CPAP Dry Mouth: What Causes It and 5 Ways to Stop It Tonight

Do you ever wake up after sleeping with your CPAP machine to discover that your mouth is dry and your throat is so raw that you’re having trouble even swallowing? 

You know CPAP therapy is an important part of treating your sleep apnea, but your dry mouth has become so annoying you’re not sure whether you’re going to continue or not. 

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone, and you’re not out of luck! Don't let CPAP dry mouth stop you from getting a good night's sleep. Read on to find out what causes dry mouth and what to do about it!

Why Do I Wake Up with Dry Mouth?

Before you do anything drastic, it’s important to rule out if your dry mouth symptoms could be caused by medication or medical conditions. If this is the case, then CPAP tricks won’t help you.

There are a number of medications that can contribute to dry mouth such as those for high blood pressure, anxiety, diabetes, muscle relaxants, pain, antihistamines, and more.

What’s more, the illnesses that you take medication for may cause dryness as well! Health disorders like diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, anemia, and more can all contribute to a condition called xerostomia– when your salivary glands don't produce enough saliva.

If you suspect that your medication or health condition may be the cause of your dry mouth, you should talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about treatment options that can be used alongside your CPAP device

If these concerns aren’t part of the equation, it’s possible that the flow of air from your CPAP treatment is the culprit. But don’t ditch your CPAP mask just yet!

Can Using CPAP Cause Dry Mouth?

There are two potential causes of dry mouth when using a CPAP mask. The first is mask leak and the second is being a ‘mouth breather’.

Mask Leaks

It’s normal for your mask to leak a little air sometimes. As long as your leaks don’t last for more than 30 minutes and the leak rate isn’t high (above 24L/min if your CPAP machine has leak detection), then the leaks probably aren’t large enough to impact your therapy or cause dry mouth

That said, the leaking air has to go somewhere, and that extra airflow could be causing problems. Even small leaks can lead to dry mouth, dry eyes, and irritated skin.

Mouth Breathing

There are a variety of reasons you may be breathing through your mouth rather than your nose.  These include nasal congestion or allergies, a physical obstruction like deviated septum, or even just out of habit. 

No matter the cause, mouth breathing can lead to some unpleasant side effects, beyond just dry mouth. Left untreated, mouth breathing may cause bad breath, sore throat, gum disease, and even tooth decay.

If you discover that you’re a ‘mouth breather’ there are a number of solutions CPAP users can try to prevent dry mouth.

5 Ways to Stop Dry Mouth Tonight

Check Your CPAP Mask for Air Leaks

Try refitting your mask while laying in the sleeping position you usually prefer. Laying down can change the shape of your face and cause your mask to fit differently than when you’re sitting up. 

If your mask still leaks after refitting, it may be time to replace it. Through normal use your mask cushion will wear down, your mask frame can bend, and your headgear will stretch. All of these can contribute to air leakage.

Switch to a Full Face Mask

If you have a nasal pillow or nasal mask and your jaw drops while you sleep, your CPAP pressure could be escaping through your mouth. This not only leads to dry mouth, but weakens your apnea treatment

Using a full face mask will ensure effective CPAP therapy no matter which way you breathe.

Shop full face CPAP masks

Use a CPAP Humidifier

Cool, dry air from your CPAP machine can irritate your nasal passages and cause congestion, leading to mouth breathing

A heated humidifier uses warm, humid air to relieve congestion, reduce throat soreness, and prevent dry mouth

As an added bonus, studies have shown that CPAP users who also use a humidifier were up to 43% more likely to stick with their CPAP treatment!

Shop CPAP humidifiers

Try a CPAP Chin Strap

Many chronic mouth breathers find that using a chin strap can be an easy solution to their dry mouth with CPAP. 

The strap gently supports your jaw to encourage breathing through your nose, while also keeping the tongue in a position where it will help maintain a tight seal. 

Studies have also shown that chin straps may help you use your CPAP machine longer and more often!

Shop CPAP chin straps

Stay Hydrated

One of the best ways to prevent dry mouth before bedtime is to simply stay hydrated. Some easy changes include sipping water throughout the day, chewing sugar-free gum, and focusing on breathing through your nose. 

You should also avoid beverages with alcohol or using mouthwash before bedtime, smoking, or eating sugary or acidic foods that could increase dryness.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that CPAP dry mouth shouldn’t be enough to let obstructive sleep apnea go untreated. 

If you’re waking up parched and with a mouth that feels like the Sahara Desert, just try a few of the tips outlined above! And if you’d like to try a new mask, a humidifier, or a chin strap, your personal Sleep Specialist can help you pick the very best one.

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