Biting the tongue while sleeping: symptoms, causes and treatment (2023)

You won't feel like saying anything but "ouch" after biting your tongue. This common problem mostly affects children, but it can also affect adults. While there are no statistics on how many people bite their tongue, experts say it happens to everyone from time to time.

Most of the time you accidentally bite your tongue while eating. However, tongue biting is also common while sleeping. Seizures and any condition that causes your facial muscles to spasm can cause you to bite your tongue at night.

People who bite their tongues are at risk of developing ulcers, infections and a condition called "scalloped" tongue. Therefore, it is important to seek treatment if you bite your tongue.

There are several reasons why you might bite your tongue in your sleep. Most likely, if a person bites his tongue during the day, then he is conscious. However, you are more likely to unconsciously bite your tongue at night. In most cases, an underlying medical condition leads to tongue biting while sleeping.


bruxism, or teeth grinding and clenching, is a common movement problem that can affect you while you sleep. It most commonly affects the teeth and jaws, causing pain, discomfort and injury. But bruxism can also cause a person to bite their tongue and cheeks. Doctors aren't sure what causes bruxism, but they think it has something to do with dreaming or perhaps beingawake in the dream.

facial muscle spasms

face and jawmuscle crampscan cause nocturnal tongue biting. This condition is more common in children and often causes the chin to twitch uncontrollably while sleeping.

People suffering from these spasms are unable to control their facial and jaw muscles while sleeping and often bite their tongue. This condition is also known as “faciomandibular myoclonus”.

illicit drug use

MDMA, also known as "molly" and ecstasy, is an illegal drug that induces extreme euphoria. It also seems to cause bruxism, which can cause serious damage to the teeth, cheeks and tongue.

Although experts don't know exactly what causes bruxism in people who have taken MDMA, some believe that MDMA increases the urge to bite or chew.Investigationin rats suggests that MDMA may lead to a decrease in the ability to hold the jaws open.


Lyme-BorreliosaIt is a disease that is not very well understood. But it seems to cause problems with this.central nervous systemand bodily reflexes. This can lead to accidentally biting your tongue or cheeks. Other signs of Lyme disease include:

  • abnormal sensitivity to heat and cold
  • fatigue
  • difficulty speaking
  • frequent diarrhea
  • vision changes
  • general pain and tingling

nocturnal seizures

At nightseizuresare a common cause of tongue biting. this withEpilepsylosing control of your body during a seizure. This can lead them to unconsciously bite their tongue. Bites usually occur on the tip and sides of the tongue. Around50 million people worldwidehave epilepsy.

rhythmic movement disorder

Rhythmic movement disorder occurs while a person is drowsy or asleep. It makes a person repeat body movements over and over again. Children are often affected by this disease. You can make them buzz, body movements like bobbing and head banging or rolling. These movements can be quick and make you bite your tongue.

sleep apnea

sleep apneaIt does not cause tongue biting, but tongue biting is common in many people with sleep apnea. This is because people with sleep apnea often have particularly large tongues or mouth muscles that relax abnormally during sleep.

Relaxed muscles and a large tongue can cause tongue biting. Other signs of sleep apnea are:

  • loud snore
  • shortness of breath during sleep
  • morning headache
  • excessive daytime sleepiness

It is not always easy to determine that you bit your tongue in your sleep. However, there are some signs that make nocturnal tongue biting easier to spot. These include:

  • bleeding tongue
  • Redness or swelling of the tongue
  • dor
  • Cuts or marks on the tongue
  • tongue ulcer
  • raw, jagged edges on the tongue

Treatment for biting tongue involves treating the underlying condition.

Those suffering from sleep bruxism or sleep apnea may benefit from using amouth guardat night. Talk to a dentist or doctor about which ones are best for your condition. Sleep apnea can also be treated with:

  • weight loss
  • stop smoking(This can be difficult, but a doctor can help you find a quit plan that's right for you.)
  • CPAP machine
  • Operation

If illicit drug use causes you to bite your tongue in your sleep, stopping the drug use is usually enough to stop the symptoms. If you need help stopping your medication or you still have health problems after stopping, consult a doctor.

Nocturnal seizures caused by epilepsy are best treated withanticonvulsant medications. Those who experience muscle spasms in the face and jaw at night may also benefit from anti-epileptic drugs,according to researchers.

Most children outgrow rhythmic movement disorder. However, if your child has injured himself in his sleep, you should talk to your pediatrician.

People with Lyme disease should follow their doctor's treatment plan. This usually involves a combination of antibiotics and supportive therapies to help reduce symptoms.

