Chewing on Tongue While Sleeping: Causes and Solutions

Do you wake up with a sore or bleeding tongue? You’re not alone. Many people chew their tongue while sleeping. This can be due to muscle spasms, seizures, Lyme disease, or drug use. Although it seems small, tongue chewing at night can cause serious tongue injuries. This includes nocturnal tongue biting and a condition called “scalloping” on the tongue.

But, the good news is, you can find relief. By dealing with teeth grinding or other issues, you can stop tongue self-injury during sleep. It’s vital to get treatment and protect your tongue at night.

Key Takeaways

  • Chewing on the tongue while sleeping can have various underlying causes, including facial muscle spasms, seizures, and neurological disorders.
  • Tongue biting during sleep can lead to pain, swelling, ulcers, infections, and a condition called “scalloping” on the tongue.
  • Identifying and treating the root cause, such as bruxism or sleep apnea, is key to preventing tongue injuries during sleep.
  • Protective dental devices like custom-fitted mouthguards can help reduce tongue damage from nighttime teeth grinding.
  • Stress management techniques and lifestyle changes can also help prevent unconscious tongue biting while sleeping.

Understanding Tongue Biting During Sleep

Prevalence and Consequences

Tongue biting during sleep is common but its numbers aren’t exact. It affects many people. About 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy. Nighttime seizures in this condition can lead to biting your tongue.

Teeth grinding at night (bruxism) leads to tongue biting while sleeping. But, we don’t fully understand how this connection works.

The effects of tongue biting while sleeping can be serious. They include ulcers, infections, and an odd pattern on the tongue. This pattern can show if you bite your tongue often.

If you often bite your tongue when asleep, you should get help.

Identifying the Signs

It’s hard to know if you bite your tongue in sleep. But, certain signs of tongue biting during sleep can tip you off. Look out for:

  • Tongue bleeding
  • Redness or swelling of the tongue
  • Pain in the tongue
  • Cuts or marks on the tongue
  • Ulcers on the tongue
  • Raw, scalloped edges on the tongue

Recognizing these symptoms of nighttime tongue biting is key. It can help you get the right care. This can stop more damage and pain.

Bruxism: A Common Culprit

Bruxism is teeth grinding and clenching. Many people do it when they sleep. If you do it when awake, it’s often because of stress. This can make your jaw hurt. Some may even chew their tongue or cheek when they’re stressed.

Awake Bruxism and Its Triggers

Being stressed or anxious can make you grind or clench your teeth when you’re awake. This is how some people cope with tough feelings. It can cause jaw pain. Chewing on your tongue or cheek is a way some handle stress.

Sleep Bruxism and Its Effects

Grinding teeth in sleep affects kids and young adults a lot. Almost half of all children have done it at some point. It could be because of new teeth, stress, or other issues. This habit can lead to headaches, tooth damage, and jaw problems.

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Managing Bruxism with Night Guards

Night guards help against teeth grinding. They protect your teeth from the strong forces. JS Dental Lab makes night guards that fit well. They also keep your tongue safe while you sleep.

Facial Muscle Spasms and Involuntary Movements

Tongue biting during the night can happen due to muscle spasms. It’s usually in kids and is known as “facio-mandibular myoclonus.” Those with facial muscle spasms during sleep can’t stop their face and jaw muscles. This makes their chin shake and could lead to involuntary jaw movements at night and tongue biting. It’s a neurological disorder and needs medical care, often with medicines.

Rhythmic Movement Disorder in Children

Rhythmic movement disorder occurs when sleepy or asleep. It makes someone do the same body moves again and again. This mostly affects kids and might lead to sleep-related tongue biting in children and involuntary movements during sleep in kids. Kids usually get better on their own. But, if they’ve hurt themselves during sleep, it’s good to see a doctor.

Facio-mandibular MyoclonusPrimarily seen in childrenUncontrollable facial and jaw muscle spasms leading to involuntary tongue bitingMedical treatment, typically with medications
Rhythmic Movement DisorderMostly affects childrenRepetitive, rapid body movements during sleep causing tongue bitingChildren typically outgrow the condition, but medical consultation is advised if injury occurs

Underlying Medical Conditions

Nighttime seizures can lead to tongue biting. People with epilepsy might bite their tongue without knowing it. This happens during a seizure when they lose control. Close to 50 million people have epilepsy. So nocturnal seizures and tongue biting and injury are important to know about.

Lyme Disease and Its Neurological Implications

Lyme disease can affect the nervous system and body reflexes. This might make someone bite their tongue or cheeks by accident. Lyme disease also shows up with sensitivities, tiredness, and more. It can cause issues like slurred speech, diarrhea, and changing vision. Plus, there might be tongue biting.

Illicit Drug Use and Its Impact

MDMA is a drug known as “molly” or ecstasy. It makes people feel very happy. But, it can also make them grind their teeth. This can hurt the teeth, cheeks, and tongue. Some people believe that MDMA makes you want to bite or chew more. Studies on rats show that it might make it hard to not clench your jaw shut.

MDMA and Bruxism

MDMA leads to a problem called bruxism. This is when people grind, clench, or bite their teeth by accident. It can badly hurt the teeth, cheeks, and tongue. The happy feelings from MDMA might make you want to bite or chew more. And, it could make it tough to not keep your jaw clenched. So, your tongue might get hurt while taking this drug.

