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How Your Tongue Is Connected to Anxiety, Insomnia, and Depression

How Your Tongue Is Connected to Anxiety, Insomnia, and Depression

Monday, October 09, 2023

From intricate domino designs to long-running Rube Golberg machine designs, we are fascinated to see how even the smallest cog matters to a larger system. The human body is one of the most complicated and intricately intertwined systems in the universe. So, it should be no surprise that a malfunction of one of the parts could impact your health and wellness.

In exploring the intricate connections within the human body, it’s crucial to comprehend how seemingly unrelated conditions can intertwine, impacting our overall well-being. One such connection emerges between tongue thrust condition and psychological phenomena such as anxiety, insomnia, and depression.


In this article, we will explore the connection between tongue thrust, anxiety, insomnia, and depression, and how correcting tongue thrust can create a positive domino effect on your mental health. 

What Is Tongue Thrust?

Tongue thrust is a condition characterized by the tongue pushing against or between the teeth during speech, swallowing, or sometimes at rest. It’s often a learned muscular behavior and can lead to orthodontic issues and speech impediments. We are all born with a tongue thrust which should go away by the age of 12 months. If the baby is continuing to suck a pacifier or bottle nipple or thumb, etc., they may miss that natural window to cease the thrusting of the tongue. If this is the case, the tongue thrust will not go away on its own.

How Tongue Thrust Impacts Your Life

1) Tongue Thrust Can Lead to Altered Sleep Architecture

Tongue thrust can lead to alterations in sleep architecture due to the propensity for mouth breathing and its association with obstructive sleep apnea. The subsequent sleep disturbances and chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a heightened state of anxiety, a decrease in stress resilience, and a predisposition to depression due to altered neurochemical balance, particularly involving serotonin and melatonin.

2) Tongue Thrust Can Lead to Speech and Communication Impairment

The presence of tongue thrust often causes a lisp in one’s speech. When this occurs, “sun” would sound like “thun” and all /s/ sounds would be affected when speaking. This communication impairment can lead to heightened self-consciousness and social anxiety. The continuous cycle of anxiety and impaired communication can erode self-esteem and social confidence, potentially resulting in social withdrawal and depressive states.

3) Tongue Thrust Can Lead to Orthodontic Issues and Facial Aesthetics

Tongue thrust can result in a variety of orthodontic issues, like open bite, which can impact facial aesthetics. The altered appearance can have profound psychosocial implications, self-esteem issues, and social anxiety, which are known precipitants of depressive disorders.

4) Tongue Thrust Can Lead to Impaired Oral Functionality

The impaired functionality associated with tongue thrust is mouth breathing, which can affect oral hygiene, and overall oral health. This impairment can lead to chronic discomfort and a heightened state of stress, contributing to the development of anxiety and depression by impacting daily life functionality and well-being.

The Connection Between Tongue Thrust and Anxiety, Insomnia, and Depression

Anxiety, insomnia, and depression are prevalent mental health conditions, each characterized by unique symptoms but often interlinked, with one potentially leading to another. Anxiety is the body's natural response to stress, characterized by feelings of fear or apprehension about what's to come.

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or cause early waking. Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.

Tongue Thrust’s Impact on Breathing

The physiological relationship between tongue thrust and psychological well-being often stems from the realm of breathing. Improper tongue posture can lead to mouth breathing, which disrupts the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the body. This imbalance impacts the autonomic nervous system, leading to an activated stress response, which can be synonymous with anxiety.

Moreover, the disruption in breathing patterns affects the quality of sleep, leading to various sleep disorders like insomnia. The ramifications of disturbed sleep are immense, ranging from reduced cognitive function to impaired emotional regulation, which can culminate in mental health conditions like depression and anxiety disorders.

Neurotransmitter Regulation and Its Implications

The realm of neurochemistry provides another layer to the connection. The physiological disruptions due to tongue thrust affect the production and regulation of crucial neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters play pivotal roles in mood regulation, emotional well-being, and the overall feeling of happiness.

When the balance of these neurotransmitters is affected due to alterations in breathing patterns and sleep disturbances, it can lead to conditions like anxiety and depression. This aspect emphasizes the need for understanding the neurological implications of tongue thrust to offer targeted interventions addressing the root of the psychological manifestations.

