Dry Throat at Night – Frequent Symptom of Sleep Apnea

Kevin Murdock is a busy man. Forty-four years old, he is the father of two teenaged daughters, the owner of a successful investment brokerage, and an avid weekend warrior who runs marathons, plays golf, organizes tailgate parties for his large circle of friends at professional sporting events, and even finds time to sing tenor in his local opera company. Kevin Murdock is naturally a man on the go. But about a year ago he started to have to let some of his activities go because he was feeling tired all the time. He even started having to go to bed before 8 in the evening to be able to get up for work at 6 in the morning.

But Kevin did not do anything about his crippling fatigue until his wife, Christina, abruptly left him. Vowing she still loved him and would love him forever, Christina told Kevin that his snoring was making it impossible for her to sleep at night, no matter where she moved in their house. She told Kevin she would move back in when he got treatment for his sleep apnea.

In sleep apnea, breathing stops. Sometimes sufferers of this condition are breathless for 30 seconds, 60 seconds, 90 seconds, or even more. Hundreds of times every night, breathing stops, only to resume with a loud, rattling snore or snort. On his wife’s and doctor’s recommendation, Kevin spent the night a local sleep laboratory, which confirmed Christina’s suspicions that their shared loss of sleep was indeed due to sleep apnea.

Kevin was fitted for a face mask and hoses providing continuous positive airway pressure, better known as CPAP. Looking a little like a scuba diver when he went to bed, the mechanical ventilation machine indeed stopped his snoring and snorting throughout the night. The first morning Kevin awoke rejuvenated and refresh, but the benefits of CPAP for Kevin proved to be short-lived.

CPAP does not work for everyone. Just two days after starting CPAP, despite the fact it was the middle of summer, Kevin came down with a cold. The cold went a way, but then he had a sore throat that was so bad he could not even speak in the morning, although his throat felt better after his first cup of morning coffee. And after about three weeks, Kevin came down with a serious sinus infection.

Kevin’s doctor advised him that all his problems were probably due to failing to clean his CPAP machine, but he knew that could not be the problem. Kevin took care to clean the mask every morning exactly according to instructions without fail. He also changed his toothbrushes, scraped his tongue, and tried treatment with a neti pot. He tried adjusting the chin strap and finally taking it off entirely, but that just resulted in more snoring and snorting. Finally, Kevin’s doctor gave him a prescription for antibiotics, but all the drugs accomplished was to give him an upset stomach.

When Kevin went back to the sleep center, the specialists confessed that CPAP only works about 50 per cent of the time, even when patients use it exactly according to instructions. They told him that the reason he was constantly coming down with colds and sinus infections was that the machine dried out the air he was breathing all night, thus drying out his nose, throat, and sinuses. Tiny cracks in the linings of his airways provided the perfect place for germs to grow.

The solution, the doctors said, was a surgical procedure with the tongue-twisting name uvulopalatopharyngopasty. Using a scalpel or a laser, the surgeon would remove soft tissues around the dumbbell-shaped uvula at the back of the mouth, in the soft palate, and in the throat. What the doctors did not tell Kevin was that the procedure would change his singing voice forever – or that it was successful in only about 40 per cent of cases.

Kevin’s story is all too common. Tens of millions of people around the world suffer from sleep apnea. In the USA, the National Institutes of Health estimate, about 10 per cent of the adult population, or 18 million people, suffer nighttime interruptions of breathing caused by apnea. Other countries have similar rates of the disease. But because it occurs during sleep, only about 1 in 10 sufferers realizes he or she has the condition, until a spouse threatens to leave, or there is an awful auto crash caused by lack of sleep, or years of hypertension result in a heart attack, the snoring and snorting diagnosed for first time in the intensive care unit.

Don’t let this happen to you. Get your diagnosis of dry throat and dry mouth now. And if you are experiencing dry throat and dry mouth and are not getting CPAP, consider using nasal dilation strips.