Nasal congestion is the most common side effect of CPAP therapy. A runny, itchy or dry nose, or nosebleeds may also occur. Nasal congestion often subsides after the first month. It also tends to be more common among people with OSA. This congestion is not always a result of CPAP and is likely to happen in the colder months and during allergy season. We recommend consulting your doctor if your congestion is severe, or if you have nasal, sinus or ear pain. Here are three steps you can take to mitigate nasal problems:
- Apply a few sprays of saline nasal spray (a mixture of salt and water) in each nostril before using your CPAP. You can find this at your local drugstore.
- Use a nasal decongestant, either in the form of a spray or a tablet that you take by mouth. It’s recommended that you never use a spray for more than a few days. Some types require a prescription from your doctor who may also recommend a specific decongestant for you.
- Add moisture to the forced air by using a CPAP humidifier. This will reduce your nasal symptoms, but make sure to keep your humidifier clean to prevent infection. Some CPAP models already have a humidifier connected to the unit. The two types of CPAP humidifiers available to you are the heated humidifier and the cold “passover” humidifier. Either type can help you breathe easier, but sleep experts primarily recommend a heated humidifier.
You might encounter this problem if your OSA is severe. A high level of pressure is necessary to keep your airway open, and it can feel like you are getting too much air. It’s not recommended to reduce your air pressure setting without first talking to your sleep doctor. Here are some tips to try:
- To help your body adjust to the air pressure, begin using your CPAP for short periods throughout the day. Remember to keep your breathing slow as you gradually increase the length of your sessions.
- Take advantage of your machine’s ramp setting. This will start it at a very low level of air pressure which will slowly rise until it reaches the right level. Reduce the setting’s length of time as you get more accustomed to it.
Breathing through the mouth during sleep may cause this problem. If you’re experiencing pain from a sore throat, consult with your doctor. Throat irritation caused by CPAP may be relieved by following these tips:
- Wear a chin strap with your nasal mask to maintain a closed mouth while you sleep.
- Use a full-face mask that covers your nose and mouth.
- Use a heated humidifier that fits your CPAP to moisten and warm the air going into your throat.
If you still experience excessive daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, or stop breathing during sleep, that could be a sign that air is leaking out of your mask. You can correct the problem with these tips:
- Adjust the straps and headgear on your mask to find the best fit.
- If you have had your mask for some time, check for wear and tear.
- You may need to replace your mask.
- Try a different type of mask that is better at eliminating air leaks.
- Contact us if you continue to have problems with air leaks.
- Contact your doctor or us about trying a mask that will adjust to the shape of your face.
CPAP masks are made of medical-grade silicone and are hypoallergenic. However, the natural oils from our skin can lead to irritation and mask leaks, in addition to causing the mask to deteriorate early. It is important to wash your mask with soap and water regularly to prevent oil build-up.
Mask cushions have improved to ensure the best fit and minimise discomfort. If your mask or straps do cause soreness, these simple steps can help solve the problem:
- Make sure your straps are not too tight. Keep your mask snug enough to prevent air leaks, but not so tight that it hurts your skin.
- Slip pads made of fleece or other soft material over your straps to keep them from rubbing against your skin.
- Talk to us about trying a mask that will mould to the shape of your face.
- Talk to us if skin irritation or soreness persists.
It is probably best to take advantage of CPAP for the rest of your life. Its health benefits far outweigh the initial discomfort, which usually subsides after a few days or weeks of use. Moreover, pausing treatment even for just a night is likely to cause an immediate return of your symptoms.
We recommend taking the time to think about what will help you ensure a successful treatment. Your individual commitment, as well as support from your partner or family, may go a long way in encouraging you to stay consistent with CPAP therapy.
It’s best to use your CPAP whenever you sleep. Sleeping without it may reduce your quality of life by increasing instances of daytime sleepiness, loud snoring and other symptoms associated with sleep apnea.
Besides a nightstand, CPAP users prefer to put their CPAP on the floor or under their bed to keep them out of sight. However, the floor is not always the best place for the device because it tends to be dusty and could potentially shorten the life of your CPAP’s air filter.
Not quite. Most doctors will not advise it if you have a sinus cold or sinus congestion because the increased air pressure can lead to sinus and ear discomfort. It may also prevent your sinuses from draining effectively, increasing the risk of sinus infection.
The air filter on your CPAP will need to be replaced periodically. This will be necessary every six months or as often as every two weeks, depending on your device. If your CPAP is kept in a dusty environment, you may need to replace the air filter more frequently. Check your user manual to see how often.
Yes. Bacteria can multiply whenever moisture is present on your CPAP equipment from water supplies, from body humidity, or any bodily fluid. The chamber needs to be properly cleaned and dried to prevent bacteria from building up and causing infections in your airway passages and on your skin. In fact, if the mask is not cleaned properly, even the oils on your skin can cause your CPAP equipment to break down and leak.
If you suspect that you have sleep apnea or any other sleep disorder, you should speak with your family physician. Your family physician will refer you to a sleep specialist who will most likely order a sleep study (polysomnogram) in a sleep lab.
During a sleep study, your sleep will be monitored for brainwaves, muscle tone, breathing efforts, your heart rate and rhythm, body position, blood oxygen level and air flow at the nose and the mouth.
This information is then interpreted by the sleep specialist and will notify you of the findings. If a sleep disorder is present, the sleep specialist will then give you treatment/ therapy options.
