Biting Your Tongue In Your Sleep

biting tongue in sleepSleep should be a time for our bodies to rest and rejuvenate but unfortunately for some, sleep can be a time where they inflict pain on themselves without realizing. If you’re frequently waking up with oral pain, you could be biting your tongue in your sleep. This is not only irritating but if it is a chronic problem it can lead to ulcers, tongue scalloping, oral infections and soreness. Here are the causes, treatment and prevention strategies so that you can get yourself a good night’s rest.

Why Am I Biting My Tongue In My Sleep?

Tongue biting can be a symptom of many different conditions, some more serious than others. In order to understand the best way to prevent tongue biting while asleep, it’s helpful to know what is causing it.

Nocturnal Seizures

A seizure can be generally defined as a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain where brain cells either excite or stop other brain cells from sending messages. This leads to changes in behaviour and movement. Nocturnal or nighttime seizures cause abnormal movements and behaviours while sleeping. They are usually characterised by violent arm and leg movement, tongue-biting and urination. Having nighttime seizures may be an indicator of a seizure disorder, such as epilepsy.


Bruxism refers to when a person involuntarily grinds or clenches their teeth during their sleep. Often when people grind their teeth during sleep, they bite or scrape their tongue in the process. If someone is frequently grinding or clenching their teeth this can lead to intense pain or a swollen in the morning and throughout the day.

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Rhythmic Movement Disorder

Rhythmic Movement Disorder cause sufferers to experience sudden jerking movements or twitching while they sleep, usually in their head and neck. It occurs more commonly in children and can involve head banging, which leads to injuries in the eyes, brain and tongue.

Drug Use

The use of recreational drugs such as MDMA and other stimulants can lead to excessive grinding of the teeth and biting of the tongue. These types of drugs speed up activity in your central nervous system, causing an adrenaline rush. This excess of adrenaline makes you grind your teeth or bite your tongue and because the drugs act as a low-level anesthetic you often don’t realize the damage you’re causing. If you’ve taken drugs or are using them regularly this could cause you to bite your tongue in your sleep.

How Can I Treat A Bitten Tongue?

Apply ice to the affected area

Treating the area with ice will numb the tongue and reduce the pain, as well as help to reduce swelling and inflammation.

Rinse your mouth with salty water

If there is an open wound, it’s a good idea to rinse your mouth with warm, salty water for around twenty seconds. Repeat if necessary. This kills bacteria, prevents infection and speeds up the healing process.

Avoid spicy and hot foods

Eating spicy or hot foods, particularly if you have an open or fresh wound, will aggravate your pain. Try to eat soft foods that don’t require much chewing until your tongue heals.

See a doctor

If you suspect you’ve done serious damage to your tongue or your pain is severe, visit a medical professional.

How Can I Prevent Tongue-Biting In My Sleep?

A Sleep Study

If you suspect you’re experiencing seizures in your sleep or are concerned you have a seizure disorder, consider seeing a neurologist who can conduct a sleep study for you and determine what is going on in your brain while you’re asleep.

A Nightguard

Regardless of the cause, but particularly if you suffer from bruxism, then a nighttime mouthguard will help to protect your tongue from any further damage. The most effective way to prevent grinding, clenching or biting of the tongue is to purchase a custom-fitted mouthguard. These guards are moulded to fit your teeth and face and restrict movement in the mouth so you’re unable to grind or clench your teeth in a way that will hurt your tongue.

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Reduce Stress

Bruxism, and in some cases rhythmic movement disorder, is associated with high levels of stress and anxiety. Finding stress-management techniques and cognitive behavioural therapy can help to prevent sleep disorders such as these.

Avoid Drugs

Illicit drugs have a range of adverse effects on your health and one way in which they can cause damage is to your quality of sleep. Avoiding stimulants, particularly MDMA or ecstasy, is one way you can prevent biting your tongue in your sleep.