You’ve finally taken control of your snoring problem and have been prescribed CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy for your sleep apnea. Great job! The first step is normally the hardest. After all, being hooked up to a machine and sleeping with a mask on your face may not sound especially tantalizing.
CPAP therapy is the most common and most effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea available but getting used to CPAP can be a major hurdle for some OSA patients.
When you think about a CPAP machine, you may be thinking about a big, blocky machine connected to hoses and tubes. With the mask on and the machine running, Darth Vader and his loud, robotic breathing may also come to mind. That’s not the case anymore.
CPAP machines have seen a lot of improvements in recent years and are no longer the clunky abominations you may think of when you hear about CPAP. For some people though, getting used to their CPAP machine isn’t easy.
Have no fear! We’re here with six easy tips for getting used to your CPAP machine that you can try tonight.
CPAP is Effective— But Only if You Stick With It
Getting used to your CPAP machine is an important first step toward treating your sleep apnea and getting the restful sleep you need each night.
Unfortunately for many, getting used to the CPAP machine at your bedside or a mask hugging your face is often a deciding factor between whether or not you continue with your treatment. Because of these newfound inconveniences, a lot of sleep apnea patients stop their CPAP use and return to troubled nights full of breathing interruptions, loud snoring, and poor sleep quality.
This is a bad idea.
Sleep apnea is a very serious sleep disorder that doesn’t just go away. Your body won’t work its way through sleep apnea like it does the common cold. Untreated sleep apnea can and will cause daytime sleepiness, hampered cognitive function, and as well as other serious health problems, some of which include:
- Increased heart attack risk
- Increased stroke risk
- Erectile dysfunction
- Mental health problems like anxiety and depression
On the other hand, CPAP use also has a few unexpected benefits for both you and your sleep partner. Not only can it help you sleep better, but it can improve your brain health, boost your sex drive, and prevent you from getting sick.
This is why it’s so important to stick with your CPAP treatment, even if it is uncomfortable at first. Over time, any initial discomfort from your CPAP treatment will far outweigh the side effects and long-term health problems associated with obstructive sleep apnea, especially as your new arrangements become routine.
6 Easy Tips for Getting Used to CPAP
There are a lot of different CPAP masks on the market. However, we recommend the nasal pillow mask to the vast majority of our patients. A nasal pillow mask supplies air directly into your nostrils and are the smallest CPAP masks available. These are especially helpful for those who feel uneasy or claustrophobic wearing other CPAP masks.
While the nasal pillow mask is more compact and comfortable than its predecessors, it can still take some getting used to!
If you’re currently struggling with your CPAP treatment, don’t take your chances with sleep apnea by sleeping without it. There’s a lot you can do to help yourself get used to using your CPAP machine so you can get back to a good night’s sleep every night.
1. Ease Into CPAP Therapy With V-Com
The high pressures and flows of a CPAP machine can make it challenging for new users to adjust and sleep comfortably. This is one of the top reasons why patients seek alternatives to CPAP.
A new and practical tool is now available to help new CPAP users adjust to treatment more comfortably. It’s called V-Com, and it’s a simple addition to your CPAP hose that connects the mask to the machine.
Think of V-Com as a personal assistant for your CPAP machine. It’s like having someone to guide you through the initial stages of treatment, ensuring your comfort while preserving treatment effectiveness. By making the necessary flow adjustments, V-Com helps you ease into CPAP therapy, so you can get the restful sleep you need without discomfort.
2. Develop a Consistent Sleep Schedule
This may not seem like an especially important step for getting used to CPAP, but it is! Going to bed at the same time every night will make falling asleep each night much easier for both CPAP users and non-users. It can also help shorten your adjustment time if you’re new to CPAP use.
For best results, make sure you go to bed at the same time each evening and wake up at the same time every morning, even on weekends.
3. Wear Your CPAP Mask While You’re Awake
It may seem strange to wear your CPAP mask during the day, but this is one of the best steps you can take toward ensuring your mask is comfortable when you fall asleep.
This is another reason why we recommend the nasal pillow mask for its comfort and ease of use. Unlike other masks, the nasal pillow mask is designed to fit comfortably and securely under your nose without obstructing your vision or field of view. This means you can comfortably watch TV, read a book, or do other activities while wearing your mask.
