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Top 5 Tips for CPAP Users: How to Avoid the Pitfalls

Posted On December 14, 2013
December 14, 2013

You recently learned that you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which basically means that you stop breathing a number of times during the night. The disease is caused by an obstruction in your airway and your doctor recommended continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. This treatment is touted to get you much-needed rest and oxygen to your brain so you can function without being fatigued and out of it. You aren’t exactly thrilled at the idea of wearing a mask over your face all night but you are willing to give it a whirl. Is there anything that you can do to make a go and success of this treatment option?


Experts share the following sobering statistic: 50 percent of patients who receive a CPAP machine to help treat their sleep apnea are non-compliant and stop treatment. Unfortunately, when they cease therapy, their untreated sleep apnea still leaves them at high risk for a host of deadly health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke. Never fear, there are quite a number of tips that you can follow to insure that you continue your prescribed therapy.

 1.      Make sure that you have the proper size and style CPAP mask. We are all unique individuals and a mask that one sleep apnea sufferer swears by might not be one that works for someone else. CPAP masks are definitely not one size or style fits all. For compliance success, it is important that your CPAP mask properly fits your face. Making sure that the mask is snug will alleviate one common compliant: a leaky mask. In addition, good news is that there is a wide variety of styles as well. There are full face masks covering your nose and mouth, which stay put throughout the night with straps crossing your forehead and cheeks. Another version has nasal pillows, which fits just the nasal area with less coverage over your face.

 2.      Overcoming claustrophobia. It is estimated that 2 percent of the population suffer from claustrophobia. Not surprising that this fear would be heightened, when a mask is strapped to your face for the night. But there are tricks to help combat the sense of claustrophobia. Try putting the mask up to your face without the straps or the CPAP machine running. Once you get used to this step graduate to wearing the mask with the straps. Next up would be using the mask with the machine on and no straps followed by mask strapped on with the air flowing through. The last step in the adaptation process would be to wear the mask while you sleep. Of course, people with claustrophobia can also benefit from practicing relaxation and meditation techniques to help with their condition on all fronts.

 3.      Avoiding annoyance such as noise, dry mouth, stuffy nose and pressure sores. Thankfully, the latest CPAP machine models are quieter than the devices of the past. However, if the noise still proves to be a factor with regard to compliance, you might want to check out the air filter as it might need cleaning or unblocking. Another hint to try to combat noise would be to wear earplugs or use a sound machine.  If you are a mouth breather, CPAP therapy can cause dry mouth. However, if you have a mask that totally covered your nose and mouth and also a chin strap that should allow you to cross this complaint off your list. Another tip would be to check out the possibility of having a CPAP device with a humidifier, with adjustable heat and humidity. If plagued with a stuffy nose, saline or steroidal spray can help lessen congestion. To avoid pressure sores or skin irritation, it is important to have a properly fitted mask.

 4.      Practice makes perfect. Like other practices that are good for you, that is to say exercise and a healthy diet, it is best to start out with baby steps. You need to train your body and mind to adapt to sleeping at night with a mask. Try starting out by wearing the mask while you watch TV or read a book. Once you are used to the mask and can tolerate during waking hours, try to sleep with your CPAP machine for 2 hours each night and then keep adding 30 minutes to an hour once you feel ready to move on. Before you know it you will be sleeping through the night with your CPAP.

 5.      Good things come to those that wait. As a youngster we try to learn how to be patient and as an adult this is still true when learning how to adapt to a CPAP machine. It is so important to be patient and not expect that you will immediately adapt to using your CPAP machine. It is of vital importance to stick with the therapy because you will reap the benefits and protect yourself against developing or worsening other serious health conditions. It just takes time and your expectations need to be set in reality. Just get into the mindset that you will not just try to get used to your CPAP machine, you will get used to your CPAP machine.

If these tips don’t resolve your CPAP compliance issues, it might be time to learn about radiofrequency ablation treatment, which can cure your sleep apnea. 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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