Center for Sleep Medicine
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, is the most effective treatment for OSA. Using CPAP is a major step forward toward a healthier life: It will help you breathe easier, sleep better, and live healthier.
Ten CPAP Tips
Using CPAP can be a positive experience if you keep these 10 key points in mind:
- Commitment. CPAP is not a quick fix for your problem. It involves a long-term commitment to improve your sleep and your health.
- Communication. Stay in close communication with your sleep specialist and your primary physician. Ask many questions and seek help when you need it.
- Consistency. Use CPAP all night, every night, and for every nap. You will receive the maximum health benefits from CPAP when you use it every time that you sleep. This will also make it easier for your body to adjust to the treatment.
- Correction. The machine and mask that you try may not be the same one you have five years from now. If you find your current mask is no longer satisfactory, it is important to report your problems to your sleep specialist. The solutions are often easily solved. It is important that your mask is a good fit and you learn to use your equipment properly. Register for a CPAP class at MetroHealth to help you use your CPAP correctly.
- Challenge. Tell a family member or close friend to ask you each morning if you used your CPAP the previous night. Have someone to challenge you to give it your best effort.
- Connection. Your adjustment to CPAP will be easier if you are able to connect with others who use the same treatment. Ask your sleep specialist if there is a support group in your area for people who have sleep apnea.
- Comfort. Increase your level of comfort by using a saline spray, decongestant, or heated humidifier if CPAP irritates your nose, mouth, or throat. Most units have settings to allow you to get used to the prescribed pressure level. This happens by starting at a much lower pressure and ramping the pressure up slowly (usually over 20 minutes) until it reaches your prescribed pressure, the patient is usually asleep by that time.
- Cleaning. Clean your mask, tubing, and headgear on a regular basis. Put this time in your schedule so that you don't forget to do it. Check and replace the filters for your CPAP unit and humidifier.
- Completion. Although you are never finished with CPAP therapy, you should reward yourself by celebrating the completion of your first month of treatment. Expect this first month to be your hardest period of adjustment. It will involve some trial and error as you find the machine, mask, and pressure settings that are right for you.
- Continuation. After your first month of treatment, continue to make a daily commitment to use your CPAP all night, every night and for every nap. CPAP is a long-term commitment, one that could make a dramatic improvement in your quality of life.
Making CPAP work for You
There are great advantages to using CPAP.The steady air flow of a CPAP machine keeps your airway open and prevents pauses in your breathing that can put your health at risk and keep you from a good night’s sleep. As a result, you feel more alert and refreshed when you wake up.
There are five common problems that are common to both new and experienced CPAP users. The following simple solutions should help you maintain a long-term commitment to improve your sleep and your health with CPAP. Remember to always talk to your CPAP supplier if you have questions about your CPAP machine. Contact your sleep specialist if you have ongoing problems.
Problem #1: You seem to have more nasal congestion from using CPAP.
Nasal congestion is the most common side effect of CPAP therapy. You may also have a runny, itchy or dry nose, or nosebleeds. Nasal congestion often goes away after your first month of use. Congestion is more common in the winter and during allergy season. It is not always a result of CPAP. Talk to your physician if your congestion is severe, or if you have nasal, sinus, or ear pain.
These tips can help reduce your nasal problems:
- Try using a saline nasal spray, which is a simple mixture of salt and water. You can find it at your local drugstore. Apply a few sprays in each nostril before using your CPAP.
- Try a nasal decongestant in either spray or tablet form. Ask your physician to recommend a decongestant for you. Never use a spray for more than a few days.
- Try using a CPAP humidifier. The moisture that it adds to the forced air may reduce your nasal symptoms. Some CPAP models come with a built-in humidifier that is connected to the unit. Be sure to keep your humidifier clean to prevent infections. Ask your sleep specialist about using a Cold "passover" humidifier or heated humidifier with your CPAP.
Problem #2: You have trouble breathing with so much air coming in through your mask.
This problem is common if your OSA is severe and a higher level of air pressure is required to keep your airway open. At times it can feel like you are getting too much air at too high of a pressure level. You should never reduce your air pressure setting without first talking to your sleep specialist. Instead, try these tips:
- Begin using your CPAP for short periods of time during the day while you watch TV or read.
- Use the ramp setting on your unit so the air pressure increases slowly to the proper level.
- Use CPAP every night and for every nap. Using it less often reduces the health benefits and makes it harder for your body to get used to it.
- Newer CPAP models are virtually silent; however, if you find the sound of your CPAP machine to be bothersome, place the unit under your bed to dampen the sound.
- Make small adjustments to your mask, tubing, straps, and headgear until you get the right fit.
Problem #3: You have a dry or sore throat from using CPAP.
Anyone who breathes through the mouth while sleeping may have this problem. Talk to your sleep specialist so he or she can properly address it. These tips may help relieve throat irritation caused by CPAP:
- Using a humidifier, either cold passover or heated, usually solves this problem by moistening the air entering your airway.
- Using a chin strap with your nasal mask will keep your mouth closed while you sleep.
Problem #4: You have red eyes, continue snoring, or stop breathing during sleep.
These problems are all signs that air may be leaking out of your mask. These tips can help you correct the problem:
- Adjust the straps and headgear on your mask to obtain a better fit.
- Check to make sure your mask is not worn or torn.
- Try a different size mask.
- Talk to your sleep specialist about attending a CPAP class for a mask re-fitting.
Problem #5: You develop redness or sore spots on your face, nose or forehead from the mask or straps.
Most masks now have improved cushioning for a more comfortable fit. If your mask does cause soreness, these simple steps can help solve the problem:
- Loosen your straps slightly so that they are not too tight. Make sure that your mask is still snug enough to prevent air leaks, but not so tight that it hurts your skin.
- Consider buying pads that slip over your straps. Made of fleece or other soft material, they keep the straps from rubbing against your skin.
- Contact the sleep physician and he or she may recommend attending a CPAP class.