It might just be sleep’s most unfortunate side effect: morning breath. The big reason? A drop in saliva production while you snooze gives bacteria an open invitation to hang out and grow, producing what are called volatile sulfur compounds or VSC’s (a.k.a. the stench). While some level of less-than-freshness is inevitable after a good night’s rest, follow this advice to keep your breath from scaring away your partner.
Consider Your Sleep Style.
Saliva production naturally slows when you sleep. But if you snore or sleep with your mouth open, your mouth gets even drier. And the drier your mouth, the less it’s able to fight off smelly bacteria. Back sleepers are more likely to snore, so working to find a better sleep position might help you fend off morning breath.
Boost Your Brushing Habits.
The more bacteria-breeding bits of food that you can clear from your mouth after meals—and especially before bed—the less there will be to grow smelly germs in your mouth while you sleep, causing you to wake up with dragon breath. Hopefully brushing is already ingrained in your bedtime routine, but it’s not enough. Flossing also helps to remove food particles and plaque from between your teeth that would otherwise breed bacteria overnight. Another spot to zero in on: your tongue. Give it a brush, too, with a soft toothbrush or plastic scraper that’s made specifically for the tongue (look in the tooth care aisle at your grocery or pharmacy). An antibacterial mouthwash can also kill bacteria—and tame bad breath.
Look at Your Diet.
Smelly foods like garlic and onions may get a lot of flack for causing smelly breath, but the truth is, any food can cause an unpleasant odor when particles linger in your mouth. Another unexpected food-related cause: Infrequent eating due to dieting can fuel bad breath, possibly because eating triggers the release of bacteria-sweeping saliva.
Check Your Drink.
While you don’t want to chug too much water before bed, staying hydrated may help to stave off stinky breath by keeping your mouth moist enough to wash away leftover food and bacteria. Meanwhile, coffee and alcohol can encourage bacteria growth, which makes breath worse. (Alcohol and coffee late in the day can also interfere with your sleep.)
Talk to Your Doctor.
While about 80 percent of bad breath is caused by something in your mouth, there are medical conditions that can be to blame, too. For example, acid reflux, a runny nose, or any condition that causes dry mouth could exacerbate the problem. Diabetes, liver disease, head colds, and bronchitis can all cause bad breath, too. The right treatment could help your condition—and your breath. If the above tips don’t help, ask your physician if there may be an underlying medical cause.