Check out these solutions for 6 common problems with CPAP (Part One)

 

 

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is considered the gold standard for treating sleep apnea (especially obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA). 

However, while some people take to this therapy just fine, it may be more problematic for others. 

Here's a guide to 6 key complaints from CPAP users and some basic solutions, divided into a 2-part series. 

 

Solutions to 6 common problems with CPAP (1 - 3)

While this list doesn't exhaust all the potential obstacles you may face while treating sleep apnea, it does capture the 6 most common problems that CPAP users encounter. Here are 3.

#1: You can't fall asleep while wearing the mask

This could be caused by any of the following: 

#2: You experience dry mouth, dry eyes, or dry nose 

These are common occurrences, but they can be corrected by understanding what causes them.

Dry mouth

This is typically caused by oral breathing (more commonly referred to as mouthbreathing). The pressurized air shoots into the nose, then is funneled right back out through the open mouth, leaving the tongue, gums, and other tissues vulnerable to dryness.

People with sleep apnea often develop the tendency to mouthbreathe because that's the way their body and brain have compensated for poor oxygen from breathing restrictions caused by apneas while sleeping. 

If you are early into your therapy (less than a month), a dry mouth may be a sign your body is still relearning to breathe correctly at night. You can confirm you are doing this by looking at your leak readings; if you have unacceptable leak issues, it might be because of this (or it could be your mask fit).

If it becomes an ongoing problem, you can consider selecting a mask that covers both the mouth and nose to make the problem moot. Or you can ask for a chin support, which attaches to the headgear and gently coaxes the mouth shut. This may be all that's need to retrain yourself to breathe through your nose, and may be something you only use temporarily.

 

Dry eyes

Air leakage at the top of the mask can lead to dry, irritated eyes. The air blows into the interior corners of your eyes and dries them out. If not addressed, this can lead to bigger problems with the eyes later, so don't ignore it.

The best remedy is to adjust the mask to fit better across the bridge of the nose. 

However, this doesn't mean overtightening the mask; to the contrary, an overtightened mask will torque, breaking the seal and leaking air.

If you can't get your mask to fit your face properly, talk to your DME. You might need to find a different shape or size to fix the leak issue.

Dry nose

Many people experience raw, dried-out nasal tissues after using CPAP therapy. Most machines now come equipped with humidifiers, so it may be that you aren't using your humidifier, it's not working correctly, it's turned off, it's set too low for comfort, or it may not be heated (which helps provide additional comfort). Ask your DME for help if you think the problem is related to humidification for CPAP. 

You can also try a saline nasal spray just before bedtime to moisten the nasal passages; there are also nasal steroid sprays available by prescription if dry nose is a constant problem. 

Finally, make sure your mask fits properly. Leaky masks (no matter where the air leaks) can lead to dried nasal tissue as well.  

#3: You're congested

 

Stuffy noses usually result from problems with the CPAP humidifier. Either it's turned off, turned down too low, or isn't filled with enough water to generate enough steam for the whole night. It could also simply be defective.

It helps to use the heated feature as well; warmer air is more soothing to the nasal passages than cooler air. Ask your DME to help you with your CPAP humidification if you wake up stuffy, sneezing, or with a runny nose.

Some people also have structural problems with their nasal and sinus passages. They may have nasal polyps, a deviated septum, swollen turbinates, or other issues that can be addressed by an ear, nose, and throat specialist.

People with allergies may also experience some of these concerns.

In any case, make sure you communicate these problems to your DME or your doctor to make sure CPAP is right for you.


If you have experienced any of these problems, and have tried these solutions without success, we highly recommend you contact your durable medical equipment (DME) provider (they are the ones who arranged for the delivery and set up of your CPAP therapy equipment). 

Even those who are most challenged to make CPAP work can benefit from a discussion with the DME, who has specific training in the art of troubleshooting problems with therapy. They have seen nearly every kind of troublesome situation and can be invaluable in addressing your problems, usually with simple and inexpensive tactics.  

Are you a Sound Sleep Health patient? Let us help you with your CPAP therapy success! Call our DME for advice at 425.279.7151 if you face these or other obstacles with the use of your CPAP therapy.

Coming in Part Two: Skin irritation, gassiness, and moisture leaks

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