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How To Quit Biting Tongue In Sleep

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Update: June 14, 2023
5 min read

Written by

Arun Das
Content Writer
Biting Tongue In Sleep

Humans’ jaws are relatively powerful, and occasionally biting the tongue while chewing food in a hurry or getting hit in the face produces instant and severe pain. But some people are chronic tongue-biters.

These people bite their tongues in sleep or when stressed, which can be equally painful. Biting tongue in sleep can develop ulcers, redness, excessive bleeding, pus, or lacerations. Therefore, it’s important to seek treatment for tongue biting in sleep, and to do so, you must know what causes tongue biting while sleeping.

What Causes Tongue Biting While Sleeping?

Though unconscious, an underlying medical condition might lead to tongue biting in sleep, and there are several reasons for what causes tongue biting while sleeping. Following are some common causes that can lead to tongue biting.


Bruxism is a movement disorder characterised by excessive grinding of the teeth or clenching of the jaw, which can cause tongue biting. Although it is not life-threatening, bruxism can influence dental problems by affecting the teeth and jaws, causing soreness, pain, and injury.

Specialists often point to too much stress and certain personality traits as the causes of bruxism. This condition can occur during the day or at night and affects adults and children.

Facial Muscle Spasms

Facial and jaw muscle spasms or jerks, known as facio-mandibular myoclonus, is a parasomnia characterised by sudden muscle spasms. This condition often happens with recurrent nocturnal tongue biting, which can be misdiagnosed for nocturnal seizures, such as epilepsy and sleep bruxism.  

Including nine study reports, facio-mandibular myoclonus is a rare and under-recognized cause of nocturnal tongue biting. And it is found to be more common in males, with ages ranging around 48 years. 

Illicit Drug Use

In developing countries like India, substance abuse is a growing problem. Illicit drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, cannabis, and brown sugar have an indirect negative effect on teeth, cheeks and tongue. 

These drugs can cause dry mouth, grinding or clenching of teeth, numb mouth, cheek biting, lip biting, tongue biting, sensitive teeth, and difficulty opening the mouth. Moreover, overdosing on drugs tends to cause nausea, hallucinations, depression, and tremors.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial organism transmitted through a bite of an infected tick. This disease is divided into three stages: early localised, early disseminated, and late. 

Neurological complications often occur in early disseminated Lyme disease. The red ring-like expanding rash distinguishes the early localized disease. The early disseminated disease comprises symptoms like joint and muscle pain, flu-like symptoms, paralysis or involuntary tremor, and many others. 

Nighttime Seizures

Nocturnal seizures can mimic parasomnias because disorganized bodily movements, staring, unresponsiveness, vocalizations, and confusing behaviour are common to both groups of disorders. And thus, it can be a common cause of tongue biting. However, nocturnal seizures with extremely bizarre behaviours are common, but they are routinely misdiagnosed.

Rhythmic Movement Disorder

Rhythmic movement disorder affects a person in a state of drowsiness or asleep. The disorder consists of repetitive stereotypic movements, such as head banging or body rocking, that recur every second and may last from a few minutes to hours. 

In addition, these movements may be rapid and may cause tongue biting. For example, in 1993, a case of a 2 year old girl with repeated nocturnal tongue biting due to rhythmic movements of the jaw was associated with body rocking.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterised by the complete collapse of the airway or partial destruction, and bruxism is a movement disorder characterised by excessive teeth grinding or jaw clenching. 

Though sleep apnea does not cause tongue biting, it is common in many people with sleep apnea. The relationship between sleep apnea and bruxism depends on the severity of sleep apnea, which can cause tongue biting. 

Symptoms of Tongue Biting While Sleeping

It’s not always easy to determine that a person has been biting their tongue when asleep. However, suddenly biting tongue in sleep can leave certain signs, making it easier to identify the symptoms of tongue biting while sleeping. The symptoms include:

  • Bleeding tongue
  • Swelling and sensitivity of the cut tongue
  • Cut marks on the tongue
  • Cuts on the inner cheeks and tongues

Tongue Biting Treatment

Treatment for biting tongue in sleep depends on the underlying conditions. For instance, if a person is biting tongue in sleep because of bruxism, it can be managed by appropriate intervention, one of which might include appliance therapy. 

