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4 Possible Reasons You're Waking Up With Dry Mouth [Is it Stress?]

8 min read
by JS Dental Lab |

You know that gross feeling of stickiness sealing your tongue to the roof of your mouth and the bad breath and hoarse voice that comes with it?

Better known as "cottonmouth," it’s something that everyone deals with occasionally.

Cottonmouth often happens when you’re dehydrated in the morning before you drink water and enjoy a good scrub with the toothbrush and toothpaste. With a clean, hydrated mouth, you're over the stickiness and ready to start the day.

But if you experience chronic dry mouth, it may be a sign of other problems you’re not yet dealing with.

Don’t get us wrong: occasional dryness isn’t anything to concern you. But if your symptoms of waking up with dry mouth persist longer than a few days, it’s time to get down to the cause of the problem.

First of All, What Exactly is Morning Dry Mouth?

Xerostomia (dry mouth to the rest of us) affects about one in five adults.

A lack of sufficient saliva production by the salivary glands is its root cause. It is more problematic when you sleep since you’re not sipping from a glass of water or chewing sugar-free gum to boost your saliva as you may during the day.

Most people don’t consider dry mouth a medical condition. In reality, though, it can range from mildly annoying to a serious problem.

Symptoms of Xerostomia

Saliva is not exactly something we put a lot of thought into. Sure, it helps us digest our food and keeps our mouths moist. But you may be surprised to know its functions go much deeper than that.

Part of your oral hygiene goal should be to have a clean, hydrated mouth. Yet, dark, moist places also happen to be the favorite hangouts for bacteria and other microorganisms.

Luckily, saliva is the body’s natural defense against these microbes. It moistens your mouth and washes away food to prevent bacterial buildup.

Worse Case Scenarios

Okay, we now know how crucial it is to have a well-hydrated mouth. But let’s dig a little deeper. We want to illustrate for you what dry mouth can cause at the very worst.

A lack of saliva production can result in problems like:

  • Bad breath
  • Cavities and decaying teeth
  • Sensitivity and pain in your mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Tooth decay

If dry mouth continues, it can increase your risk of gum disease. People with dentures will have trouble getting them to adhere. You might even have difficulty forming your words when you talk because you don’t have enough saliva.

Over time, the lack of production from the salivary glands makes it difficult to swallow or eat. Your throat will hurt frequently, and your sinuses will feel dry.

The problems can extend to food lacking flavor, mouth sores, and an unquenchable thirst.

In short, we need our saliva, even though we forget how vital it is to our oral hygiene and overall health.

We’re Here to Inform and Help

So what’s causing your dry mouth?

The answer could be a simple fix, or it may be one of several medical conditions.

But don’t worry, we’re here to help you pinpoint and get rid of your cottonmouth.

We’ll go over the four possible reasons you’re waking up with dry mouth and what to do about it.

Could Your Dry Mouth Be Stress-Related?

can dry mouth be stress related?

One of several possible causes of dry mouth includes stress.

We all go through periods of stress that make it harder for us to sleep soundly. You wake up feeling like instead of rest, you only have a dry mouth.

When this happens regularly, it could be due to a stress-related disorder.

Let’s take a look at common forms of anxiety and how they may contribute to your dry mouth.

Everyday vs. Chronic Anxiety

If you’re stressing over a test or a big event, that’s perfectly normal.

Sometimes that kind of concern is called eustress, or “good” stress. It makes our brains and bodies more alert so that we can focus on the vital upcoming matter.

Also, everyday stress spikes our adrenaline when we’re dealing with an occasional high-impact activity.

And then there’s chronic anxiety, which occurs when your body is always on high alert. This uncomfortable sensation puts you into a consistent fight-or-flight mode.

You may start breathing through your mouth instead of your nose. Your digestive system begins to backfire, causing stomach acid to back up into your esophagus.

Both of these physiological responses cause dry mouth. And if you’re on antidepressants, it’s unfortunately even more likely you’ll experience it since it’s a common side effect of these medications.

Treating Dry Mouth Caused By Anxiety

Managing your anxiety in healthy ways is the most crucial step to recovery.

While you’re working on that, there are a few things you can do to reduce the symptoms of dry mouth, such as:

  • Drinking more water or beverages without sugar
  • Chewing sugar-free gum to increase saliva production
  • Upping your saliva production with sugar-free candies
  • Remembering to breathe through your nose
  • Avoiding dehydrating caffeine and alcohol
  • Investing in a humidifier for your bedroom
  • Avoiding over-the-counter product containing antihistamines or decongestants

Luckily, learning to manage your anxiety and your dry mouth can prevent further damage to your body. Try a few of these tips above and see if it puts an end to waking up with dry mouth.

If you think stress is not the culprit, check out these other common causes of dry mouth.

Are Your Medications Causing Dry Mouth?

As mentioned, the use of many medications can result in lower saliva production.

If you see “dry mouth” as a possible symptom of your OTC or prescription medicine, it should be the first thing you try to rule out. However, we suggest you always talk to your doctor first before changing or stopping any medications.

What To Do if Your Meds are Causing Your Dry Mouth

Please don't stop taking your prescription medications because of dry mouth.

