BITING YOUR TONGUE DURING SLEEP.
Why it’s happening and what you can do to protect your tongue from damage
“I bite my tongue in my sleep. Why?”
Tongue biting is a common problem. So many people bite their tongue while eating, speaking or sleeping. Biting your tongue when sleeping is irritating, especially after you wake up. The pain can frustrate you. The damage done to the tongue can be quite painful and even visible. People who bite their tongue while sleeping commonly bite it on the sides or on its tip. Although this problem may start at childhood, it can also start at teenage or adult stages of life. Severe tongue biting problems can lead to tongue scalloping, soreness and ulcers. Tongue biting may cause pain while speaking and eating.
Tongue or cheek biting prevention
Although the most common tongue biting cases are when eating or talking, tongue biting while sleeping is also a possible scenario. You may have noted some pain on your tongue or general soreness after you wake up. Many people are asking questions such as “why do I bite my tongue during sleep?”. It is a common question on online forums. This is a good indication that the problem is severe enough and common enough that people are needing to know more about biting tongue while sleeping. It is a problem that has frustrated many for quite some time.
What causes biting the tongue when sleeping?
“I bite my tongue in my sleep. Why?”
Biting the tongue while sleeping is not abnormal if it occurs once in a while. It is normal to accidentally bite your tongue while sleeping. However, if it becomes a frequent scenario, it is a problem that requires action. There are several reasons that may be the cause of biting your tongue when in sleep. One common cause is when your tongue is bigger than it should be. In this case, it is a frequent occurrence to accidentally bite it while eating or talking.
There are other causes of the same other than disproportional size of the tongue. They include; rhythmic disorder, nocturnal seizures and sleep bruxism. All these lead to involuntary tongue biting. Let us look at each one of them briefly.
1.) Nocturnal seizures (nighttime seizures)
Having seizures especially during the night can induce biting the tongue. If a person has tonic –clinic seizure he/she is likely to experience some biting on parts of the tongue, especially the edges. This happens without conscious consent. Seizure is a is a state in which a person has lost consciousness, jerking movements are seen and the muscles stiffen. Some seizures however might be calm and therefore harder to be noted. Tongue biting is so common in people suffering from seizures that it is listed as a symptom of seizures.
Some people experience seizures when they sleep. Although the condition is known as nocturnal seizures, they can occur at any time provided you are sleeping. When experiencing a seizure, you lose consciousness and involuntarily jerk your limbs. You may also lose control of your bladder or bowel. Other seizures like the frontal lobe epilepsy are calm. In both cases, you may bite your tongue causing injury to it.
People suffering from nocturnal seizures may not have any other symptom during the day making it hard to determine the cause of the tongue injuries. However, the condition can be diagnosed by observing brainwaves. Treatment for this condition includes prescription medication. Once taken, the biting stops.
2.) Rhythmic movement disorder.
The second potential reason for biting your tongue while sleeping is rhythmic movement disorder. Rhythmic movement disorder involves banging of the head, truck movements, rocking and rolling. They are mostly common in children. It does not always result to injuries, but when severe it can lead to tongue injuries and biting. This is a neurological disorder that mostly affects children. It involves repeated movements of the head and neck. The movements are involuntary and usually occur before and during sleep. It could last about 15 minutes. Due to the involuntary movements, the victim suffers from various injuries, among them tongue injuries caused by tongue biting. In serious but rare cases, brain and eye damage occurs.
The movements usually go unnoticed by the victim since they do not cause much pain. They only come to know about the problem after noticing the injuries on their tongue or other parts of the body. In most cases, the problem disappears as the child grows up so medical treatment may not be necessary. In adults, controlled sleep restrictions or medical drugs may be used to treat the condition.
3.) Teeth grinding or bruxism.
Sleeping bruxism is another cause of tongue biting when in sleep. In most cases, it is accompanied by other sleeping disorders such as sleep apnea which causes breathing pauses. Snoring is also a common problem that comes with teeth grinding. People with the habit of grinding their teeth while sleeping may accidentally bite their tongues.
Other causes of tongue biting include Lyme disease, swollen tongue ulcers, tobacco chewing and side effects of some medications.
4.) Sleep Apnea
This is a condition where you experience shallow breathes or frequent pauses while breathing. In such cases, the tongue relaxes and can slip between the teeth, resulting in injury to the tongue. Doctors can prescribe treatment for sleep apnea. If the treatment is effective, the tongue biting will also stop.
5.) Lyme Disease
This disease negatively affects the brain and the nervous system. Since the brain will not be functioning normally, it sends out wrong signals to the muscles and nerves thus causing involuntary movements when you are asleep. Such movements can cause you to bite your tongue when you are asleep.
6.) Drug Use such as MDMA (ecstasy)
Taking MDMA (ecstasy) is a synthetic, psychoactive drug that acts as a stimulant and increases energy and pleasure. Many people have damaged their tongue, gums and cheeks from taking MDMA (ecstasy). The drug can increase anxiety and the tongue biting can even feel pleasurable while on drugs. However, the after damage can be most troublesome.
7.) Effect of Medication
Some prescribed medications such as antidepressants may react negatively with some people thus causing tongue biting during sleep. Once the medication is changed, the biting usually stops.
8.) Dentures that are not fitted properly can cause you to bite your tongue while sleeping.
More on Nighttime Tongue Biting
Nighttime tongue biting is a condition that has disturbed many people leaving them frustrated and seeking answers. Everyone has bitten their tongue at one point or another but this is mostly accidental and happens mostly when eating meals or when talking. Once in a while, it can happen while sleeping but this is normal. It can be due to having a disproportionally bigger tongue or having a set of misaligned teeth. Nighttime tongue biting becomes a problem when it is a habit.