Tongue injuries usually heal quickly without medical intervention. However, if you notice an ulcer, redness, excessive bleeding, pus, or cuts, see a doctor.

If you've experienced biting your tongue while sleeping in the past, there are some things you can do to prevent this from happening in the future.

sleep study

As mentioned above, to treat tongue biting, you need to treat whatever underlying medical condition is causing the problem. Ask a doctor to recommend a specialist who can do the followingsleep studyit's a way to get to the bottom of your problem.

You will spend one or two nights in a sleeping accommodation. There, a sleep specialist records some of your bodily functions with electrodes and monitors.

Recordings of your brainwave activity, eye movement, muscle tone, heart rate, and breathing rate can help your doctor determine what's causing your tongue bite. They can recommend a treatment that is right for you.

mouth guard

For many tongue-biters, using one is usingmouth guardcan prevent future injuries. Since everyone's mouth is different, talk to a dentist or doctor about which type of mouthguard is best for you. You may want to get a custom mouthguard that fits your teeth perfectly. Or you can opt for a cheaper non-customized version.

reduces stress

One of the main causes of nighttime bruxism that leads to tongue biting is stress. To reduce the risk of biting your tongue, here's what to focus onreduce you aredaytime. If you find that you're feeling less calm than you'd like, perhaps try some relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.

Do not use illegal drugs

Avoid illegal drugs, including MDMA, which increase your risk of bruxism. The higher the dose and frequency of your MDMA use, the more likely you are to experience negative side effects.


If you take anti-seizure medications, there are ways to ensure you take them as prescribed to avoid seizures and tongue biting. If you find that you are still having seizures or biting your tongue while taking your medication, talk to your doctor about adjusting your dose.

Everyone bites their tongue from time to time. However, those who frequently bite their tongue in their sleep often have underlying medical conditions that need to be treated to alleviate symptoms. Tongue biting treatment involves treating existing conditions such as sleep apnea and epilepsy.

If you're not sure what's causing your tongue to bite, it might help to participate in a sleep study. Talk to a doctor about getting one and how it can benefit your sleep.


Is biting your tongue a symptom of something? ›

Frequent tongue-biting may be an indication of: Sleep apnea. Night seizures. Rhythmic movement disorder.

How do I stop biting my mouth when I sleep? ›

Some techniques that have proven successful for some people include:
  1. chewing gum to replace cheek chewing — your dentist will recommend sugarless.
  2. taking deep breaths when you feel the urge to chew on your cheek.
  3. identifying triggers that make the habit kick in, and then replacing the cheek biting with another activity.

How do you treat a bitten tongue? ›

Apply gauze or cloth with pressure to the site of the injury to stop the bleeding. Place ice or a cold pack wrapped in a thin cloth to the outside of the lips or mouth if there's any swelling. Call a doctor if bleeding doesn't stop or if you notice a visible deformity, signs of infection, or new bleeding.

Is biting your tongue a symptom of MS? ›

MS attacks cause lesions to form in your nervous system, and the symptoms you experience are based, in part, on where those lesions develop. Some people with MS experience involuntarily biting their tongue.

Why have I been biting my tongue in my sleep? ›

Common Causes

The top reasons someone may experience tongue biting during sleep include: Nighttime seizures. Grinding your teeth. Rhythmic movement disorder.

Why do I suddenly bite my tongue in my sleep? ›

Facial muscle spasms

People who experience these spasms are unable to control their facial and jaw muscles during sleep, and often bite their tongues. This condition is also called “faciomandibular myoclonus.”

What makes a person bite their tongue? ›

The biggest reason why you may bite your tongue while you eat is due to coordination. There's a part of the brain known as the pons that is responsible for controlling habitual actions like biting, chewing, swallowing, and more.

How long does a bitten tongue take to heal? ›

It may take several days or more than a week for the sore spot to heal completely. Gargling a warm saltwater solution may help ease pain and aid with healing. Severe bites or injuries to the tongue, however, may need medical attention.

What does it mean when I bite your tongue? ›

Refrain from speaking out, as in A new grandmother must learn to bite her tongue so as not to give unwanted advice, or I'm sure it'll rain during graduation. —Bite your tongue! This term alludes to holding the tongue between the teeth in an effort not to say something one might regret.

Can biting your tongue be serious? ›

The human jaw is very powerful, and accidentally biting your tongue (especially when your mouth is numbed) can lead to serious injury. A tongue that is severely injured or severed needs immediate attention. Professionals recommend seeking treatment within 8 hours of the injury to avoid permanent damage.


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