Similarly, nighttime seizures and epilepsy can be treated based on severity. According to a study, Recent advances in Epilepsy Research in India 2017, it can be treated with ayurvedic and botanical drugs, life modification, anti-seizure medications, or surgery.

Furthermore, minor tongue injuries usually heal quickly without any medical intervention. But if you develop an ulcer, redness, excessive bleeding, pus, or lacerations, then repair of a tongue injury requires proper medical attention with a range of abilities and specialities.

How to Stop Biting While Sleeping?

If a person has experienced tongue biting in sleep, some things can be done to prevent it in the future. Following are a few ways how to stop biting while sleeping.

Start With a Night Guard for Protection First

Mouthguard, also known as a gum shield, is a protective appliance. It is used to protect gums and teeth from knocks and impacts. 

Sports players and athletes commonly wear mouth guards to help absorb shocks between the upper and lower teeth and jaws, reducing the risk of a concussion and other injuries. Professionals believe that mouth guards can protect the mouth, cheeks, and tongue from clenching and biting.

Sleep Studies 

As mentioned before, treatment for tongue biting in sleep depends on the underlying conditions. And sleep studies can help the doctor diagnose sleep-related disorders such as sleep apnea and sleep-related seizure disorders.

The most common type of sleep study record brain waves and monitor the heart rate, breathing, and oxygen level in the blood during a full night of sleep. Later, depending on the sleep test results, the doctors will develop a treatment plan for any diagnosed sleep disorder accordingly.

Stress Reduction Techniques

Stress, anxiety, and depression can lead to one physical manifestation: teeth grinding. In addition, most research has focused on anxiety and depression, and their evidence reports that trait somatic anxiety and muscular tension are associated with chronic bruxism.

Therefore, to reduce tongue biting in sleep, focus on reducing stress. Relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, yoga, and mindfulness help manage various stress.

See Your Dentist

It might seem confusing, but depending on the conditions, a dentist can help with oral health issues like bruxism. Moreover, dentists and physicians work together in treating conditions related to airflow, including obstructive sleep apnea: according to formerly shared scientific evidence, a condition related to tongue biting in sleep.

When to See Your Doctor?

Humans’ jaws are relatively powerful, and suddenly biting the tongue in sleep can lead to serious injury. And though minor tongue injuries may heal quickly without medical intervention, severely injured tongues need immediate attention. In addition, consistent tongue biting in sleep might develop ulcer, redness, excessive bleeding, pus, or lacerations which requires proper medical attention with a range of abilities and specialities.

Final Words

An underlying medical condition can lead to tongue biting in sleep. And tongue biting can leave certain signs, which makes it easier to identify symptoms of tongue biting. 

Furthermore, there are ways to keep yourself from biting your tongue in sleep. However, it won’t reduce the habit, thus requiring proper medical attention. If you find yourself biting your tongue in sleep, talk to a doctor regarding the causes, treatment, and preventions.


What is tongue biting a symptom of?

During sleep, many people bite their tongues. A condition that causes facial muscle spasms or seizures may cause tongue biting at night. People who bite their tongues run the risk of getting infections, ulcers, and a condition on their tongues known as “scalloping.”

Is biting your tongue serious?

People who bite their tongues run the risk of getting infections, ulcers, and a condition on their tongues known as “scalloping.” So if you notice that you are biting your tongue, you must get help.

How do you heal your tongue after biting it?

Rinse your mouth thoroughly to remove any blood. Next, apply a cold compress near the injury to reduce swelling or pain.


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Written by

Arun Das
Content Writer
With a Master's Degree in Mass Communication and nearly two decades of professional expertise in crafting healthcare articles, he possesses a wealth of experience and knowledge in the field.

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