Wearing your CPAP mask while you’re lying down (but not falling asleep) can help acclimatize you to how your mask fits while you’re lying down since the fit is slightly different between the two. This is also a good time to test your CPAP settings and get used to them.
Once your mask fits comfortably, turn on the air pressure as you’re lying down to not only get used to the pressurized air but to check your mask’s seal. An improperly fitted mask can cause uncomfortable side effects like dry mouth, a dry nose, nasal congestion, and skin irritation or sores.
4. Keep Your CPAP Device Clean
Poor CPAP hygiene can cause a lot of problems. Breathing into your CPAP mask for 7 to 9 hours each night generates a lot of extra warmth and humidity. This can make your CPAP machine a breeding ground for bacteria that can make you sick.
To prevent this, it’s important to keep each part of your CPAP machine clean and well-maintained. Make sure you clean your mask and your CPAP tubing at least once a week. Cleaning the components of your CPAP machine will also extend the life of each piece so you won’t have to replace them as often.
Your doctor or a sleep specialist likely gave you instructions on how to clean your CPAP devices, but here are a few of our suggestions:
- Wash CPAP tubing in warm, soapy water. Be sure to submerge the tubing in the water to ensure the inside is clean.
- Clean hoses the same way, unless they have electronic components. Clean carefully around any electronic components.
- Wash each part of your mask separately. Your face and hair’s natural oils can degrade the material your headgear and cushion are made out of over time. They can also stain these components and attract bacteria, so keeping each part of your mask clean is vital to getting the most out of your system.
- Sanitize CPAP humidifier tanks with a vinegar solution containing equal parts white vinegar and warm water. Fill the tank with the solution and allow it to soak while you clean the other components.
- Thoroughly rinse all components with cool water before allowing them to air dry.
5. Use CPAP Accessories If You Need Them
People add toppings like chocolate syrup and nuts to ice cream to make it even better. You can do the same with your CPAP therapy by using certain CPAP accessories to make the treatment more comfortable. V-Com isn’t the only accessory you can to your CPAP routine to improve your sleep.
A few examples of these accessories include:
- A CPAP humidifier can help make sleeping with the mask on more comfortable and prevent side effects like dry mouth or a stuffy nose.
- Chin straps that help you breathe through your nose
- Organization systems, such as wall mounts, help keep hoses organized and help keep your system more compact overall.
6. Be Patient
When it comes to getting used to your CPAP machine, remember that all things are difficult before they are easy. It’s common for there to be some discomfort in the nasal area or around your ears, but it’s important you stick with it!
Getting used to a major lifestyle change won’t happen overnight, so a little patience goes a long way. Be patient, keep at it, and remember our earlier tips, and before you know it, your CPAP therapy will begin to feel like second nature.
Is Sleep Apnea Leaving You Breathless? Stick with CPAP!
Feeling like Darth Vader is fun if you’re a kid playing pretend with friends, but not if you’re an adult with obstructive sleep apnea. The days of clunky CPAP machines that wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi movie are moving further behind us, but getting used to your CPAP machine still takes time, patience, and some adjustments. Keep at it though— sticking to your CPAP therapy will not only help you sleep better, but you’ll feel better during the day, and your sleep partner probably will too!
Remember: obstructive sleep apnea won’t go away on its own, and you need to stick to your treatment to get relief from your symptoms. Even if it’s uncomfortable at first, there are plenty of steps you can take to make following your treatment more comfortable.
If you have more questions about best practices for CPAP therapy, you’ve come to the right place! Contact us at the Sleep Centers of Middle Tennessee, and we can answer your questions and get your sleep back on track!
- “Best CPAP Masks for Side Sleepers of 2022.” SleepApnea.org, 19 Jan. 2023, www.sleepapnea.org/cpap/best-cpap-mask-for-side-sleepers/.
- “Sleepres Introduces V-Com, a Comfort Accessory to Soften CPAP Peak Inspiratory Flow.” Sleep Review, 8 June 2022, sleepreviewmag.com/sleep-treatments/therapy-devices/cpap-pap-devices/sleepres-v-com-comfort-accessory-cpap/.