Common complaint: CPAP dry mouth

Your CPAP machine can be positively life-changing in so many ways (ie, restored sleep, more energy, improvement of other existing health conditions). But we know it can also be challenging to use at times, tempting users to abandon their treatment and accept life-threatening consequences.

That’s why we’ve examined common complaints related to CPAP masks and how you and your doctor can try to resolve them – starting with dry mouth. We hope our tips can help you achieve better sleep apnea treatment and better sleep!

If you’ve ever felt dry mouth when you take your CPAP mask off in the morning, you’re not alone. Roughly 40% of patients on CPAP therapy experience dry mouth, 1 which can cause various side effects including headaches, dizziness, bad breath, coughing and difficulty talking or eating.

Below are the three main causes of dry mouth:

Dry mouth cause #1: Medications or other conditions

Before you blame your CPAP mask for your dry mouth, it’s important to rule out other culprits. The Mayo Clinic lists six potential non-CPAP causes that you should discuss with your doctor first:

  • Oral medications that list dry mouth as a side effect
  • Aging
  • Cancer drugs
  • Nerve damage (as result of an injury or surgery)
  • Tobacco or methamphetamine use
  • Other health conditions:
    • Sjogren’s syndrome and HIV/AIDS can cause dry mouth
    • Stroke and Alzheimer’s disease can cause a perception of dry mouth, even though the salivary glands are functioning normally. 2

Dry mouth cause #2: Non-heated air

If you and your doctor determine that your CPAP machine’s air is likely causing your dry mouth, you may benefit from added moisture through a heated humidifier and/or heated tubing. (Both come standard with ResMed’s new Air Solutions CPAP machines.) These devices feed moisture into the air you breathe through your CPAP machine to prevent dryness. The heat level can be easily adjusted to provide more or less moisture – too much could create condensation in your air tube, a condition called “rainout” or “washout.”

Dry mouth cause #3: Severe mask leak

Whether or not your CPAP machine has humidification, severe mask leak can also cause dry mouth – as well as reduce the effectiveness of your sleep apnea treatment. Mask leak is a leading reason why 45% of former CPAP users quit their therapy. 3 It is common among patients who:

  • Have an ill-fitting mask. Ask your doctor or mask provider to refit you. Never overtighten a mask just to prevent leak; the resulting pressure could cause discomfort, facial marks and pressure ulcers.
  • Are on a bilevel machine. Ask your doctor about the benefits of switching to a full face mask that covers the nose and mouth.
  • Are mouth breathers who are using a nasal or nasal pillows mask. As with bilevel users, ask your doctor about the benefits of switching to a full face mask that covers the nose and mouth.

There’s so much to say about the causes and fixes for CPAP mask leaks that we created a Common CPAP Complaint post about it.

This blog post contains general information about medical conditions and potential treatments. It is not medical advice. If you have any medical questions, please consult your doctor.

Related articles