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What Causes Bit Tongue in Sleep and How to Prevent It

Published by Chris Riley on May 16, 2023

What Causes Bit Tongue in Sleep and How to Prevent It: Have you ever woken up with a painful sore on your tongue? If so, you may have experienced the uncomfortable phenomenon of biting your tongue while sleeping. Not only is it painful, but it can also be a sign of underlying health issues that should not be ignored. If you’re struggling with tongue biting in your sleep, read on to understand why it happens and what you can do to prevent it.

bit tongue in sleep

Understanding the Phenomenon of Biting Your Tongue in Sleep

While it may seem like a rare occurrence, biting your tongue while sleeping is actually quite common. It can happen to anyone at any age, and the reasons behind it are varied. The tongue is a muscular organ, and when we sleep, our body’s natural reflexes that keep us from biting ourselves or choking may not work as effectively. Additionally, some people may be predisposed to tongue biting due to the size or shape of their mouth or tongue.

The Science Behind Sleep and Tongue Biting

To understand why tongue biting happens during sleep, we need to look at how the body functions during this period. During sleep, our brain sends signals to other parts of the body to slow down and relax, effectively “shutting down” voluntary movements. However, our face and mouth muscles can still move involuntarily, resulting in biting our tongue, lips, or cheeks. This often occurs during the deep sleep stage, when our muscles are more relaxed.

Common Reasons for Biting Your Tongue in Sleep

There are various reasons why you may be biting your tongue in your sleep. The most common causes include: stress and anxiety, alcohol consumption, medication side effects, dental issues, and sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. Regardless of the cause, if this is a regular occurrence, it’s important to identify the root cause and take steps to prevent it.

One common cause of tongue biting during sleep is stress and anxiety. When we are stressed or anxious, our body’s natural response is to tense up, which can cause us to clench our jaw and bite our tongue. To combat this, it’s important to practice stress-reducing techniques such as meditation or deep breathing exercises before bed.

Alcohol consumption can also increase the likelihood of tongue biting during sleep. Alcohol is a muscle relaxant, which can cause our tongue and other muscles to become more relaxed than usual. This can lead to involuntary movements, such as biting our tongue. To prevent this, it’s important to limit alcohol consumption before bed.

Medication side effects can also cause tongue biting during sleep. Certain medications, such as those used to treat anxiety or depression, can cause muscle spasms or involuntary movements. If you suspect that your medication may be causing your tongue biting, talk to your doctor about adjusting your dosage or switching to a different medication.

Dental issues, such as a misaligned bite or missing teeth, can also contribute to tongue biting during sleep. If you have dental issues, it’s important to see a dentist to address the problem and prevent further damage to your teeth and tongue.

Finally, sleep disorders such as sleep apnea can also increase the likelihood of tongue biting during sleep. Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep, causing them to wake up briefly and gasp for air. This can cause involuntary movements, such as biting the tongue. If you suspect that you may have sleep apnea, it’s important to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

What does it mean if you bite your tongue in your sleep?

Biting your tongue in your sleep usually occurs due to involuntary movements or muscle spasms during sleep. It can be a result of various factors such as sleep disorders, stress, or even the position of your tongue while sleeping.

Potential Health Risks and Complications

Biting your tongue may seem like a minor inconvenience, but it can actually cause significant health issues if left untreated. These risks include:

Infections and Oral Health Issues

When you bite your tongue, it can create an open wound or sore that is susceptible to infection. Poor oral hygiene and a compromised immune system can also increase the risk of infection, which can lead to more severe complications.

It’s important to keep your mouth clean and practice good oral hygiene to prevent infections from developing. This includes brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing regularly, and using mouthwash to kill bacteria.

When should I be concerned about a bitten tongue?

You should be concerned about a bitten tongue if the injury is severe, causing excessive bleeding that doesn’t stop, severe pain, difficulty speaking or swallowing, or if the wound becomes infected. In such cases, it is advisable to seek medical attention.

Sleep Apnea and Tongue Biting

Some people may experience tongue biting as a symptom of sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by snoring, pauses in breathing, and interrupted sleep patterns. In these individuals, tongue biting may occur due to the tongue falling back in the throat, obstructing breathing, and causing other issues.

If you suspect that you may have sleep apnea, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider. They may recommend a sleep study to diagnose the condition and provide treatment options.

Impact on Sleep Quality

If you’re regularly biting your tongue in your sleep, it’s likely that you’re not getting the quality sleep that your body needs. This can lead to daytime sleepiness, lack of focus, and an increased risk of accidents and injuries.

Improving your sleep quality can help prevent tongue biting and other sleep-related issues. This includes practicing good sleep hygiene, such as establishing a regular sleep schedule, creating a relaxing sleep environment, and avoiding caffeine and electronics before bedtime.

Additionally, if you suspect that your tongue biting may be related to stress or anxiety, it’s important to speak with a mental health professional. They can provide support and guidance on managing these issues to improve your overall health and well-being.

Identifying the Root Cause of Your Tongue Biting

Tongue biting can be a painful and frustrating experience. It can happen to anyone, at any time, and can be caused by a variety of factors. To prevent tongue biting from happening, it’s important to identify the underlying cause. Here are some things to consider:

Analyzing Your Sleep Habits

Keeping a sleep diary can help you identify any patterns or triggers that may be causing you to bite your tongue. Note the time you go to bed, wake up, the quality of sleep, and other factors, such as caffeine intake, exercise, or alcohol consumption. Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea can also increase the likelihood of involuntary movements during sleep. If you suspect you may have a sleep disorder, speak with your healthcare provider about getting a sleep study.

Assessing Your Dental Health

Poorly fitting dentures or other dental problems can increase the likelihood of biting your tongue. Speak with your dentist to identify any issues that may be contributing to the problem. In addition, certain dental procedures such as braces or oral surgery can cause temporary changes in the mouth that may lead to tongue biting. Be sure to follow your dentist’s instructions for care following any dental procedure.

Evaluating Stress and Anxiety Levels

Stress and anxiety can affect the quality of your sleep, leading to a higher likelihood of involuntary movements. Consider practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing exercises. In addition, talking to a mental health professional can help you identify and manage sources of stress and anxiety in your life. They can also provide you with coping strategies to help you deal with stressful situations in a healthy way.

By taking the time to identify the root cause of your tongue biting, you can take steps to prevent it from happening in the future. Whether it’s improving your sleep habits, addressing dental issues, or managing stress and anxiety, there are many ways to reduce the likelihood of tongue biting. Remember, if you continue to experience tongue biting despite your best efforts, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

Effective Prevention Strategies and Remedies

There are several steps you can take to prevent tongue biting and ensure a good night’s rest:

Adjusting Your Sleep Position

If you notice that you’re regularly biting your tongue on one side, it may be due to your sleeping position. Try sleeping on your back or using a specialized pillow that supports your neck and head.

Using a Mouthguard or Oral Appliance

Wearing a mouthguard or oral appliance can help prevent tongue biting, especially for those who have sleep apnea or other dental issues. These devices help keep the tongue from falling back in the throat, thus minimizing the risk of obstruction.

Practicing Good Oral Hygiene

Keeping your mouth clean and healthy can also reduce the risk of tongue biting. Brush and floss regularly, and avoid consuming hard or tough foods before bedtime.


Tongue biting during sleep can be a frustrating and painful experience. However, by understanding the underlying causes and taking steps to prevent it, you can enjoy better sleep and minimize the risk of health complications. If you continue to experience tongue biting, speak with your healthcare provider to identify any underlying health issues and determine the most effective treatment options.

References and Sources

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