Biting Tongue in Sleep

Good and refreshing sleep is important! If you have issues during sleep, you may not wake up feeling rested in the morning and have trouble going about your day. There are many things that can happen while you are sleeping that can interrupt your rest. One of these issues includebiting tongue in sleep. This can often be considered a part of a sleep disorder and should be evaluated if it happens to you often. This article explains more about why this may happen and what you can do about it.

What Causes Biting Tongue in Sleep?

Common Causes

If you want to know the causes behind tongue biting in sleep, most of them are actually pretty common among most people. It may only happen once in a while or on a nightly basis. Here are some of the more common causes:

  • Seizures at night
  • Teeth grinding
  • Rhythmic movement disorder
  1. Seizures at night – When you have seizures, you can have unpredictable and uncontrollable movements. This can cause you to bite your tongue. Sometimes a seizure disorder can show up during sleep and they are most often diagnosed by watching the brainwaves during sleep. You may not have any daytime symptoms, so this may be your first clue.
  2. Teeth grinding – Teeth grinding at night is a very common disorder. This is actually chewing at night and sounds like grinding or grating. This can cause you to bite your tongue in your sleep.
  3. Rhythmic movement disorder – Disorders that cause the body to twitch or move suddenly during sleep may cause you to bite your tongue. Some may actually injure their tongue with these sudden and spastic movements and wake up to blood on their pillow.

Do You Wear Braces?

Braces can cause biting tongue in sleep due to the offsetting of the jaw from what you are used to. At night, some people need to use elastics to help set the jaw into position and when the bite is still out of alignment, the tongue may not have much room. Also, if braces make you uncomfortable at night it can cause teeth grinding, which can lead to tongue biting.

Do You Have Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea can cause the tongue to relax in the mouth during sleep. Not only can it block the back of the throat, but can also slip between the teeth and you can bite it during an apneic episode. This can happen several time a night with each episode.

Are You Under Stress?

Stress can cause teeth grinding at night, which can also lead to biting the tongue while you sleep. If this is caused by stress while you are awake, you may notice teeth clenching while you’re awake during the day. It is common in women who are pregnant most likely due to stress on the body and hormones.

Lyme Disease Infection

Lyme disease can attack the nervous system and the brain. This can send the wrong signals to nerves and muscles in the body. This can cause involuntary movements in sleep, which include the tongue. Either mini seizures or nervous system excitement from the infection can cause you to clamp down and bite your tongue while you are asleep.

What to Do About It? Should I Worry?

Biting tongue in sleep is usually not any cause to worry. Many people bit their tongue by accident while they sleep periodically. Yes, it can hurt and even bleed. Most of the time an injury to the tongue will heal on its own within two weeks. If it is a once or twice occurrence, you probably don’t need to see your doctor. The saliva in your mouth has natural healing properties and you should be okay.

If you have severe bleeding, you may need help. Check with your doctor if you cannot get the bleeding stopped or you have signs of an infection starting. Things you can do at home to treat a minor bite to your tongue, which include:

  • Apply ice to the area
  • Rinse your mouth with sea salt water
  • Do not eat any spicy foods until it is healed

A bite to the tongue can take some time to heal. Eat a soft diet to avoid knocking any clots lose. Bleeding could start again. If bleeding continues off and on or is continuous, get medical help. You can also ask your doctor to prescribe a dental guard for you to avoid grinding and biting.

What Others Have Experienced or Suggest?

Here are some helpful experiences of others who experiencebiting tongue in sleep:

“I bite my tongue in my sleep and it is painful! I saw my dentist and he says I grind my teeth at night. He made me a guard for my lower teeth and I am spitting it out at night. I find it across the room and it doesn’t do may any good when that happens. If I wake up grinding my teeth and the guard is out, I put it back in. This happens several times a night and causing me to lose sleep. I finally asked my girlfriend to wake me up and make sure the guard is in my mouth. When I do get a chance to sleep through the night with the guard in my jaws and tongue hurt less in the morning, so it does help. I highly recommend getting one made for yourself and training yourself and/or your partner to help you keep it in.” 

“I am under a lot of stress in my life. I clench my jaw at night during sleep and bite my tongue several times a night. I found out that I have obstructive sleep apnea, probably due to stress. My doctor sent me for a sleep study and they put me on C-PAP. This helped me a lot and now I sleep through the night. My poor tongue is finally healing!”

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