Solve Your Problems with Top 10 CPAP Compliance Solutions

1
I can't breathe out against the pressure.

Trouble breathing out against CPAP pressure may improve with setting changes
Trouble breathing out against CPAP pressure may improve with setting changes. Science Picture Co/Getty Images

If you are having problems with CPAP therapy to treat your sleep apnea, you may wish to discover 10 solutions to improve the experience. The most difficult adjustment to make when beginning to use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is learning to breathe out against the pressure. Fortunately, there are some helpful adjustments that can be made. First, if you find this most troublesome as you are falling asleep, the machine's pressure can be set to start lower and then slowly increase as you are falling asleep (sometimes called a ramp function). In some circumstances, a bilevel, BiPAP, or cflex setting that alternates between an inhalation and exhalation pressure can be helpful. If this problem persists, it might be that the pressure setting is simply too high for you.

2
My mask makes me feel claustrophobic.

A full-face CPAP mask may contribute to claustrophobia
A full-face CPAP mask may contribute to claustrophobia. Getty Images

This is a problem that you will recognize immediately. If after applying the mask for the first time you start to feel smothered, a sense of panic washing over you, your heart rate and breathing rate increasing, with an intense fear and need to escape, you are likely experiencing claustrophobia. If this occurs, you will benefit from a little extra help. It may be possible to find a mask that does not enclose your nose, such as nasal pillows. You may overcome the discomfort by practicing with the machine while doing something relaxing, like watching television. If it is simply unbearable, you may want to seek out alternative CPAP therapies.

3
I am swallowing air.

Air swallowing with CPAP can occur when the pressure is too high
Air swallowing with CPAP can occur when the pressure is too high. nicolesy/E+/Getty Images

Swallowing air is a source of great discomfort for some users of CPAP. It can leave you burping and feeling bloated. This may occur if your pressure is set too high. In order to correct it, it may be necessary to have the pressure decreased, get a pressure ramp setting, or perhaps even a new titration study.

4
My mask smells funny.

Keeping the CPAP mask clean and replacing it regularly can help to avoid bad smells
Keeping the CPAP mask clean and replacing it regularly can help to avoid bad smells. Brandon Peters, M.D.

It is important to keep your CPAP equipment clean and follow standard cleaning instructions. If you do not, there is a chance that your mask and tubing may begin to smell funny. Cleaning regularly is especially important if you have recently been sick.

If your CPAP mask develops a smell that you cannot clean away, you may need to look into getting new equipment. It should likewise be noted that new equipment may have a peculiar "new" smell that you will become used to. If you have a humidifier, be certain to only put distilled water in the reservoir.

5
I get sores and marks on my face.

The ResMed Gecko nasal pad cushion or mask liners can help to relieve CPAP mask discomfort
The ResMed Gecko nasal pad cushion or mask liners can help to relieve CPAP mask discomfort. Brandon Peters, M.D.

It is fairly common to get some minor pressure marks on your face when you wear a CPAP mask. If these marks are excessive, it may be due to an ill-fitting mask. If this is the case, you may need to try a different size or even choose a new mask. Some people find it helpful to switch between different mask styles from one night to the next, so that the pressure points vary. If your skin becomes irritated by the mask, a skin barrier such as facial cream or petroleum jelly might be useful. You should not get significant sores on your face from a CPAP mask, so if this occurs you should let your medical provider know.

6
My mask fills with water.

Heated CPAP tubing can help to prevent water from getting in your mask
Heated CPAP tubing can help to prevent water from getting in your mask. Brandon Peters, M.D.

This is a very common complaint, especially if you use a heated humidifier. The extra moisture makes it more comfortable to breathe, but it can also collect condensation within the tubing and CPAP mask. This becomes especially true if you sleep in a cooler room. It may be necessary to turn down your humidifier temperature or find a way to keep the CPAP tubing slightly warmer, such as putting it under the blankets. Sometimes placing the CPAP machine on the floor will help the extra moisture to flow back down, rather than into your face.

7
I have a dry mouth when I use my CPAP.

A dry mouth can occur with CPAP use due to air escaping
A dry mouth can occur with CPAP use due to air escaping. Jonathan Knowles/Stone/Getty Images

In general, you should not experience significant dry mouth when using a CPAP. If you do, this may suggest that your mouth is falling open with the mask on. The pressurized air will escape from your mouth and this can make it extremely dry. If this occurs, you may find it helpful to try a heated humidifier or a chinstrap. You may wish to change to a different mask style that includes your mouth or even consider having your machine’s pressure adjusted.

8
My nose is too congested to use my mask.

Nasal congestion can make it hard to breathe through a CPAP nasal mask
Nasal congestion can make it hard to breathe through a CPAP nasal mask. Getty Images

If you have a history of environmental allergies, nasal congestion, or a deviated septum, you may find it difficult to breathe through your nose when using a CPAP mask. It will be important to maximize your breathing by keeping these issues under control. A heated humidifier or even a saline nasal spray may help. Some people need to take medications to relieve their allergies, including potentially prescription nasal sprays. For those people who simply cannot breathe through their nose, it may be necessary to switch to a CPAP mask that includes the mouth or consider alternative therapies.

9
My symptoms have returned.

Sleepiness and snoring may return if CPAP is not working right
Sleepiness and snoring may return if CPAP is not working right. Getty Images

Many people feel an improvement in their excessive daytime sleepiness when they start to use CPAP. Over time, these symptoms may seem to return. If this occurs, you should have your equipment checked to ensure that it is delivering the prescribed CPAP pressure. It may be necessary to have a new titration study or even have your CPAP pressure increased, so you should be in close contact with your physician.

10
I wake up with dry, red eyes.

Dry eyes may occur with CPAP use if air is leaking from the mask
Dry eyes may occur with CPAP use if air is leaking from the mask. Tetra Images/Getty Images

Dry, red eyes may suggest that air is leaking from your mask into your eyes while you are sleeping. You can start by slightly tightening your mask. If this does not work, you may need to look into getting a better fitting mask. The use of saline eye drops might also help alleviate some of the discomfort.

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