How These Issues Lead to Anxiety, Depression, and Insomnia 

  • Anxiety: Anxiety, in connection to tongue thrust, is often triggered by altered nitric oxide levels due to mouth breathing, causing an imbalance in neurotransmitter levels and leading to heightened stress responses. Individuals experiencing this are often caught in a cycle of heightened fear and stress, finding it difficult to break free.
  • Insomnia: The shift from nasal to mouth breathing due to tongue thrust has profound implications on sleep. The irregularities in oxygen and carbon dioxide levels and the potential for airway obstructions lead to disturbed sleep patterns, chronic insomnia, and consequential fatigue and mood swings.
  • Depression: When the neurotransmitter imbalance triggered by the physiological disruptions caused by tongue thrust continues, it can lead to persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest, and depression. The ongoing battle with self-esteem and self-perception issues further intensifies the severity of depression.

If you’re struggling with insomnia, anxiety, and depression, you know how much you want to find relief. 

How To Improve Tongue Thrust-Related Insomnia, Anxiety, and Depression

Understanding these side effects requires a multidimensional approach focusing on physiological, psychological, and social aspects to formulate comprehensive intervention strategies. Our opinion is always to go to the root of the issue, rather than treating symptoms. Correcting tongue thrust is often the first life domino of many to fall in the direction of your improved overall health. Below are some common approaches to issues people take.

1) Sleep Hygiene and Therapeutic Interventions:

Addressing sleep disturbances through improved sleep hygiene and possibly CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) for associated sleep apnea can alleviate the consequential anxiety and depression. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) can also play a pivotal role in addressing the underlying cognitive and behavioral aspects of sleep disturbances related to tongue thrust.

2) Speech Therapy and Social Skills Training:

Implementing speech therapy can address communication impairments stemming from tongue thrust. Concurrently, social skills training can be beneficial in building social confidence, mitigating social anxiety, and preventing the subsequent development of depression.

3) Orthodontic Interventions and Psychological Counseling:

Addressing orthodontic issues can improve facial aesthetics and alleviate associated psychosocial stress. Simultaneously, psychological counseling can address body image issues, enhance self-esteem, and provide coping mechanisms to deal with societal pressures, thereby preventing the descent into anxiety and depressive states.

4) Oral Health Management and Lifestyle Modifications:

Managing oral health through regular dental check-ups, maintaining oral hygiene, and making necessary lifestyle modifications can address chronic discomfort and stress associated with impaired oral functionality. Stress management techniques, regular exercise, and a balanced diet can further augment the resilience against anxiety and depression induced by tongue thrust.

It is crucial to navigate the interconnections between the side effects of tongue thrust and their psychological ramifications meticulously. Addressing each side effect with targeted interventions can lead to a holistic improvement in physiological and psychological well-being. However, finding a remedy to the source of these issues, tongue thrust may be your best first step. 

Correcting Tongue Thrust Is Key to Finding Relief from Anxiety, Insomnia, and Depression

correcting tongue thrust is key to relief

If your anxiety, depression, and insomnia are connected to tongue thrust, correcting that tongue thrust is a vital step toward finding relief from its side effects and mental health challenges. But can tongue thrust be corrected? Yes! Not only is it possible to correct tongue thrust, but you can do it without endless doctor visits or invasive surgeries.

We have developed a step-by-step program that leads you through tongue exercises explained in written words and videos to correct your tongue thrust in only SEVEN WEEKS. The author, Janet Bennett, M.Ed.,  has a Master’s degree in Speech Pathology and has been a licensed Speech Pathologist for over 40 years. She has treated Tongue Thrust since 1994.

We have seen people of all ages conquer their tongue thrust and, therefore, find relief from its side effects. 

IJustWantTo® Correct My Tongue Thrust

Are you or a loved one grappling with the implications of tongue thrust? It's time to embark on a transformative journey with our seven-week program: IJustWantTo Correct My Tongue Thrust.

Our meticulously designed program is your gateway to retraining your tongue to rest properly in your mouth, paving the way to not only improve oral functionality and aesthetics, but also enhance your overall well-being.

Unveil a new chapter in your life where you can breathe easier, speak more clearly, and live more harmoniously. Our innovative approach is crafted to offer you comprehensive solutions, addressing the myriad side effects associated with tongue thrust. Correcting tongue thrust is often the first life domino of many to fall in the direction of your improved overall health. 

Don’t let tongue thrust dictate your quality of life. Embrace a journey of healing, improvement, and self-discovery. Purchase our seven-week program now and step into a world where your tongue and your well-being are in harmony. If you have any questions about whether our program is right for you or how much your life can improve by conquering tongue thrust, reach out to us today. 

Janet M. Bennett

Written by:

Janet Bennett, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, is a Speech Pathologist in private practice in Asheville, NC, since 1977. She specializes in treating tongue thrust, a swallowing disorder that can result in buckteeth, an open bite, a lisp, snoring, and other problems that have not yet been made known to most people.