After years not getting a good night’s sleep thanks to sleep apnea, you’ve been fitted with a continuous positive airway pressure machine, or CPAP. Things are going well. Your partner no longer complains about loud snoring and you’re feeling more well-rested. There’s just one concern. Each morning, you wake up with a dry mouth.
CPAP dry mouth is a common side effect of using a CPAP machine, as the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute points out. In some cases, you might have dry mouth because you need some time to get used to the CPAP. In other instances, making adjustments to the CPAP can help improve dry mouth.
How a CPAP Machine Works
Although there are other types of sleep apnea, the most common one is obstructive sleep apnea. When you have obstructive sleep apnea, your airway becomes blocked while you sleep, so that you actually stop breathing on and off throughout the night. A CPAP machine helps to treat obstructive sleep apnea by pushing air through the nose or through the nose and mouth during the night. Depending on the type of machine you have, the mask might cover your nose or cover your nose and mouth.
What Causes CPAP Dry Mouth?
Often, CPAP machines that only cover the nose are more likely to lead to dry mouth than machines that cover both the nose and mouth, as the Mayo Clinic points out. When you have a stream of air forced through your nasal passages all night, you’re likely to only breathe through your nose. If you sleep with your mouth open while wearing the CPAP, you’re more likely to wake up with a mouth that feels dry. If you were a mouth breather before you started using a CPAP, you might be more likely to experience dry mouth when using it.
Another cause of dry mouth might be a mask that doesn’t fit you properly. If a mask is too big or small or just not the right shape, it can leak air out, which can dry out your mouth or your nasal passages.
How to Prevent CPAP Dry Mouth
As long as your dry mouth is caused by the CPAP machine and not by something else, such as any medication you’re taking or another medical condition, it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out how to prevent it. One option is to switch from a machine that only covers the nose to a full face machine, which fits over the nose and mouth and reduces the chance of you breathing out of only one or the other.
If you prefer to keep using a mask that only covers your nose, it might be worth adding a chin strap. The strap wraps under your jaw, helping to hold your mouth closed as you sleep.
Some CPAP machines feature heated humidifiers, which moisten the air that flows from the machine. If you’re experiencing dry mouth or dry nasal passages when you wake up, it might be worth talking to your doctor to see if a CPAP with a humidifier is a good option for you.
Making sure your mask fits you properly may also prevent dry mouth from occurring. Your doctor can help fit the mask to your face or recommend a different option if your current mask just isn’t working right. Keep in mind that tightening the straps on the mask isn’t a reliable way to fix a leaking mask. You’re likely to end up with pressure marks and bruises on your face.
Although a CPAP machine can effectively treat sleep apnea, The New York Times notes that about 50 percent of people who are prescribed one stop using it within a few weeks. If your machine is causing dry mouth or other discomfort, don’t give up on it. Your dentist or doctor can help you adjust your mask or find a style of machine that treats your sleep apnea without drying out your mouth.
In the meantime, keep up with your great oral hygiene habits and consider adding an alcohol-free mouthwash to your oral hygiene routine. Colgate Total Advanced Health mouthwash has no burn of alcohol and kills 99 percent of germs on contact.