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Tips on Decreasing CPAP Side Effects

Posted On June 4, 2014
CPAP side effects
June 04, 2014

Avoidance is your middle name. Especially when it relates to your health. You hate going to the doctor. But you were given an ultimatum. Either go to the doctor or else your wife of 25 years would be making you sleep permanently on the couch. Reason? She couldn’t take your snoring any more so off you went. Lo and behold, your physician diagnosed you with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and recommended treatment using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. Great, you are willing to try anything to help your marriage but you have heard so many horror stories about the CPAP. Are there any tips on decreasing CPAP side effects?

How to Decrease CPAP Side Effects

OSA is a condition defined as the unconscious stoppage of breathing for short periods of time throughout a night’s sleep. These pauses in breath are due to a partial or full obstruction of the airway. The CPAP keeps the passage open through a pressurized stream of air that is filtered through the mask. Therefore, this treatment option can help lessen sleep apnea symptoms such as daytime sleepiness, poor concentration, morning headaches, mood swings, memory loss and of course, the ever-present snoring.

There are a few common complaints when it comes to using a CPAP machine. If these issues are addressed, CPAP compliance will increase while at the same time decreasing CPAP side effects.

The CPAP mask causes discomfort.

Due to a variety of reasons, your mask can seem uncomfortable.  The mask can be too large, small or tight, which can in turn leave red marks on your face. For some, a poorly fitting CPAP mask can make the person feel claustrophobic. If the mask doesn’t fit properly, the solution might be as easy as finding the mask that is just right for you.


Sleep apnea sufferers can also get red marks from their CPAP mask due to a skin irritation or an allergy to the rubber or plastics being used.  Again there are a number of different masks to choose. In addition, mask pads for the straps may be purchased to help cushion the face.  Another tip would be to tighten the headgear a little bit at a time on each side. And a hint for someone dealing with claustrophobia would be to simply increase the use of the mask a little at a time.


I feel like I am bloated and/or have excess gas.

The feeling of being bloated or having excess gas is caused by air being trapped in the stomach.  This occurs due to the flow of air by the CPAP machine. In order to prevent this complaint, use the CPAP chinstrap to keep from breathing through your mouth while in therapy.

For some, air is being swallowed when the head tilts forward. This typically occurs when a person sleeps with either multiple pillows, or one very large pillow. If this is your preferred way to sleep, use a wedge pillow to elevate the head. Ideally, sleeping with your head aligned with the body is recommended.  Therefore losing pillows altogether is preferred.

My ears hurt like when I am sick, or on an airplane with lots of pressure. 

It is called the continuous positive air “pressure” machine for a reason. The CPAP machine increases air pressure in the body.  If a person experiences congestion from illnesses like with a cold or the flu, has sinus problems or allergies, the ear canals will be blocked. As a result, an imbalance of pressure is felt throughout the body and pressure of the head. Your physician might have to re-evaluate the settings on your CPAP machine in tackling this complaint.


My nose, mouth and throat constantly feel dry.

This can be a troubling complaint for many people that use the CPAP.  Inflammation, runny nose, pain, nasal congestion and in some cases, nosebleeds might all hamper consistent CPAP usage.  How and why do these CPAP side effects occur? In a nut shell, the fast-moving air irritates the inner tissues of the throat and nose. Many CPAP machines now have a humidifier that can be attached, which adds moisture to the incoming air.  As a result, the air flow is easier on the body.  In some cases, a corticosteroid nasal spray may be recommended.

Other common complaints that tend to cause patients to stop using their CPAP include noise of the machine, the flowing air being too hot or too cold, sleep interruption, mask leakage and intimacy discouragement.

If you have sleep apnea and would like to learn more about other treatment options other than CPAP, we can help. Please contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 to schedule a free consultation.

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Communications for Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America, manages all content and communications for the company.
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