Sleep Apnea Cause Bad Breath, Bad Dreams, and Bad Headaches?

Sleep Apnea, Nightmares and Bad Breath

If you consistently wake up with a headache, with the lingering memory of really bad dreams, or with a dry mouth and bad breath, it’s time to discuss the possibility of sleep apnea with your physician.

Sleep Apnea Can Cause Bad Breath

“Morning Breath” is a term to describe dry mouth as saliva production decreases while you sleep. Saliva kills bacteria in the mouth, and without saliva, bacteria causes halitosis and morning breath.

A little morning breath is natural due to diminishing saliva production. However for those with sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that results from the airway collapsing which results in restrictive breathing, bad morning breath can be the result of the body compensating for these apnea events during sleep. During an apnea event, people tend to either clench their jaw (causing bruxism – grinding or clenching the teeth). People can also open their mouth to gasp for air. Most people with sleep apnea tend to snore, and may not even be aware that these adrenaline-fueled flight or fight responses are even taking place. All these reactions have a tendency to dry out the mouth, and can in turn cause bad breath upon awakening.

Sleep Apnea Can Cause Bad Dreams

Someone with sleep apnea can experience an episode many times an hour, which results in frequent sleep interruptions. When an apnea occurs during REM sleep (the dream phase of sleep), it can interrupt the dream, enhancing dream recall. Additionally, the actual dream subject matter can be influenced by an apnea because apnea causes a dramatic decrease in blood oxygen levels. Lower blood oxygen levels can also have a relation to nightmares. Several studies substantiate the link between bad dreams and untreated sleep apnea.

You should always discuss frequent nightmares with your physician because there are also many other conditions that cause nightmares.

Headaches Caused by Sleep Apnea?

One of the primary indication of untreated sleep apnea is a morning headache that usually lasts around half an hour after waking. More than half of all OSA patients experienced morning headaches before their diagnosis of OSA.

Sleep disorders (not just OSA) have been linked to many types of headaches including migraines and chronic tension headaches. Studies have shown that morning headaches may be related to lower levels of oxygen saturation and the dilatation of blood vessels, which decreases blood pressure. Additionally, tightly clenched jaws that result from the body trying to keep the airway open, can also cause headaches. More research is necessary to determine the exact reasons for sleep related headaches. However, if you frequently wake up with a migraine or headache, you should discuss this with your physician because it could be an indicator of OSA or another sleep disorder.

Don’t Ignore These Signs of Sleep Apnea

Bad breath, bad dreams, bad headaches, bruxism, and snoring are all indications of the possibility of obstructive sleep apnea, and they need attention. Sleep apnea is a serious and chronic health problem. We’ve written about the symptoms of sleep apnea in blog. The best course of action is to your doctor about sleep apnea. The gold standard for effectively treating sleep apnea does not involve surgery or medication. A CPAP machine is highly effective at treating sleep apnea, and bad breath, bad dreams, bad headaches, and many other symptoms can immediately cease as soon as CPAP therapy is successful.

Chris Vasta is the president of The CPAP Shop and an expert in sleep and respiratory therapy. He often provides insights on product design and functionality on various manufacturers’ prototypes and is frequently tapped to provide reviews on new releases.

Chris Vasta


Chris Vasta

Over a 10+ year career at PHH Mortgage managing a $100 million portfolio, Chris Vasta learned the ins and outs of the business world. He learned how to establish business relationships, lead a multi-prong team, and implement strategies for long-term growth. In 2007, Vasta used that experience to transition his role into president of The CPAP Shop. Over his tenure, Vasta has been involved in everything from website design to warehouse layout. His hands-on approach with customers has evolved into an in-depth understanding of the challenges of beginning and adhering to sleep therapy. He often provides his insights on product…

5 Comments Leave new

  • RuthAnn Alston

    That’s very interesting. I have osa and at least once a week wake up (& my poor husband) screaming. Half the time I don’t even remember having a dream (with or without screaming). I wake up with horrible dry mouth and I grind my teeth like crazy. I had no idea these were related to osa. Time to get my doc to adjust my cpap I guess.

  • Margaret Snith

    Please help me get something for my hygienne

    • Chris Vasta

      Hello, Margaret. You can use one part white vinegar to four parts distilled water for the water chamber and tubing. For the cushion and headgear, you can use a gentle soap like Ivory. If you are looking to clean and disinfect, you may want to look into the ControlIII Disinfectant CPAP Cleaning Solution.

  • Wojciech Kusz

    I am medical doctor, age 52,diagnosed sleep days up to apnea and I am looking for good quality automatic CPAP machine with humifider, reasonable price important. I would like to ask You for advice, where to go or phone, to buy all the necessary equipment

    • Chris Vasta

      Hi Dr. Kusz,
      Call our support line at 1-866-414-9700, and one of our knowledgeable staff will assist you in your product choices.

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