How common is it?
Tongue biting during sleep is common around the world. Some people are not aware of it yet since it can be hard to determine the problem especially when it is not as a result of an underlying illness. It may take a short while before the problem is detected. Millions of people around the world suffer from tongue biting at night due to one reason or another including the ones discussed above.
To determine approximately how many people suffer from nighttime tongue biting, we could look at the number of people suffering from bruxism, epilepsy and sleep apnea which are just few of the causes of tongue biting. 1 in 3 people suffer from excessive teeth grinding. Millions of people suffer from epilepsy with over 2 million found in the United States. Sleep apnea has more than 20 million victims in the United States with millions more found all over the world. If all these people suffer from excessive tongue biting frequently, then we may have millions of people experiencing nighttime tongue biting.
Damages Caused by Tongue Biting
1. Morsication lingarum
In frequent cases of tongue biting, the lateral sides of the tongue are affected and you develop a condition known as Morsication lingarum which only affects the tongue’s lateral sides.
2. Bleeding may occur when the biting is frequent and cuts into the tongue
3. Tongue ulcers can form as a result of tongue biting. They usually heal within 10 days
4. Your tongue may be sore after frequent biting thus making you uncomfortable
All these may make it hard for you to eat certain types of foods especially spicy ones. Speaking may become difficult and chewing food may be difficult. This becomes frustrating when you are hungry but cannot eat normally.
Prevent Damage from Tongue Biting
While biting cannot be controlled, there are measures you can take to prevent damage resulting from this habit. One of the most effective prevention methods is to wear a soft, thin custom-made night guard on both the lower and upper teeth arches.
Do not go out and buy any night mouth guard you see since one that does not fit properly can cause further oral damage. You can visit your dentist so that he can take your dental impressions, create a model and then send it out to a dental lab for it to be made specifically for you or for a more affordable alternative purchase online.
Treating Tongue Damage
If you have experienced any damages resulting from tongue biting, you can take measures to heal the tongue first as you take steps to prevent further damage. Some of the methods you can use include:
1. Using salt solution
This helps to kill bacteria and aids the tongue in the healing process. The solution should be warm with small amounts of salt. Hot water will increase pain and discomfort in the tongue.
2. Ice cubes
They help in reducing any swelling and they also numb nerves on the tongue this reducing pain and soreness
3.Avoid eating spicy foods until the tongue heals.
4. PREVENT FURTHER DAMAGE Wear soft dental night guards on both your upper and lower teeth. Choose thin 1mm guards so that they are unobtrusive and easy to sleep with. You will want custom fitted guards for the most comfort.
Preventing tongue biting in sleep.
The best way to prevent tongue biting problems is by treating the cause or knowing how to avoid it. If the cause of tongue biting is a medical condition it can be treated. The following are the treatment used for different causes.
Treatment for rhythmic disorder.
Cognitive behavior therapy is recommended for people suffering from sleep apnea. Rhythmic movements is usually associated with children and it tends to disappear as the child grow older. It therefore my not require pharmacological treatment.
Treatment for seizure.
The normal medication for seizure is given. Brain wave monitoring is encouraged. If treated, it will prevent tongue biting. There are several medications for tonic-clonic seizure. Going for vagus nerve stimulation device may also reduce the chances of seizure occurrence.
Treatment for bruxism.
Treating bruxism require you to treated the underlying cause. Cognitive behavior therapy is recommended. It helps in dealing with anxiety and stress which are major causes of bruxism. Ensuring that your mind is relaxed before going to bed can greatly reduce the chances of bruxism.
Protecting your tongue during sleep using a night mouth guard.
Regardless of the causes of tongue biting, there are ways you can protect your tongue from more damage by using mouth guards. These are plastic mouth appliances made to fit over the teeth. They are meant to reduce the damage effect of the teeth to the tongue should it be caught between them. The mouth guards are also referred to as night dental guards. Wearing dental guards is the best way to prevent damage to the tongue. Mouth guards are of several types:
Standard & boil/bite athletic mouth guard: These guards are completely different than dental night guards.
These are the mouth guards used by persons who play sports. They are made from tough plastic and either cannot be adjusted or conform to your mouth by using hot water and manual manipulation. They are available in most sports stores and are NOT recommended for wearing at night.
Standard dental night guard:
These are one size fits all, mass produced night guards designed for nighttime use. They are largely seen as too bulky, ineffective and uncomfortable though they are affordable.
Boil and bite mouth guards
These are made from a special kind of plastic that allows you to semi custom-fit them. They’re softened by hot water and then adjusted to fit your mouth. They are available in most CVS or Walgreens stores.
Custom-fitted mouth guards.
These are made in a dental lab to fit your mouth. The dentist takes an impression of our teeth and then creates a model. The model is then sent to the lab for designing or you can order online and take your own dental impression in the convenience of your own home. Your dental impression is sent to the Sentinel dental lab using our convenient mail-order system.
It is always best to consult a dentist before buying a night guard. He/she will help you determine the best mouth guard for you, especially is your tongue biting is being caused by seizure disorder.
The damage from tongue biting can be avoided. The best way is to know the cause and then take the measures for preventing more harm on your tongue. If you notice that you are experiencing soreness on your tongue, or you are having painful spots you should make an appointment with your dentist and make sure to use a dental night guard to prevent any damage.