It’s common for people to take comfort from chewing gum during the day and often into the evening. However, sleeping with gum in the mouth is riskier, so it should be removed before bedtime.
If you fall asleep and swallow gum, this can restrict breathing and become a choking hazard. Gum that falls from your mouth can stain nightwear, sheets, and pillows or get stuck in your hair. Even chewing gum at night can damage your teeth due to corrosive acids and keep you awake for longer.
Many legends exist about chewing gum and its impact on the body, but not all are helpful or accurate. All the same, it’s advisable to get into the habit of removing gum before bed.
Is it Safe to Chew Gum in Bed?
People chew gum for many reasons. Sometimes it’s 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 high in sugar. Even if the gum is sugar-free or ‘tooth-friendly,’ the Australian Dental Journal explains that it’ll likely contain corrosive acids that damage teeth overnight.
Gum never loses its shape when we chew it, and 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 less likely to be open. As a result, the mouth grows warmer, so we often have a dry mouth and throat in the morning.
As the gum grows warmer, it’ll eventually start to melt. Over the evening, a sticky but solid wad of gum will become a mass of goo, for want of a better word. You’ll either swallow this, it’ll stick to your teeth and mouth, or it’ll fall from your mouth.
Can You Fall Asleep While Chewing?
Gum will 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. That’s 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 face the risks this entails. On the other, keeping yourself awake when you’re supposed to be unwinding for the night isn’t recommended.
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.
While we sleep, we’re not actively swallowing, so the saliva in our mouth needs to go somewhere. If you’re lying on your back, it may be consumed, and if you’re on your side, the saliva will reach the pillow.
Gum will turn to liquid throughout your slumber, meaning that the remnants of your gum will invariably leave your mouth with this saliva.
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.
Here are three ways to remove gum:
- 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 once it has hardened sufficiently.
- Apply an ice cube directly to the gum. Consistently rub the ice cube on the gum for around 15 minutes, lifting it 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.
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 profiled can 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 with a fine-toothed comb and wash your hair.
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 hasn’t 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 isn’t digested, so you’ll pass the gum as waste within 72 hours.
Unfortunately, gum can get stuck in your throat if swallowed while sleeping.
Anything can get stuck in the throat at any time, and 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 choke us. Even a solid wad is comparatively small, and most gum turns to liquid.
However, it remains possible that gum can block the airways, so don’t take any chances.
How To Stop Sleeping with Gum in Your Mouth
If you enjoy chewing gum during the day, it’s not easy to get out of the habit of chewing gum at night. Break your reliance on gum at bedtime by doing the following:
- Set the alarm an hour before bedtime, reminding you to spit out your gum, as this will give your mouth and jaw time to relax and adapt.
- Brush your teeth before bed, as you’ll need to spit out your gum.
- Place a bin and a note reminding you to remove any gum by your bed so that it’s the last thing you see at night.
- Undertake a guided meditation to aid sleep and relaxation so that you feel calm and relaxed without the aid of chewing gum.
If all else fails, you could consider wearing a night guard to make chewing impossible.
As per Dentistry Today, night guards are usually associated with bruxism. If this addition breaks the compulsion to chew gum at night, it’s worthy of consideration.
Like all habits, cessation of chewing gum isn’t easy to break. Gum may isn’t as physically addictive or harmful as cigarettes or sugar, but it still inhibits sleep and presents certain health risks.