Wake up with morning throat aches

Originally Published: March 31, 2006
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Dear Alice,

Almost every morning, for a couple of years now, I've woken up with a throat ache and dry mouth, it lasts only a couple of hours but is there any way to prevent it?

—Sore throat

Dear Sore Throat,

There could be many possible reasons why some people consistently wake up with sore throats in the morning:

  • sleeping with an open mouth
  • sleep apnea
  • acid reflux
  • snoring

Unfortunately, Alice cannot play the medical detective game to solve this problem, but there are some things you may be able to do.  If someone sleeps with you during the night, ask them if you snore or sleep with your mouth open.  If not, you might want to ask a friend or roommate to check in on you while you're asleep.  Sore throats associated with snoring or sleeping with an open mouth can be treated with one or more of the following methods:

  • use a humidifier in your bedroom
  • gargle with warm salt water 4-5 times periodically throughout the day (¼ tsp. salt to ½ cup water)
  • increase your liquid intake throughout the day
  • try the popular home remedy of warm tea with honey
If none of these measures work for you, you may be suffering from sleep apnea or acid reflux.  If you have sleep apnea, you might not be aware of it. Sleep apnea causes people to wake up numerous times throughout the night; one sign that you may be afflicted is if you are sleepy in the morning and throughout your day.  Once again, a friend or loved one can tell you if your sleep is interrupted on a consistent basis.  If there is even the slightest chance that you have sleep apnea you may want to consult a sleep specialist, as this condition can decrease one's quality of life, and may lead to more severe health consequences. 

Acid reflux is an issue that can be easily overlooked, as some sufferers only exhibit symptoms when they sleep.  Many times, those suffering from acid reflux experience the regurgitation of stomach acids into the back of their throat. To help steer clear of acid reflux, it may be best to tilt your bed frame so that its head is elevated four to six inches higher than its foot.  Other treatments include medication, not eating within three hours of bedtime, and abstaining from alcohol, smoking, and caffeine. 

Even if you think that you have found the problem and corrected it, that remedy may only be a quick fix.  A doctor may be able to help clear up your condition for good and put you on the path to many pain-free mornings to come.