Biting Your Tongue in Sleep? Here's How to Break the Habit

The tongue is a small and mighty muscle, yet most of us have bitten and injured it at some point. Yet, most of us have bitten and injured it at some point. Tongue bites are often accidental and can happen in your sleep. However, if you are biting your tongue now and then, it might signify a hidden cause. In this article, we explore everything you need to know about tongue bites at night, along with why they happen, the symptoms, and remedies.

Causes for biting tongue in sleep

Biting one's tongue during sleep can be an unexpectedly painful experience, often leaving individuals puzzled about its cause. Several factors contribute to this, ranging from psychological stressors to physiological conditions. Understanding these underlying causes is essential for both prevention and effective management.


Anxiety and stress in our daily lives are among the most common causes of tongue bites. Anxiety may contribute to a loss of mindfulness and elevate stress hormone levels, potentially leading individuals to inadvertently bite their tongues during routine activities such as talking, eating, and sleeping. Also, long-standing anxiety can manifest as a teeth-grinding habit at night, another key cause of involuntary tongue bites as you sleep.

Misaligned teeth or jaw

When your teeth or jaw bones do not align properly, the tongue may be caught in between and get bitten. Protruding teeth, misaligned jaws, and temporomandibular joint (where the jaw connects to the skull) defects can affect the way our teeth align. Seeking professional assistance is advisable to address these alignment issues effectively.

Sleep bruxism

Bruxism is the act of grinding teeth involuntarily. Mainly seen at night, this habit can lead to sudden and frequent tongue scraps and deep bites. A common sign of sleep bruxism is scalloped tongue ends, swollen patches, and deep teeth marks.


Seizures are uncontrolled spikes in electrical activity between brain cells that produce muscular spasms and movements. Nighttime seizures may be indicative of epilepsy. During an epileptic fit, the jaw bones, head, and neck go into jerky movements, causing tongue bites. This can last for a few seconds to minutes. An attack can't be foreseen; however, taking prompt action can reduce the intensity of tongue bites.

Health conditions

Sleep apnea has been indirectly linked to tongue bites. Often seen in people with obesity with a larger-than-usual fatty tongue, sleep apnea patients carry a greater risk of frequent tongue bites at night. Additionally, sleep-related facial mandibular myoclonus (SRFMM), a rare condition characterized by sudden and uncontrollable twitching of the jaw muscles during sleep, can lead to accidental tongue biting. Such occurrences may result in bleeding, pain, scarring, and disturbances to sleep patterns.

Medications and drugs

Certain groups of medicines and recreational drugs can provide a surge of adrenaline rush in the body. When there's too much adrenaline, the body responds by sudden teeth grinds, forceful jaw clenches, and accidental tongue bites. MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine), a stimulant drug banned across many countries, can lead to sudden seizures and related tongue bites.

Symptoms of biting tongue in sleep

Many of us may bite our tongues at sleep and not know about it. If you wake up at night with pain and discomfort in your mouth, chances are you have bitten your tongue badly.

The symptoms vary depending on the severity of the bite. Mild bites can present as a dull, continuous pain in your tongue. Severe tongue bites can be more awful. They can bleed easily as the tongue is a highly vascular organ, this means it has a lot of blood vessels and a rich blood supply. You can identify severe tongue bites from deep cuts, indentations or wounds along the tongue surface.

Frequent tongue bites can grow into persistent ulcers and sores when left untreated. These invite oral infections and, in the most intense cases, may be accompanied by systemic symptoms like fever.

How to stop biting your tongue in sleep

Tongue biting in sleep is unnerving and may need professional attention. Here are some ways to help you break the habit:

  • Using mouthguards. Custom-made mouthguards, worn on both upper and lower teeth, are highly effective in preventing tongue biting during sleep. These guards fit snugly over the teeth, creating a barrier against grinding or clenching movements. They help minimize damage to the tongue and surrounding tissues. Both general dentists and orthodontists are proficient in crafting mouthguards, making it advisable to consult your dental practitioner before selecting one that suits your needs.
  • Stress reduction techniques. Practicing mindfulness is a great way to a calm and focused life. A simple way to start is by being alert to your surroundings, your body, and your mind. Seek help from experts to understand what might benefit you.
  • Dental checkups. If a tongue bite is rooted in jaw and teeth misalignment, addressing it is crucial. A dentist can assess the severity of misalignment and suggest suitable treatments, which may involve orthodontic methods like braces or clear aligners to realign the teeth.
  • Good oral hygiene. Maintaining good oral hygiene is key to preventing and treating tongue bites. Regular brushing and flossing reduce the risk of bacterial infections that can worsen tongue injuries. Using antiseptic mouthwash can help kill bacteria and aid in healing.
  • Proper sleep routine. A specialist in sleep medicine and sleep disorders can help you if you suffer from sleep apnea or nocturnal seizures. They can suggest mild lifestyle modifications, changes in your sleep posture, or surgery, all depending on the severity of your condition.
  • Surgery. At times, tongue alteration surgeries can be a last resort in cases of an abnormally large tongue. The decision depends on other presenting issues like difficulty breathing or frequent airway obstructions at night.


Accidental bites can happen to any of us. Tongue bite symptoms are often clearly visible and heal on their own. There is no need to worry unnecessarily; however, frequent involuntary tongue bites need a professional diagnosis for an underlying cause.

Polysomnography, a sleep study, is a test used to identify sleep problems. Polysomnography monitors brain waves, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, and breathing while you sleep. It also assesses jerks and body motions throughout sleep. Check with your healthcare professional to know more about this and whether you need one.

How to heal your tongue

Healing tongue bites can take time and patience. Here are 5 do's and don'ts to help it heal fast.

Tongue bites, especially at night, can be frustrating, often resulting in pain and discomfort. Although minor bites may heal on their own, seeking professional assistance becomes necessary for severe or non-healing injuries. It's essential to take proactive steps when required to prevent potential complications and ensure proper healing.


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