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How to Stop Adult Thumb Sucking During Sleep

Updated February 17, 2017

Thumb sucking usually resolves in children by the age 3 or 4; however, some continue to suck their thumb into adulthood. Adult thumb sucking may be caused by anxiety, boredom or other mental health problems. Stopping thumb sucking in adults is difficult because individuals suck their thumbs for different reasons and therefore no remedy will work for everyone. Thumb sucking during sleep is particularly difficult to stop because the person is not conscious when she performs the habit.

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  1. Make an appointment with a therapist. Often thumb sucking results from anxiety or unresolved issues with childhood, and a therapist can help you work through your issues. She may also prescribe medication to help with your anxiety, if that is the cause of your habit. When the anxiety issues are resolved, the thumb-sucking problem might also resolve.

  2. Purchase a hypnotherapy CD or MP3 meant to stop adult thumb sucking. If you believe that your thumb sucking results from an addiction rather than anxiety, hypnotherapy can help you break this addiction.

  3. Wear gloves at night. Few people enjoy the sensation of sucking on gloves, so the unpleasantness of sucking your gloved thumb may prevent you from sucking your thumb at night. You also may wake up each time you attempt to place your thumb in your mouth, but as you begin to suck your thumb less, you will wake up less often.

  4. Purchase a nontoxic remedy meant to prevent nail biting, and paint it on the nail of the thumb that you suck. The foul taste won't hurt you, but it might prevent you from sucking your thumb over time as you subconsciously make the association with thumb sucking and a bad flavour.

  5. Tip

    Always seek medical advice before you begin any treatment program.

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About the Author

Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.

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