Sleep apnea is a fairly common sleeping condition that affects at least 22 million Americans—and many more are estimated to be living with sleep apnea without being diagnosed. This sleep breathing disorder occurs when the respiratory system does not work as it should during sleep, causing long pauses between breaths as many as 30 or more times per hour. In obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), this condition is caused by the physical blockage of the airways that prevents air from getting to the lungs.
When a sleep apnea episode occur, the body stops breathing for many more seconds than it should until it is started into breathing again. This causes a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream to pass around to other parts of the body, leaving the heart to work overtime. Also, when the body starts awake stress hormones are released (such as cortisol and adrenaline) several times per hour. This overabundance of stress hormones can wreak havoc on all of the body’s systems.
Left unchecked, this situation can develop into a number of severe health problems including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, chronic fatigue, kidney disease, reduced immune system, and more. In addition, the chronic sleep deprivation related to sleep apnea can be the cause of dangerous accidents on the road or in the workplace.
Ultimately, untreated sleep apnea has the power to undermine your health and life in a variety of ways causing physical illness as well as emotional and social struggles. In fact, people with moderate to severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea are much more likely to be heading toward a premature death!
Dry Mouth Sleep Apnea and Other Symptoms
Because people with sleep apnea have a difficult time breathing during sleep, they often sleep with their mouths open. Presumably this is because the body is seeking to get as much air as possible. Mouth breathing makes it so that saliva is not as readily available and this often causes the mouth and throat to feel dry, sore, and possibly even itchy. Some people call this “cotton mouth” because of the feeling of having chewed on a cotton ball.
In addition to experiencing dry mouth and sore throat, people with sleep apnea may have some or all of these other signs and symptoms related to the condition.
- Sore throat and dry mouth upon waking
- Loud or frequent snoring
- Occasionally waking with a choking sensation or gasping for air
- Waking with a headache
- Insomnia or inability to rest well
- High blood pressure
- Sleepiness during activity, such as driving
- Forgetfulness, changes in mood, depression, irritability, relationship struggles
- Decreased interest in sex
- Difficulty concentrating—sometimes similar to ADHD symptoms
- Observed pauses of breathing during sleep
- Waking often to go to the bathroom
- Frequent nightmares, specifically about drowning or choking
Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea
While sleeping disorders can happen to almost anyone, certain people are more susceptible to sleep apnea. Some of the risk factors that may make a person more likely to develop sleep apnea include:
- Obesity or excess weight
- Large neck circumference (17 inches or more for men, 16 inches or more for women)
- Being male (men are much more likely to get sleep apnea than women)
- Be middle aged
- Drinking alcohol regularly
- High blood pressure
- Family history of sleep apnea
- Chronic airway restriction such as asthma, nasal congestion, deviated septum, enlarged tonsils or adenoids
Sleep Apnea Dry Mouth Causes
Many people who have sleep apnea are treated with a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine (CPAP). This machine is affixed to the face with a mask and attached via tubes. It forces air thorough the respiratory passages all throughout sleep, keeping the airways from closing thereby restoring the healthy breathing an oxygen levels of the affected person.
Treatment with a CPAP machine may come with certain side effects, one of which is dry mouth and sore throat. This is because the constant presence of air blowing through the mouth dries up the mouth and the salivary glands are unable to keep up. Some dry mouth with sleep apnea treatment may be caused by small leaks in the CPAP machine and the issuer of the machine may need to be consulted.
People with nasal congestion related to sleep apnea may also find dry mouth as they breathe through their mouths in order to get enough air. In addition, oral appliances are sometimes prescribed as a remedy for sleep apnea, which can also induce problems with dry mouth.
Sleep Apnea and Dry Mouth Relief
One way to help with dry mouth in sleep apnea is by making use of a humidifier in the room. A cool mist humidifier is the safest and most effective way to add moisture to the air to breathe easier and prevent dry mouth or sore throat. Some people prefer to use heated humidification instead of cool mist, but either one should help put moisture into the air. This is especially noticeable during the dry, winter months or if you live in an arid climate.
Drinking a lot of water is also important in battling sleep apnea dry mouth. The more water you can ingest into your body, the more hydrated you’ll be. This, in turn, will give your body the moisture it needs and may cut down on dry mouth.
Sometimes a chin strap is recommended for people who have dry mouth related to sleep apnea. This is simply an elastic band designed to fit around the jaw to keep the mouth closed during sleep. For many people, this keeps the jaw up, setting the tongue into place, and sealing the mouth. If a chin strap prevents the tendency toward mouth breathing, then the problems with dry mouth should decrease as well.
Many people believe that their sleep apnea symptoms such as dry mouth and snoring are just “no big deal”. But the effects of leaving sleep apnea untreated over time can be devastating to the health. If you or someone you care about is exhibiting symptoms of sleep apnea, diagnosis and treatment by a medical professional is critical for long term health.
Sleep apnea is a serious condition that should not be taken lightly. But getting diagnosed is also nothing to be afraid of! The condition is completely treatable, typically through non-invasive methods. Many people who get treated for sleep apnea after an extended time of suffering will note that they feel like they’ve gotten their whole life back! If you’re suffering from dry mouth related to sleep apnea, there is something you can do to take control of your health and your life.
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