Myth Busting: Is Nap Breath a Thing?

family brushing teeth together and smiling

Ever woken up from a cozy afternoon nap only to find that the horrid smell on your pillow is actually coming for your mouth? Congratulations, you have now experienced the phenomenon not-so-fondly referred to as, “nap breath”.

What is “Nap Breath”?

By no means a scientific term, “nap breath” refers to the particularly foul-smelling breath and sour taste many people experience after waking up from a nap. Think: “morning breath,” but for naps.

Not all nap breath is created equal. Some people report having bad breath only after waking up from a nap. Others say that their nap breath is similar to their morning breath after a full night’s sleep. And, a lucky few don’t experience nap breath at all. But watch out, you never know when it will sneak up on you.

Why Does it Happen?

Similar to morning breath, bad breath after napping can stem from several things like…

  • Food. Leftover food particles in your mouth produce bacteria over time that can start to stink. Also, particularly smelly foods like garlic and onions linger much longer in your body.
  • Improper Oral Care. Not abiding by a proper brushing and flossing routine is the most common reason for all bad breath.
  • Tobacco. Smoking or chewing tobacco products reduces salivary flow and can cause dry mouth, leaving your breath smelling stale and ashy.
  • Dry Mouth. Saliva breaks down bacteria and washes away the remaining particles. Dry mouth decreases saliva production and gives bacteria more opportunity to spread throughout your mouth.

But, when it comes to dry mouth, you might be in luck! Did you know that humans salivate more during the day? Just like sleep, our saliva depends on a circadian rhythm that regulates when the best time to produce is, based on when we are asleep and awake.

Ever wondered why you tend to drool when you are napping during the day but not when you are sleeping during the night? You’ve got your answer. Saliva production operates on a bell curve, slowly increasing from 5 a.m. until it reaches its peak around 3-5 p.m. and then begins a gradual downturn until around 5 a.m. when the cycle begins again.

This means, when you nap during the day, you are salivating at the same rate as you would while awake. While the additional saliva might mean that you are washing out bacteria that can make your breath smell, it can also mean the bacteria are stagnantly pooling in your mouth and creating bad breath while you nap.

How Can I Prevent It?

Here are a few ways to set yourself up for success and kick nap breath to the curb.

  • Brush. Probably the easiest way to ensure you won’t wake up with nap breath is by brushing before taking a nap. You’ll get rid of any lingering food particles and reduce the risk of producing smelly bacteria.
  • Hydrate. Sip on water throughout the day to rinse out food particles and stimulate saliva production.
  • Chew. Chew sugar-free gum after waking up from your midday nap to stimulate saliva flow and leave your mouth with a minty fresh scent.
  • Eat Smart. Avoid foods like garlic and onions which linger in your system much longer than they do on your taste buds.
  • Brush, Floss & Clean. As always, follow a proper oral care routine as recommended by your dentist (i.e. brushing, flossing, and cleaning your tongue).

Take back your right to nap and kiss nap breath goodbye!

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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How to FLOSS

  1. Pull 18 to 24 inches of dental floss from the floss dispenser.

  2. Wrap the ends of the floss around your index and middle fingers.

  3. Hold the floss tightly around each tooth in a C shape; move the floss back and forth in a push-pull motion and up and down against the side of each tooth.

How to BRUSH

  1. Place the toothbrush at a 45°angle along the gum line. Move the toothbrush in a back and forth motion, and repeat for each tooth.

  2. Brush the inside surface of each tooth, using the same back and forth technique.

  3. Brush the chewing surface (top) of each tooth.

  4. Use tip of brush to brush behind each tooth — front and back, top and bottom and up and down strokes.

  5. Be sure to brush your tongue to remove odor-causing bacteria.