It’s common for people to take comfort from chewing gum during the day and often into the evening. Sleeping with gum in the mouth feels riskier by default, though. It transpires that this is indeed the case, as gum should always be removed before bed.
Chewing gum at night will damage teeth and keep you awake. Passively sleeping with gum in your mouth is no better as the gum will melt, causing various dangers. Swallowing gum can restrict breathing, and gum that slips from your mouth can stain sheets/pillows or get stuck in hair.
Many legends exist about chewing gum and its impact on the body, and not all of them are helpful. All the same, it’s advisable to get into the habit of removing gum before bed. It’s the only way to ensure safety and hygiene in your sleep routine.
Is it Safe to Chew Gum in Bed?
People chew gum for many reasons. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of habit, or it may be related to stress relief, concentration, countering halitosis, or any number of explanations. Whatever the reason for chewing gum, it’s best to avoid doing so in bed.
Chewing gum is often packed with sugar. Even if the gum is marketed as sugar-free or ‘tooth-friendly,’ the Australian Dental Journal explains that the product will likely contain corrosive acids that damage teeth overnight.
That’s reason enough to spit out your gum before climbing into bed. Arguably of more prominent concern is what happens to gum overnight.
Gum never loses its shape when we chew it. It’s often flavorless within minutes, but the wad remains intact until we remove it. Gum is engineered to stay in shape as long as saliva regulates the temperature in your mouth. Every time we open our mouths, saliva is cooled.
When we sleep, the mouth is rarely open. One exception to this is being prone to significant bouts of snoring. As a result, the mouth grows warmer, hence why we often have a dry mouth and throat in the morning, as does the saliva.
As the gum grows warmer, it’ll eventually start to melt. Over the evening, a sticky but solid wad of gum will become, for want of a better word, a mass of goo. You’ll either swallow this, it’ll stick to your teeth and mouth, or it’ll fall from your mouth. None of these outcomes are favorable.
Can You Fall Asleep While Chewing?
Herein lies another reason why you should not chew gum in bed – it’ll prevent you from falling asleep. Sleep Research Online explains that healthcare professionals and other night workers chew to stay awake and stave off sleep.
According to Physiological Behavior, this is because chewing stimulates the nervous system. Moving our jaw increases blood flow to the brain, making us more alert. Great if you’re at work and feeling tired, less so if you’re trying to doze off.
On the one hand, this is a good thing. If you don’t fall asleep, you’re less likely to sleep with gum in your mouth and accrue all the risks this entails. On the other, it’s still not ideal to keep yourself awake when you’re supposed to be unwinding for the night.
Will Gum Stay in Your Mouth Overnight?
It’s unlikely that gum will remain in your mouth overnight. Next time you wake up, place your hand on your pillow where your mouth was resting – you’ll likely find it damp. This denotes that you’ve been drooling in your sleep.
That’s not a reflection on your hygiene. All of us do this. While we sleep, we’re not actively swallowing. This means the saliva in our mouth needs to go somewhere. If you’re lying on your back, it may be consumed. If you’re on your side, the saliva reaches the pillow.
Gum will turn to liquid throughout your slumber. This means that the remnants of your gum will invariably leave your mouth with this saliva. We’ll discuss the hazards of swallowing gum in a moment, but first, consider any unpleasant mess.
Removing Gum from Fabric or Hair
Gum is stubborn and challenging to remove from fabric. If you find traces of gum on your pillowcase or bedsheets, you’ll need to act quickly to lift it off before the staining becomes permanent.
There are three ways you can achieve this aim:
- Fold the soiled item and place it in a freezer or icebox for around two hours. You should be able to lift the gum off after this time as it will have hardened sufficiently.
- Apply an ice cube directly to the gum. Consistently rub the ice cube on the gum for around 15 minutes, lifting the gum once it hardens.
- Soak the gum-soiled fabric in a bowl of hot water and lemon juice for 15 minutes, lifting the gum off once it has softened enough to do so.
Which approach is best for your circumstances depends on how soiled and the delicacy of the fabric. Act fast, and you should be fine. Arguably more concerning is gum growing trapped in long hair overnight.
Anybody that had long hair in high school will likely harbor traumatic memories of needing to scissor-cut gum out of hair. If you act fast enough to remove it, this may not be necessary when gum falls out of your mouth overnight.
The ice cube trick we just profiled can also work for hair, but cooking oil or peanut butter will soften gum. You could use vinegar, but this will leave a strong smell behind.
Once the gum is soft, brush it out using a fine-toothed comb and wash your hair thoroughly.
What Happens if You Swallow Gum in Your Sleep?
As children, we’re constantly warned that gum is never digested once swallowed. This leads to a range of questions, most of which cause sleepless nights of a different kind. Which of us has not accidentally swallowed gum and asked ourselves, “can gum make you choke?”
Let’s separate the fact from the fiction when it comes to swallowing gum. It’s true that gum isn’t digested. It’ll not remain in your body for life, though. You’ll almost certainly pass the gum as waste within 72 hours.
If you’re wondering if gum can get stuck in your throat if swallowed while sleeping, the answer is yes. Let’s be clear, anything can get stuck in the throat at any time. It’s particularly likely when we’re asleep as we’re not actively chewing and swallowing solids.
Thankfully, it’s unlikely that gum will get trapped in the throat and make us choke. Even a solid wad is comparatively small, and as we have explained, most gum turns to liquid. It is possible to block the airways, though.
How to Stop Sleeping with Gum in Your Mouth
If you enjoy chewing gum by day, it can be tough to get into the habit of stopping at night. You should train yourself to break reliance on gum at bedtime, though.
Techniques for this could include:
- Set an alarm an hour before bedtime, reminding you to spit out your gum. This will give your mouth and jaw time to relax and adapt
- Brush your teeth immediately before getting into bed. You’ll likely need to spit out your gum to achieve this aim
- Place a bin and a note by your bed so that it’s the last thing you see at night, reminding you to remove any gum
- Undertake a guided meditation to aid sleep and relaxation, so you feel calm and relaxed without the aid of chewing gum
If all else fails, you could even consider wearing a night guard to make chewing impossible. As per Dentistry Today, these are typically associated with bruxism. If such an addition breaks the compulsion to chew gum at night, it’s worth consideration.
Like all habits, cessation of chewing gum is a tough one to break. Gum may not be as physically addictive or as harmful as cigarettes or sugar, but it’s still the enemy of a peaceful night of slumber.
Remove any gum from your mouth before bed, and you’re much likelier to enjoy a safe and restful sleep.