What Is Dry Mouth During Sleep?

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You shouldn’t need to drink water at night. In normal circumstances, your body provides you with the ability to go eight hours or longer without interrupting sleep for drinking or eating. So, if you wake with a dry throat at night, there is probably an underlying reason, like mouth breathing, a sleep disorder, or another health condition.

What causes dry mouth and throat dryness to occur during sleep? This article explains why your need for a nighttime glass of water might signify other problems. It also goes over symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of dry throat.

White roses, alarm clock and water glass on bedside table
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Dry Mouth During Sleep Symptoms

Most people drink water at night simply because their mouth becomes dry. Dry mouth during sleep is sometimes called xerostomia.

Feeling thirsty at night can range from relatively minor to extreme, resulting in a tongue or throat that feels as dry as a bone. In addition to a dry tongue and throat, you may notice other symptoms, like:

Causes

Several conditions may contribute to a dry mouth. They range from side effects from medications to sleep or health conditions.

Medications

One of the more common causes of drinking water at night may be using medications that cause dryness. These can include:

If you are taking medications, review your medication list with your pharmacist or healthcare provider. They can help you identify any potential culprits. For example, if the symptom started with the use or increased dose of a medication, it is a more likely cause.

Health Conditions

There are also medical conditions that might cause mouth dryness. Typically there are other symptoms as well with these disorders that would bring the diagnosis to light. These include:

Mouth Breathing

Many people experience dry mouth at night simply because they are breathing through their mouth when they sleep. Mouth breathing more likely occurs when the nasal passages are blocked. This kind of congestion can happen with:

By default, you breathe through your nose. Nasal breathing reduces the loss of moisture from the soft tissues that line your airways. However, when you default to mouth breathing, the movement of the air quickly dries you out.

Sleep Disorders

Mouth breathing at night is often associated with snoring. It may also be a symptom of sleep apnea. These conditions may be worse when you sleep on your back or use alcohol use near bedtime.

Needing to drink water at night may be an early sign that you cannot breathe well while you sleep.

Mouth breathing while you sleep, may put you at higher risk of other sleep disorders that affect your breathing at night. For example, if you use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to treat sleep apnea, air escaping with mouth breathing may worsen the dryness.

Recap

Medications, health conditions, and sleep disorders can all cause dry mouth. In addition, mouth breathing that results from congestion or structural problems can cause dry throat and dry mouth at night.

Diagnosis

If you frequently experience dry mouth at night, you may want to speak with your healthcare provider about your concerns. They will rule out any medications as a cause of your problem.

Your doctor will perform a physical exam and take a medical history to determine whether you may have a health condition contributing to your dry mouth. In addition, they might perform specific tests, including:

If there is no evidence for another medical disorder, your doctor may want to investigate your breathing during sleep with a sleep study.

Treatment

To address mouth dryness, you may need to start by ensuring proper airflow through your nose. Treatment for good airflow include:

  • Allergy treatment
  • Surgery to address structural abnormalities
  • CPAP for sleep apnea
  • Mouth moisteners such as Biotene

Lifestyle and self-care steps can also help. These include:

  • Avoiding sugar
  • Chewing sugarless gum
  • Drinking enough water
  • Consuming less caffeine
  • Avoiding tobacco and alcohol
  • Using a humidifier in your bedroom

Summary

Dry throat and dry mouth at night can result in unpleasant symptoms, including cracked lips, bad breath, mouth and tooth infections, and difficulty talking or swallowing. A range of things may cause dry mouth, including some health conditions and sleep apnea. Certain medications may also have a side effect of dry mouth. Treatment depends on the cause.

A Word From Verywell

You don’t have to keep a glass of water on your nightstand. If you have mouth dryness at night, seek evaluation and get back to breathing—and sleeping—better.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes dry mouth at night?

    Dry mouth at night is often caused by breathing with your mouth open. Some medications can also play a part in mouth dryness, such as those used to treat blood pressure, heart failure, or foot swelling, as well as certain antidepressants like amitriptyline and nortriptyline and sleeping pills that have diphenhydramine. Additionally, some medical conditions can cause dry mouth, such as diabetes and lupus.

  • Why do I wake up with a stuffy nose and dry mouth?

    Nasal congestion can be one reason for waking up with a dry mouth and stuffy nose. Nasal congestion is caused by swelling in the nasal passage tissues, which narrows airways and makes it hard to breathe through the nose. Nighttime nasal congestion can be caused by allergies to something in your bedroom—like dust mites, pet dander, or mold—an upper respiratory infection, or even acid reflux.

  • Is sleep apnea related to dry mouth?

    Dry mouth upon waking is one symptom of sleep apnea, a breathing disorder that causes someone to repeatedly pause their breathing while asleep. Other symptoms can include chronic snoring, choking or gasping while asleep, teeth grinding or clenching, and night sweats, among others.

    If you experience these symptoms and suspect it's due to sleep apnea, tell your doctor.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Dental Association. Xerostomia (Dry Mouth).

  2. Wolff A, Joshi RK, Ekström J, et al. A guide to medications inducing salivary gland dysfunction, xerostomia, and subjective sialorrhea: A systematic review sponsored by the World Workshop on Oral Medicine VI. Drugs R D. 2017;17(1):1-28. doi:10.1007/s40268-016-0153-9

  3. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Health Info: Dry Mouth.

  4. Kim EJ, Choi JH, Kim KW, et al. The impacts of open-mouth breathing on upper airway space in obstructive sleep apnea: 3-D MDCT analysis. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2011;268(4):533-9. doi:10.1007/s00405-010-1397-6

  5. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Dry mouth.

Additional Reading
  • Kryger, MH et al. "Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine." Elsevier, 5th edition.