Did your parents or grandparents ever tell you that if you swallowed chewing gum, it would wrap around your heart? This old wives’ tale isn’t unheard of, and (along with being untrue) shouldn’t be your greatest fear when it comes to safety around chewing gum – as sleeping with gum in your mouth is far more dangerous.
The main thing to remember is: yes, sleeping with gum in your mouth can be fatal. But there are other ways to use chewing gum to battle sleepiness, in a safe and responsible way.
Throughout this article, we’ll look at everything you need to know regarding chewing gum and sleep.
Can Sleeping With Gum In Your Mouth Kill You?
The short answer is yes – and there is at least one case that proves so. According to Sky News, a 21-year-old Pennsylvania University basketball player named Shanice Clark was found unresponsive in her dorm room after inhaling chewing gum into her lungs back in January 2015. Although others who have suffered the same fate as Shanice, they tend to have done so while awake, but being asleep certainly doesn’t minimize the risk. The tragic incident is the most publicized example of someone dying from sleeping with gum in their mouth and should serve as a warning about the importance of taking care to remove gum before you sleep, as it’s very possible to choke if you are negligent.
Chewing gum, in general, isn’t bad for you. Chewing gum in moderation, and when necessary, perhaps after a meal, is perfectly OK to freshen breath. However, if you’re regularly chewing gum before bed, the likelihood of you falling asleep with it in your mouth is higher.
Should You Swallow Gum Before You Go To Sleep?
While it is a better option than sleeping with gum, it still isn’t recommended. If you’ve already swallowed gum – don’t panic – as it isn’t life-threatening, but shouldn’t be done often. As stated in the name, chewing gum is designed to be chewed rather than swallowed. But some folklore and rumors have suggested that swallowed gum sits in your stomach for seven years before it can be digested. This isn’t true, but according to mayoclinic.com, If you do swallow gum, it is true that your body can’t digest it. Eventually, chewing gum will pass through your digestive system intact and come out on average 40 hours later in your stool, according to healthline.com. While mostly harmless, It’s important to remember that in rare cases, swallowing a large mass of gum over time, or many small pieces of gum over a short period of time, can block the digestive tract.
Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that it is dangerous to swallow gum while pregnant, so you should also be in safe hands in this case. However, if you’re feeling particularly worried, you should visit a doctor.
Where Will The Gum End Up While You Sleep?
Just because you fall asleep with the gum in your mouth doesn’t mean it will stay there. A lot of us sleep with our mouths slightly open as our jaw relaxes during sleep. When this happens, the gum can escape into your hair, pillow, or bedsheets. The sticky consistency means it’s very easy for the gum to become stuck to your bed – or worse, you may need to take a pair of scissors to your hair. This is more likely to happen to those who fall asleep on their side – and if it does, we have some tricks below to help you remove the gum. However, we never recommend sleeping with gum in your mouth under any circumstances.
Removing Gum From Hair Or Bedsheets
If you’ve already got yourself into a situation where a piece of chewing gum is hanging from your hair, or residing in your bedsheets, we have a few handy tricks to remove them safely.
To remove chewing gum from hair, without chopping any locks off, dermatologists suggest the following instructions for effectively sliding the gum right out:
- Find a jar of creamy style peanut butter or vegetable oil, such as olive oil.
- Cover the gum completely with peanut butter or oil using your fingers or an old toothbrush. With peanut butter, the oils in the product make the chewing gum base stiffer and less sticky.
- Wait a few minutes to allow the product to work.
- Remove the gum from the hair. Vegetable oil is especially useful when removing gum from eyebrows or eyelashes.
- Wash your hair as normal.
For bedsheets or pillows, an effective way to remove the gum is to freeze the fabric:
- Place the sheets in the freezer for a few hours until the gum hardens.
- Rip/scrap the gum off carefully without damaging the fabric.
- Use stain-remover for any residue left over.
- Wash the sheets as normal.
How Gum Can Help You Stay Awake
If you plan on pulling an all-nighter (perhaps because you’re studying, completing a big workload, or just want to finish a Netflix series), chewing gum can actually help relieve your tiredness. According to a study by the Department of Psychiatric Research at the Psychiatric Hospital Vrapce, gum can relieve the feeling of sleepiness. The study saw two groups of participants stay up all night – one group started chewing gum at midnight, while the other group did not. Those who were chewing from midnight assessed their sleepiness as lower than the students who were not chewing. Therefore, chewing gum can serve a positive purpose when it comes to staying awake – but definitely not for falling asleep.
How To Avoid Sleeping With Gum
It sounds like something which should be easy to avoid – but sometimes things don’t always work as smoothly as we assume they would. To make sure you don’t fall asleep with gum in your mouth, here are a few tips:
- Spit it out before bed: If you feel sleepy, whether you’re at home, in class, or traveling, make sure to remove the gum from your mouth. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
- Use Mouth Wash/Brush Your Teeth: Sometimes, gum can get stuck easily to our teeth or the roof of our mouth. This means you can fall asleep without noticing it, but it can later become dislodged and cause issues while you’re dreaming. To make sure there is nothing left in your mouth, brush your teeth or swirl water or mouth wash between your teeth to remove any excess gum.
- Set regular alarms: If you don’t want to part with your gum, you’re going to need to stay awake instead. Setting regular alarm intervals when you start to feel sleepy should help keep you alert and wake you up when you start to drift off.
- Train yourself: If you have a bad habit of chewing gum regularly, especially before bed, it’s probably time to kick this. To do so, you should limit the amount of time you spend chewing gum. One way to do this is to set timers to remind you when to ditch the gum. Try to reduce the amount you chew every day, especially in the evenings, until falling asleep with the gum inside your mouth is no longer a worry.
While this article is for advice about sleeping with gum in your mouth, we hope by the end you have decided against doing so. We strongly advise any readers to avoid sleeping with chewing gum and to seek medical help if they have any other concerns regarding their chewing gum and/or sleeping habits. Now, you should have all the knowledge necessary – and be ready for sweet dreams, without any lingering chewing gum.