With nearly four out of ten adults suffering from sleep apnea, CPAP machines have become very common. However, if you have recently been diagnosed with sleep apnea and prescribed a CPAP machine, you might find using the device a challenging lifestyle adjustment. Users often complain about the bulky and uncomfortable nature of CPAP machines, but there is hope. Here, you will find some easy CPAP therapy tips to help you ease your way into healthier, more restorative sleep.
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Use your CPAP during the day for short durations
Initial adjustment to the CPAP mask is one of the most common difficulties that users face. If the fit itself is improper, you will need to get fitted and have it replaced with a more appropriate mask for your face size and shape. Even if the fit is correct, you might feel uncomfortable falling asleep while wearing the mask because you are simply not used to it. One way to overcome this would be to wear the mask for short periods during your daily routine. Choose a time when your schedule is less demanding such as when you watch TV or read the newspaper, and wear your mask for a short while at these times. Doing so will help you adapt to the CPAP machine better. Later, when you lie down to sleep with your mask on, it will feel more natural and comfortable.
Keep Use Consistent
For best results, it is recommended that you use your CPAP every night and any time you take a nap. This improves how quickly you will adapt to the CPAP machine and also ensures that you are getting the maximum health benefits provided by CPAP therapy. When you use the system less often, the therapy takes longer to adjust to and you won’t be getting the optimum benefit that can be provided by CPAP machines.
If your CPAP mask, straps and headgear do not fit right, you will not have the most comfortable experience. The mask must fit your face properly, and the CPAP machine should be well-positioned and accessible. In addition to adjusting the mask and straps themselves to get the right fit, you can also use CPAP pillows that are specially designed to hold the CPAP mask and tubing system, allowing you to comfortably sleep in your preferred position.
Get a perfect mask fit
Because you need to use your CPAP machine every night, settling for a mask that does not fit perfectly will not give you the results you are looking for. Masks that are too small or too big allow air to escape from the edges because you will not get a proper seal. If the mask turns out to be the wrong size, you will want to request a replacement immediately. Adjusting the straps just enough to make it work for the moment may irritate your skin or lead to sores over time. One additional solution is to try soft CPAP strap covers. These covers help reduce the irritation of straps rubbing against your skin.
Make use of the “ramp” feature
CPAP users often complain that the air pressure pushed into their airways keeps them from falling asleep. While the device assists in regulating breathing, effective sleep cycles have much to do with seamless inhalation and exhalation. Most CPAP devices today have a “ramp” mode in the settings. This feature allows your device to start at low pressure and over time gradually ramps up the pressure. By the time the air pressure reaches your prescribed level, you will already be sound asleep.
Use a saline spray for nasal congestion
In some patients, CPAP therapy can lead to mild nasal congestion. Fortunately, this problem often has a simple solution. Using a saline nasal spray or decongestant to help ease your breathing can help you get back on track quickly.
Use the heated humidifier
If you experience a dry mouth, throat, or nose, be sure to use the humidifier. Most CPAP devices have a heated humidifier to enhance breathing comfort. Breathing warm and properly moist air will ease the dryness.
Clean your CPAP machine regularly
One of the biggest concerns with CPAP is device maintenance. Patients that depend on CPAP should understand the importance of maintaining and cleaning their systems regularly. Every time a CPAP mask is used, oil, sweat, and dead skin accumulate in it. In addition to this, the mask is exposed to constant moisture and the machine holds water. Unclean or damp masks, tubing systems, and headgear are ideal breeding grounds for germs and bacteria. If not cleaned regularly and thoroughly, this could lead to serious infections. Cleaning your CPAP system frequently reduces these risks.
According to a study by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, 48% of samples collected from CPAP masks had growth of over 2,000 bacteria colonies after just 48 hours of observation. The study also reported alarmingly infrequent patient cleaning habits, with nearly 40% reporting cleaning their machines four or fewer times per month including over 12% admitting they never clean it!
Even if you are dedicated to using your CPAP device faithfully, adjusting to a new routine is never easy. If you find yourself struggling, join a support group or ask someone close to you to be an accountability partner, checking with you to make sure you use your CPAP every night. Setting a reminder on your phone is also a good way to remind you to have your CPAP machine set up and ready every night.
Get professional help as needed
The scope of this article is limited to common issues that users run into when starting CPAP therapy. If you have a more specific concern, reach out for professional help immediately. Your local sleep center is a great place to start for any assistance related to CPAP therapy.
Fears or concerns related to sleep apnea might prevent you from achieving the full benefit from treatment. You can also seek out CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) to identify and overcome these fears to help ensure a good night’s sleep.
These CPAP therapy tips should help new users get accustomed to the machine faster and more comfortably. Letting sleep apnea go without treatment opens up significant risks such as heart attack, stroke, and even death. If you have sleep apnea, taking the time to learn how to manage it through CPAP therapy will improve your quality of life now and for years to come.