Common CPAP Problems

29 Sep Common CPAP Problems

How to Solve Common CPAP Problems and Discomfort

CPAP is the gold standard treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea but many people find it difficult to get used to the mask and tolerate the treatment.  Current research estimates that 25-50% of patients who commence treatment will fail to continue.  One explanation for this may be that many users struggle to make treatment comfortable. But there are actually easy fixes to many of these problems.

  1. How do I get used to wearing a CPAP mask?

Practise wearing the mask during the day while you’re watching TV or reading with the CPAP machine on. The more you wear the mask the more you will get used to it on your face and the sensation of the pressure.

  1. My CPAP mask is uncomfortable to wear at night and is always leaking!

Mask cleanliness and condition are very important in reducing leak or you may also require replacement parts.  The good news is that many mask styles are available due to there being a lot of different types of faces.  Mask manufacturers regularly release new models so if your mask is a bit old, consider an upgrade.  See your equipment provider to ensure you are fitting your mask correctly and if needed to try an alternative.

  1. I can’t tolerate the forced air that well.

Ask your provider about comfort features of your machine.  A “ramp” feature allows you to start with low air pressure, which is then followed by an automatic, gradual increase that eventually sets itself to the pressure you were prescribed by your doctor.  Some machines also offer types of expiratory pressure relief which attempt to make the pressure more tolerable.

  1. Why do I have dry mouth after wearing my CPAP mask?

If you breathe through your mouth at night or sleep with your mouth open, CPAP may worsen dry mouth.  A chin strap may help keep your mouth closed and reduce the air leak if you wear a nasal mask.  You may also need to adjust your humidification settings as we move into the cooler months.

  1. I keep on taking my CPAP mask at night without knowing it.

It’s is fairly common to sometimes wake up to find that you’ve removed the mask in your sleep. If you move a lot in your sleep, you may find that a full face mask will stay on your face better.

You may be pulling off the mask because your nose is congested. If so, ensuring a good mask fit and optimising your heated humidifier settings may help. A chin strap also may help you to keep the device on your face.  Check your pillow is in good condition and comfortable as you may be more restless if your pillow is not supporting your sufficiently.

If this is a consistent problem, consider setting an alarm in the device to alert you during times of excessive leak.  When you remove the mask and the air blows freely, the device will alarm and wake you up.

For help be sure to contact your CPAP provider or Sleep Physician for advice.

Olsen S, Smith S, Oei TP. Adherence to continuous positive airway pressure therapy in obstructive sleep apnoea sufferers: a theoretical approach to treatment adherence and intervention. Clin Psychol Rev 2008; 28: 1355–1371. [PubMed]