Instead, we’ll provide you with some information to keep you better informed.

First of all, these drugs are commonly associated with lack of saliva:

  • Antidepressants/anti-anxiety meds
  • Antihistamines
  • Urinary and bladder treatment
  • Decongestants
  • Some high blood pressure and pain meds
  • Parkinson’s disease meds
  • Alzheimer’s disease meds
  • Chemotherapy drugs for cancer treatment

But remember, these medications can be life-saving. Instead of changing or stopping them, you can try some home remedies to increase saliva flow and drink plenty of water.

Let your doctor know that you’re having chronic dry mouth problems. They may be able to switch your medicine or give you other recommendations.

Tobacco, Drugs, and/or Alcohol Habits Impact Your Salivary Glands

closeup of a hand pouring mouthwash into a cup

Just like with other aspects of your health, your diet impacts your body’s natural saliva production. The healthier you are, the more evenly the salivary glands work (not too much, not too little, juuuust right!).

Other habits, like tobacco use, change how your body produces saliva. Smoking cigarettes can produce a Pavlovian reflex, causing you to drool. In the long-term, you end up with halitosis (bad breath) and daily dry mouth.

Recreational drugs and prescriptions like muscle relaxants do the same thing.

Alcohol is acidic, meaning it tends to dehydrate your body faster than other liquids. Even mouthwash with alcohol can lead to dry mouth.

This is why we urge you to consider eliminating whatever you consider your bad habits to be. It will surely improve your dry mouth while improving your overall well being.

Treating Dry Mouth Caused by Your Habits

It’s also worth mentioning that chronic tobacco, drug, or alcohol use almost always leads to tooth decay and dangerous health conditions.

But if you’re ready to quit, your doctor will have suggestions to make the process easier.

Keep in mind that dry mouth is a common symptom that goes along with withdrawal. As you quit your old habits, you may notice a burning sensation and sore throat when you swallow. These are all temporary discomforts that will lead to better health in the long run.

Drink more water and stay hydrated to help this feeling go away faster. And don’t give up! Normal salivary gland responses are a sure thing after you leave your bad habits behind.

Your Nighttime Breathing Habits May Affect Your Saliva Production

If you’re a mouth breather, you definitely have awoken to a dry mouth. It’s uncomfortable, and you may not know what to prevent it, since it happens while you sleep.

Overall, sleeping with your mouth open isn’t the best way to rest.

Next, we’ll discuss with you some of the reasons you breathe through your mouth when you sleep.

Causes of Mouth Breathing

If you usually don’t snore, but your partner is complaining of your recent new habit, your sinuses might be clogged. When your nose is too dry or full to breathe well, you breathe through your mouth instead.

It’s easy to fix if you can figure out what’s going on in your sinuses. Allergies, a sinus infection, or a cold are the usual culprits.

However, if it’s been going on for a while, it may be related to sleep disorders. People with sleep conditions like obstructive sleep apnea or bruxism (teeth grinding) don’t always know they have an issue at first.

Snoring is one major red flag; dry mouth and morning headaches are others. But don’t worry; you don’t have to sleep apart from your significant other so they can sleep. You might just need a night guard.

Possible Solution: Night Guard

If your mouth breathing results from specific medical conditions, a mouth guard may be able to help with the symptoms.

Keep in mind: it won’t solve the underlying cause of mouth breathing. But it will position your mouth and jaw to make sleeping more natural, reducing the occurrence of mouth breathing.

A visit your doctor to discover what’s going on below the surface is the best next step. If you have sleep apnea, they may prescribe a CPAP machine to regulate your breathing.

Wearing a mouth guard at night can reduce the side effects of mouth breathing, including cottonmouth.

OTC kits and cheap molds may seem tempting, but a lot of people find them uncomfortable, causing more pain rather than reducing it.

Using an oral appliance that fits comfortably takes away this problem. Check out our tips to make sleeping with a night guard more comfortable for you.

Upgrading to a Better Mouth Guard is Easy

A lot of people use cheaper store-bought mouth guards as an alternative to a dental visit. However, there’s a middle route you can take that gives you the best of both worlds.

Shopping at an online dental lab like JS Dental Lab lets you order a custom-made professional night guard which just a few simple steps. In fact, you never have to leave the house (except to go to the mailbox!)

We make custom-made night guards just for you.

All you do is create an impression of your mouth with the mold we send out. Once we receive it, our experts design a guard that meets your individual needs while being comfortable and affordable.


When you experience physical, mental, and dental issues, xerostomia (dry mouth) is almost always a sign. After all, our salivary glands are sensitive to bodily changes.

Sleep apnea, bruxism, medications, and even anxiety can impact your saliva flow. If left untreated, dry mouth leads to a host of other problems. It can affect your sense of taste and overall oral health.

We want to assure you that most mild dry mouth issues improve when you drink enough water and eat right.

For more severe problems, like bruxism, treatment like a custom mouth guard from JS Dental Lab is the next step.

You, too, can stop waking up with a mouth full of cotton when you contact JS Dental Lab along with trying these other dry mouth remedies.

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