If you’ve recently been diagnosed with sleep apnea, it’s likely your doctor has prescribed CPAP therapy or continuous positive airway pressure and recommended you to use your machine every night.
“In order to get the best results from your CPAP therapy, you need to use it diligently. You need to use it every day. Don’t skip. Don’t use it three or four days a week. Try to keep it on all night long because we now know that some of the worst episodes of sleep-disordered breathing actually occur in the early morning hours just before you wake up”, according to sleep expert Dr. Robert Rosenberg.
In spite of their doctor’s recommendation, about half of people say they struggle with getting comfortable with their CPAP machine at night. This makes you more likely to abandon the therapy, preventing you from getting the kind of restorative sleep you need to live your best life.
Since CPAP therapy, is for most people, something you’ll need to do for the rest of your life, comfort and ease of use is paramount when it comes to ensuring that you successfully incorporate your CPAP machine into your nightly routine. To sleep comfortably with your CPAP machine, read below on the four most common CPAP problems and ways to solve them.
Problem 1: Common CPAP side effects cause patients to give up therapy
Solution: There are a variety of reasons why sleep apnea patients say they got off to a rough start with CPAP therapy, including side effects such as insomnia, claustrophobia, and/or a runny nose or dry mouth. However, most of these issues can be corrected, either simply by getting used to therapy or by using a CPAP machine with a “ramp” feature that allows you to start your therapy with a lower air pressure that automatically and slowly increases as you fall asleep. You can also take steps to address the specific problem you’re having. Such as if you’re waking with a dry mouth in the mornings or find yourself removing the mask during sleep, it may be beneficial to wear a chin strap at night. Or if you’re having trouble falling asleep, try making lifestyle adjustments such as avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed and doing relaxation exercises.
Problem 2: Patients lose sleep over their ill-fitting CPAP mask
Solution: A mask that fits well is the most important factor for a comfortable night’s sleep with your CPAP machine. Your mask should never feel uncomfortable, irritate your skin or cause pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Everyone has different face shapes, so the right style and size mask for someone else may not work for you.” The famed medical center recommends that you try out different masks, as there are numerous options available and ways to make the fit more comfortable. CPAP masks also come in different sizes and can be adjusted.
Problem 3: Patients don’t ask for help with CPAP therapy
Solution: If you’ve just been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you’re certainly not expected to be an expert on CPAP therapy! Surround yourself with a team of supportive folks who will cheer you on and give you advice during the adjustment period. This team should include your doctor or sleep specialist, your CPAP machine manufacturer, as well as friends and family.
“For technical problems with the equipment, check in with the home care company,” recommends the National Sleep Foundation. “Your doctor/sleep lab should also provide troubleshooting services if the problem has to do with mask fit or pressure adjustments rather than the workings of the equipment itself.”