Smoking and Alcohol Consumption

Using drugs is not the only way to get bruxism and hurt your tongue. Smoking and drinking a lot can also lead to these problems. The stuff in cigarettes and alcohol can keep you active inside while sleeping. This can make you move your mouth and face without knowing it. As a result, you might grind your teeth or bite your tongue when you sleep. People who smoke or drink too much are more likely to have these problems.

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Chewing on Tongue While Sleeping

Sleep Apnea and Its Role

Sleep apnea doesn’t make you bite your tongue directly. Yet, it is often linked to this problem. People with this condition might have bigger tongues. Or their mouth muscles might relax too much during sleep. This can move the tongue in a way that it’s easier to bite during sleep.

Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea

Good news is, there are ways to help with sleep apnea and stop nighttime biting. Losing weight, not smoking, and using a CPAP machine work well. For some, surgery might be needed to help air flow better during sleep. By treating sleep apnea, you can lower the chances of biting your tongue at night.

Diagnosis and Treatment Approaches

To treat tongue biting, first we must look for the root cause. You can ask your doctor for help. They might send you to a sleep specialist for a study. This sleep study watches your body closely while you sleep. It can show what’s making you bite your tongue.

Sleep Studies and Professional Evaluation

Sleep studies offer great help. They check things like breathing and muscle action while you sleep. From these records, doctors can find out reasons for your tongue biting. This helps in finding the best way to stop it.

Mouthguards and Dental Appliances

For those who bite their tongue, a mouthguard helps a lot. But not all mouthguards are the same. Visit a dentist to get one that fits you perfectly. These special mouthguards keep your tongue safe from harm while you sleep.

Preventive Measures and Self-Care

Stress is a big cause of nighttime tongue biting. To avoid this, it helps to lower daily stress. You can do this by deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. Finding ways to manage anxiety helps too, especially techniques to deal with it healthily.

Avoiding drugs like MDMA and taking your medicines if needed are important. Also, quitting smoking and cutting back on drinking can make a big difference. These changes, plus getting into healthier routines, reduce the chances of tongue biting at night.

Stress Management Techniques

Relaxation is key in handling stress and preventing tongue biting. Deep breathing, meditation, and yoga are great for this. They lower stress and help in managing anxiety that leads to tongue chewing at night.

Lifestyle Changes and Habit Modifications

Reducing stress and changing habits can keep you from biting your tongue during sleep. This means avoiding things like alcohol and smoking. It’s also about sticking to your medical treatment plans. These steps help you avoid and manage tongue biting, leading to better sleep.


Chewing on your tongue while sleeping can happen because of many reasons. These can include teeth grinding, muscle spasms, or even serious health issues. It’s important to find out what’s causing it to stop it.

To fix this, you might need to see a doctor. They could help you figure out if there’s an underlying health problem. You might also benefit from wearing a mouthguard at night or finding ways to lower your stress. This holistic approach can make you feel better and improve your sleep and mouth health.

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If your tongue biting issue is linked to things like seizures, trouble breathing at night, or drugs, don’t worry. There are many ways to tackle this problem and get better sleep. By talking to your doctors and following their advice, you can beat this habit.


What are the common causes of tongue biting during sleep?

You might bite your tongue at night because of muscle spasms, seizures, or Lyme disease. Fixing these helps you not bite your tongue.

How common is tongue biting during sleep?

It’s hard to know how many people exactly bite their tongues. Experts think it happens to a lot of folks. If you often bite your tongue at night, you can get ulcers and tongue infections.

How can I identify if I’m biting my tongue while sleeping?

Knowing you’ve bitten your tongue in your sleep is tricky. Signs like bleeding or cuts on your tongue can tell you it happened. You might also feel pain or see your tongue looking red or swollen.

What is the connection between bruxism and tongue biting during sleep?

Bruxism is when you grind your teeth a lot, especially at night. This can make you bite your tongue while you try to deal with stress or bad feelings.

How can facial muscle spasms and involuntary movements cause tongue biting?

Sometimes, muscle spasms in your face or jaw might make you bite your tongue. This often happens in children. They might also move a lot during sleep, which can also lead to biting their tongues.

How do underlying medical conditions contribute to tongue biting during sleep?

Nighttime seizures and Lyme disease are two big reasons you might bite your tongue at night. These problems affect how your body moves when you sleep.

How can substance use impact tongue biting during sleep?

Drugs like MDMA can make you clench your teeth and grind them. This can badly hurt your tongue. Smoking and drinking too much can also lead to biting your tongue at night.

What is the relationship between sleep apnea and tongue biting?

Sleep apnea doesn’t directly make you bite your tongue. But it often happens in people with this condition because their tongues or mouth muscles relax too much while sleeping.

How can I get help for tongue biting during sleep?

To help stop biting your tongue, find out what’s causing it. First, see a doctor. They might send you to a specialist for a sleep study. Then, they might make a mouthguard to protect your tongue while you sleep.

What can I do to prevent tongue biting during sleep?

Stress less and avoid drugs. Take your medicine like you’re supposed to. And if you smoke or drink, try to cut down. Doing these things can help you stop biting your tongue without even knowing.