime, you can cope with some of the at-home tips below, and by drinking more water. (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends 8 to 12 cups, but you’ll likely need even more than that; everyone is different!)

How to fix a dry mouth when waking up

Waking up with a wooly mouth is annoying, but there are a bunch of things you can do to get the problem under control. Some go-to strategies include the following:

  • Stay hydrated during the day: You’re less likely to wake up crazy thirsty if you’re drinking enough fluids throughout the day, Dr. Wu says.
  • Keep water on your nightstand: Sounds obvious, but this can be a godsend if you wake up in the middle of the night and think need.water.now. A spray bottle that you can use to spritz your tongue works, too, Johns Hopkins Medicine.
  • Suck on ice chips or lozenges before bed: Both can stimulate saliva production to make your mouth more hydrated, says Dr. Wu.
  • Steer clear of dehydrators before bed: Mainly this means alcohol, but salty or spicy foods might exacerbate the problem, too, per Johns Hopkins Medicine.
  • Run a humidifier in your bedroom: A humidifier can help with dry mouth by adding some extra moisture to your indoor air, Dr. Wu says. This can also help if you get dry eyes and mouth at night.
  • Manage underlying health conditions: If dry mouth is happening to you regularly, see your doctor for a health screening to manage any problems that might be contributing.
  • Quit smoking, if you smoke: Let your doctor know if you’re having trouble quitting on your own. They have resources that can help.

Preventing dry mouth when waking up

Ultimately, controlling the problem comes down to fixing the underlying cause. If it has to do with something minor, like not drinking enough water or being dehydrated before bed, that’s a pretty easy fix. As mentioned above, aim to get between 11.5 and 15.5 cups per day—through beverages or water-rich foods like watermelon or cucumber. You might need more that this on super hot, humid days, or on days when you worked out.

If that’s not solving the problem, that’s a sign you probably need to work on fixing an underlying health issue. Because there are so many possible culprits, start by seeing your doctor.

When to see a doctor

Most of us just wake up crazy thirsty from time to time and it comes down to not drinking enough the day before. But if wonder “why do I wake up with a dry throat every day?” or have a dry mouth every morning, “it could be a hint of something more serious that needs checking out,” Dr. Wu says. If your dry mouth is coming with increased thirst, urination, fatigue, fever, or vomiting, seek medical care as soon as possible.

FAQ

What deficiency causes dry mouth at night?

Consistently not getting enough protein, vitamin A, B vitamins, iron, or zinc can potentially cause or worsen dry mouth, according to January 2013 review in the Journal of Clinical Dental & Diagnostic Research4. Ask your doctor if taking vitamin supplements to solve any deficiencies is right for you.

Is it normal to wake up with a mouth full of saliva every morning?

It could be. “A mouth full of saliva every morning can happen when you sleep on your side and stomach, which encourages saliva to pool,” Dr. Wu says. But it could also be a sign of acid reflux, “where saliva production increases to neutralize stomach acid creeping up,” he adds. If this is happening to your often, and you have other acid reflux symptoms (like burning pain in your throat or chest) try taking an OTC antacid like TUMS or Alka Seltzer.

Is it okay to breathe through your mouth while sleeping?

It’s not ideal. Breathing through your mouth can make your mouth dry, which can increase your risk for dental problems like cavities and gum disease, Dr. Hoang says. This is why treating any underlying congestion or conditions that lead to clogged nasal passages is important. Talk to your doctor if you think this is your case.


Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.

  1. Pico-Orozco J, Carrasco-Llatas M, Silvestre FJ, Silvestre-Rangil J. Xerostomia in patients with sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome: A prospective case-control study. J Clin Exp Dent. 2020 Aug 1;12(8):e708-e712. doi: 10.4317/jced.56593. PMID: 32913565; PMCID: PMC7474945.
  2. Rad M, Kakoie S, Niliye Brojeni F, Pourdamghan N. Effect of Long-term Smoking on Whole-mouth Salivary Flow Rate and Oral Health. J Dent Res Dent Clin Dent Prospects. 2010 Fall;4(4):110-4. doi: 10.5681/joddd.2010.028. Epub 2010 Dec 21. PMID: 23346336; PMCID: PMC3429961.
  3. Gil-Montoya JA, Rivero-Blanco T, Leon-Rios X, Exposito-Ruiz M, Pérez-Castillo I, Aguilar-Cordero MJ. Oral and general health conditions involved in periodontal status during pregnancy: a prospective cohort study. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2023 Dec;308(6):1765-1773. doi: 10.1007/s00404-022-06843-3. Epub 2022 Dec 13. PMID: 36512113; PMCID: PMC10579146.
  4. Sheetal A, Hiremath VK, Patil AG, Sajjansetty S, Kumar SR. Malnutrition and its oral outcome – a review. J Clin Diagn Res. 2013 Jan;7(1):178-80. doi: 10.7860/JCDR/2012/5104.2702. Epub 2013 Jan 1. PMID: 23449967; PMCID: PMC3576783.


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