Waking up in the morning to find that your lips have swelled up can be a pretty alarming experience.

“Lips can swell [overnight] for a number of reasons,” says Walter Gaman, MD, FABFM, board certified in family medicine and the author of several award-winning books including “Age to Perfection: How to Thrive to 100, Happy, Healthy, and Wise.”

It would be quite unnerving to wake up one morning and discover that one of your lips is swollen.

“Some people experience lip swelling at night as well as overall facial swelling,” says Dr. Gaman, who is board certified in family medicine.

“This can happen for a number of reasons. Food sensitivities can cause lip and facial swelling, but not be as serious as a food allergy, which is often accompanied by trouble breathing and/or a rash. Some people also have swelling from alcohol or excess salt.

“Lips are often sensitive, and lips that swell at night could be a sign that the person is allergic to the chemicals or perfumes in their laundry detergent.

“In some cases, they could even have a sensitivity to the material or chemicals in their pillow or mattress.

“This is a more common problem today because of the flame retardant added to mattresses and pillows, especially those made of foam.

“Women who have a facial washing and moisturizing routine before bed may see their lips swell during the night.

“This can happen when the lips are exposed to chemicals or even natural ingredients that they are sensitive to. The lips and eye areas are often more sensitive than other parts of the face.”

It’s also possible for a bug bite to puff up a lip overnight, but the other causes mentioned are far more likely.

See what happens if you switch to hypoallergenic products (laundry detergents, nighttime moisturizers, etc.).

If this doesn’t solve the problem, you can eliminate one food at a time from your diet and see if that’s the culprit.

If that doesn’t work (and that can be a tedious and prolonged undertaking), then ask yourself if you’ve been doing anything different lately, such as using a memory foam pillow.

Some Considerations

• Do you wake up every morning with the lip swelling?

• Is it just one lip at a time – and the same lip at that?

• Is the problem absent on some mornings?

• How long does it take the swelling to go down once you’re up and about?

• Is there pain or oozing?

• Are there other accompanying facial symptoms or puffiness elsewhere?

Keep a document of the problem to see if you might identify any patterns. Certainly, if you can’t figure out what the culprit is, you should see your doctor.

Dr. Gaman is with Executive Medicine of Texas and is with the Staying Young Radio Show 2.0 podcast.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


Top image: Shutterstock/Rocketclips, Inc.