Dry mouth, also known as xerostoma, is a fairly common condition that most people will experience at some point in their lives, the Mayo Clinic says. Some people may experience constant dry mouth because they no longer produce enough saliva to keep the mouth moist. Others may experience dry mouth only in specific instances, such as when they wake. Waking with a dry mouth can have several causes, from illness to environmental factors.
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The Sinuses, Throat and Mouth
We are designed to breathe through our noses. When we breathe properly, air enters through the nose and is warmed and moistened by the sinuses. The warmed air then travels down the throat and into the lungs. When we breathe improperly, we breathe through our mouths, which sends dry, sometimes cold, air directly to our lungs. The result is a dry throat and mouth. Even in warm, humid weather, breathing through the mouth can dry out the mouth and throat. Illnesses, disorders and circumstances that prevent proper nose breathing can lead to dry mouth upon waking.
Nasal Illness and Dry Mouth
Colds, flus and sinus infections, as well as allergies, can all obstruct the sinuses, and people with these illnesses tend to breathe through their mouths, especially when sleeping. Keeping the sinuses clear, either by medical or mechanical means, can help prevent dry mouth upon waking, Take care, however, as some medications, such as antihistamines, can make a dry mouth worse.
Drugs, Alcohol and Dry Mouth
The National Institute of Dental and Cranial Facial Research says that more than 400 prescription and over-the-counter drugs dry out the tissues and affect saliva production. Any one of these drugs can cause dry mouth upon waking, and anyone taking prescription drugs may need to consider a different prescription or try home remedies to offset the effects. Alcohol can dry the tissues and also acts as a muscle relaxant. During sleep, the jaw may fall open causing air to dry out the mouth. Cigarette smoke can reduce saliva production, causing the mouth to be dry even if the sleeper breathes through his nose.
Environment and Dry Mouth
Dry air, coupled with mouth breathing, will dry the mouth. Additionally, dry room air can irritate the sinuses, making it difficult to breathe through the nose. Running a humidifier overnight will moisten the air and reduce morning dry mouth. Humidifiers are available as free-standing room models and can also be installed on an existing home heating system. Other methods of moistening the air include running a hot shower and letting the steam dissipate into the bedroom or placing a pot of water on a hot radiator.
When to See a Doctor
A dry morning mouth has several meanings. If it happens often, it may mean that the sleeper is not breathing properly in her sleep or that certain lifestyle factors, such as smoking, are affecting saliva production. Often, simple lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking or using nasal strips for breathing, may resolve the issue. If home remedies and lifestyle changes do not help, consult your physician. Dry mouth may be the sign of a more serious issue, such as obstructive sleep apnea. With obstructive sleep apnea, the sleeper stops breathing at several intervals during the night. People with this disorder may experience a dry mouth upon waking from gasping for air during sleep. According to Stanford University, sleep apnea is potentially fatal, and people with this disorder may need a special sleep appliance, or surgery, to correct the condition.