CPAP and Mouth Breathing

CPAP and Mouth Breathing

If you breathe through your mouth while sleeping, you will have difficulties with your CPAP therapy.  Common problems that mouth breathers have with CPAP include waking up with dry mouth or a scratchy irritated throat.   Mouth breathing is a fairly common, yet serious, problem with CPAP treatment.  Mouth breathing can seriously compromise the effectiveness of CPAP therapy by allowing the positive airway pressure to escape through the mouth during sleep therapy.

Mouth breathing is actually not normal and those who consistently breathe through their mouths could suffer from:

  • Deviated septum
  • Small nostrils
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Chronic sinus issues

Any of these conditions could make breathing through the nose difficult, causing your body to intake breath through the mouth.

Red Flags

Normal CPAP therapy applies positive airway pressure through the nostrils in order to keep the throat from closing and causing breathing interruptions while sleeping. Since air is forced into the nose to keep the throat open, breathing through your mouth creates a “gap” in continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).

The most commonly used CPAP masks are nasal masks.  Nasal prong masks are also quite popular.  Chronic mouth breathers will have difficulty with their CPAP treatment, as their mouth breathing will allow the pressurized air to escape through the mouth. 

Here are a few red flags to look for if you think that your therapy might be suffering because of mouth breathing.

  • Dry throat or dry mouth
  • Humidifier tank: water level drops significantly during sleep
  • Daytime symptoms return or fail to get better

Solutions

There are solutions for mouth breathing during CPAP therapy. You have lots of options and lots of styles in those various options. Here are a few things to try if you’re breathing through your mouth at night:

  • Full face mask – This style of CPAP mask allows you to breathe either through your nose or mouth while using CPAP with no ill effects. It covers your nose and mouth and can be the best option for those people who are mouth-breathing during sleep. A popular style is the Ultra Mirage II by ResMed®. If this works for you, be on the lookout for any air leaks – which will hamper therapy. Any reoccurrence of symptoms could lead you to discover an air leak.
  • Chinstrap – If you prefer using a nasal mask or nasal prong mask, try integrating a chinstrap to keep your mouth closed. These are available to work in tandem with the CPAP mask you currently favor. A chinstrap wraps around the chin, as the name implies, and physically holds the jaw shut so that you mouth remains closed during sleep.

With any CPAP mask (or anything you use daily, for that matter) you’ll need to replace parts due to typical wear and tear. For CPAP users specifically, worn equipment can be detrimental to your therapy.

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