Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy helps treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The treatment involves wearing a nosepiece or mask that’s hooked up to the CPAP machine to deliver you steady and constant air pressure.
While realizing the benefits of continuous positive airway pressure therapy, some patients often deal with uncomfortable and troublesome nasal dryness with CPAP. This is because the gas flow of CPAP therapy sometimes makes it difficult for the nasal airway to maintain sufficient humidity and warmth. As a result, the CPAP user can lose moisture in their airways and eventually exhibit symptoms of inflammation and upper airy dryness, such as:
- Dry nose
- Bleeding Nose
- Dry Mouth
- Dry Throat
- Dry Cracked Lips
Infections of the throat, sinuses, and nose might also occur.
Your nasal airway is extremely vascular which enables it to become dried out easily by dry, cold air. Luckily, we have some tips for you to help combat nasal and mouth dryness with CPAP therapy and stay compliant with your treatment.
About Nasal Dryness with CPAP
When you go to sleep using a CPAP machine, you could experience a mouth leak. Unidirectional airflow can occur since incoming air can travel through the mouth without going to the lungs first. The cold dry air flow increase through the nasal passages can lead to mucosal drying and rebound congestion.
Inflammation and swelling can happen in rebound congestion, resulting in a reduction in nasal airway diameter. Because of this, there’s increased nasal airway resistance (NAR). NAR cause an increase in mouth leak as you begin to mouth breathe and this continues the cycle.
If you reside in a humid environment, you likely have dehumidifiers and air conditioning running, therefore the air passing through your CPAP is dry and cold. This can cause increased nasal symptom occurrence and could lead to discomfort. Even if you live in a humid environment, your nasal airways can’t provide enough humidity to humidify the CPAP therapy’s increased airflow.
This can lead to the nasal mucosa lacking enough moisture needed to humidify the air.
Fortunately, CPAP humidification, CPAP and nasal dryness tips, and some products can help.
CPAP and Nasal Dryness Tips and Tricks
You can try one or more of the below CPAP nasal dryness tips and tricks.
1. Ensure your CPAP mask fits properly. Your nose can dry out with a leaky mask. If you need to tighten straps frequently to avoid air leakage, then the mask isn’t fitting properly. A CPAP machine featuring a heated humidifier that connects to the air pressure device can help. You can adjust the humidification level. You can also ease a stuffy, dry nose by using a nasal saline spray before you go to bed.
2. Apply a non-petroleum based moisturizer in your nose. Some doctors suggest this and say it works effectively.
3. Use a heated humidifier and full-face mask to prevent your mouth from drying out. Heated CPAP humidification can reduce NAR because it supplies the right amount of humidity to the air that your nose can’t supply. This is especially helpful if you’re using a nasal mask or nasal pillow and have a dry mouth when you wake up. In this case, it’s most likely you’re a mouth breather.
If you do use a heated humidifier and a full-face mask and you’re still waking up dry, it’s likely you’re not using it properly. Try to turn the heat up. You’ll receive more moisture the higher the heat level is.
4. Change your CPAP mask or machine setting. You could be using an incorrect mask for your machine’s setting. Talk with the sleep specialist or equipment provider to see what other options there are. You could have your CPAP setting too high. If so, try to adjust the setting until you begin noticing the drying going away or ceasing completely.
CPAP and Nasal Dryness Products
Below are some products you could find helpful with dry nasal passages.
As mentioned, CPAP air can be an irritant in some cases. The irritation can make your nasal passages dry out and in some cases, bleed. Or, your mucous membranes could produce excess mucus to try and protect your nasal passages, resulting in congestion. The irritation can develop over time and become cumulative. Not to mention, cracked, bleeding or dry nasal passages can be a breeding ground for infection.
Using a heated humidifier can help eliminate irritation and add moisture to the CPAP air. The heated humidifier integrates with most lines of CPAP devices perfectly to provide moisturized, heated air for therapy comfort.
It adjusts the humidifier’s temperature to reduce condensation in the tubing, keeping the level of humidification constant all night long. You can adjust the control knob on the humidifier’s side of the base to set the level of heat. There are different heat settings to help you find your desired humidity level.
The CPAP heated humidifier rests on a heater plate. The heater plate will heat the chamber water with increasing temperature, adding moisture to the air flowing through.
CPAP Moisture Therapy Cream
This moisture therapy cream contains Emu oil, Aloe Vera and Vitamins A and E. It doesn’t contain any petroleum-based products that could damage the CPAP equipment. CPAP moisture therapy cream intended help prevent skin problems, such as cracking, dryness, chafing or other irritation from using a CPAP mask or other delivery device.
You can apply it to the affected area as often as you need it. If you’re using a nasal pillow, you can apply the moisture cream to the outside and inside nasal passages or nares.
NasoGEL soothes irritated nasal passages and keeps them hydrated and moisturized. It can help if you wake up with sore nostrils too. You can use a small amount of NasoGEL and apply it to each nostril every four to six hours. Apply the water-soluble saline gel with a clean Q-tip or cotton swab for prolonged moisture. NasoGEL is perfect for both CPAP and oxygen users.
NeilMed NasoGEL Drip Free Spray
Some patients find benefits when they use NasoGEL along with a nasal saline spray, like NeilMed NasoGEL Drip Free Spray.
These are regular standard hoses that come in various lengths or you can choose heated options to enhance your set up, reducing tube condensation.
For instance, a heating tube can provide you with optimal humidity by monitoring the levels of temperature to the mask which allows the device to compensate when there’s a change in ambient conditions. You also have an innovative swivel connection at the device helping with moving throughout the night.
The above tips, tricks, and products should really help with nasal dryness with CPAP, but if you continue experiencing nasal or mouth dryness even after you’ve made adjustments to your machine, mask and heated humidifier or purchased some nasal dryness with CPAP products, consult with the sleep specialist. They may have other CPAP and nasal dryness tips to help alleviate the problem and provide you with more quality sleep.
David Repasky has been using CPAP treatment since 2017 and has first-hand experience with what it’s like to live with Sleep Apnea. He brings the patient’s perspective to the CPAP.com blog and has received formal training in CPAP machines, masks, and equipment.