There are several available treatments for OSA. The most common and effective treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea is CPAP therapy.
The main benefits of CPAP therapy include the following:
- Breathing becomes regular and snoring stops
- Blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels return to normal
- Blood pressure decreases
- Reduced incidence of heart problems and stroke
- Restful sleep is restored
Yes, there are other sleep apnea therapy options. Consult your sleep specialist about these options. They include:
For cases of mild obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), your doctor may suggest you use an oral appliance. The oral appliance pulls forward the lower jaw while it is worn in an effort to prevent airway collapse during sleep.
If sleep apnea is caused by an excess of tissue at some level in the upper airway, your doctor may suggest surgery to correct the sleep apnea. By removing the excess tissue or airway blockage, the apnea may resolve. However, surgery, in some cases, may worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea. Though surgery is often ineffective in treating OSA in adults, it is a widely used treatment in children (tonsillectomy).
Certain lifestyle changes may improve symptoms of sleep apnea. Avoidance of alcohol and sedatives, weight loss and avoiding sleeping on your back can all help. Undertaking these changes however, does not exempt CPAP use if it has been prescribed for you.
This varies from one humidifier to the next and from one patient to the next. The temperature and humidity of the bedroom are also factors that play a significant role.
The water should be changed after each use, even if you never seem to use it all in one night’s time.
Yes, occasionally. We recommend boiling the tap water and making sure it’s cool enough before using it in your humidifier.
The heated humidifier adds moisture and warmth to the air delivered by a CPAP or Bi-Level system. This prevents nasal congestion and dryness of the nose and throat, thus improving your comfort and adherence to the therapy. Heated humidification can also prevent the large increase in nasal resistance that causes mouth breathing and leaks.
Because our facial muscles change when we lie down and further relax once we are asleep, we recommend adjusting the mask while you are in your sleeping position. If you are used to sleeping with no pillows, fit your mask that way. If you sleep in a recliner, adjust accordingly.
A full-face mask is preferred by some people, but it offers additional therapeutic benefits for those who have a habit of breathing through the mouth or experience mouth leaks, both of which can lead to less effective therapy.
There is no one-size-fits-all mask, so finding the right one for you may require trying on as many masks as you can. We suggest consulting with our experts and talking to other CPAP users. Your chosen mask should be comfortable and does not put excessive pressure on the sensitive areas of the face, the nasal bridge and upper lip
Mask systems experience different levels of wear and tear depending on how well they are cared for and the user’s skin type. CPAP users with oily skin tend to need mask replacements more frequently. It’s a good idea to check with your insurance company and find out how often you’re eligible for a new mask system.
The humidifier heats the air from the CPAP, making it warmer than the room temperature, especially in the fall and wintertime. This results in condensation building up inside the tubing and sometimes in the mask as well. Air blowing through the wet tubing creates a gurgling sound.
Here are some steps you can take:
- Lower your humidifier settings.
- Apply a tube insulator or keep the tubing underneath your covers.
- Ask us about heated tubing.
- Increase the temperature in your bedroom.
The first two weeks are the toughest time for most CPAP users who may feel claustrophobic or feel that they are not getting enough air. This does not necessarily mean that air pressure must be increased right away. It simply means that the user is not yet accustomed to the CPAP pressure. If you have trouble catching your breath when using CPAP, allow your body to adjust to the sensation by practicing wearing it in the daytime. Try to wear your CPAP as many hours as you can when you sleep, only removing it if you cannot tolerate it anymore. Your body will gradually adjust to the pressure as you keep practicing using CPAP and having the apparatus on your face.
It is not unheard of for CPAP users to experience air trapping in the stomach and wake up with stomach pain or gas. It may help to sleep with your head aligned with your body or to try to elevate your head in bed with a wedge pillow. Lowering the CPAP pressure may also help, but it can also compromise the effectiveness of your therapy.
Wash your face thoroughly before wearing your CPAP mask. Removing oils from your skin will help prolong the mask’s performance and maintain proper fit.
Gently wash your mask by hand with mild soap.
Once you’ve separated the tubing from the machine and the mask, wash it with mild soap and rinse thoroughly with fresh tap water. Shake it lightly to remove excess water before hanging it to dry away from direct sunlight.
Wash your equipment at least once a week. For parts that are in contact with the skin and/or mucous membranes, daily cleaning or wiping is recommended.
Most models come with a mask, headgear and tubing that are safe to wash and submerge in water with mild soap. Rinse these components thoroughly before hanging or placing them on a towel to air dry. If this is done in the morning, everything should be dry by bedtime.
Washable filters should be washed on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Simply remove it from the CPAP machine and wash in warm soapy water. Allow it to completely dry before placing into the machine.
These filters are often used in conjunction with disposable filters. Replacement is recommended on a monthly basis, but a filter may last 2-3 months depending on your environment. Check on your filters regularly and keep an eye out for dirt, discolouration and deterioration.
Prevent bacteria growth by setting a weekly cleaning schedule for your humidifier. Before filling the chamber, remove it from the heater base to prevent any overflow from making contact with the heating element. Then, fill the chamber with equal vinegar and water parts. Let it soak for thirty minutes in a sink before rinsing thoroughly with water. For home use cleaning, we do not recommend using a product stronger than white vinegar.
Unplug the machine from the electrical source before using a damp cloth to remove any surface dust and dirt.
With proper care and maintenance, your CPAP machine should remain efficient and effective for many years to come. Consult CPAP CENTRAL for further questions
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