Once you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, your Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (or CPAP) machine becomes an essential fixture in your daily routine. It allows you to breathe easily and sleep soundly during the night. A healthy sleep routine is vital for your health, both physical and psychological. Untreated sleep apnea can cause many complications, from daytime drowsiness to more serious issues, including heart attack and stroke.
In addition to improving your sleep quality, using a CPAP machine helps decrease your blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and cholesterol. This, in turn, lowers your risk of experiencing adverse cardiovascular events. If you have sleep apnea, it becomes a health necessity to use a CPAP machine consistently and use it the right way.
For a new patient, the idea of managing daily life with a CPAP machine can be daunting. But you will find that with a little extra attention and care, your CPAP machine will help liberate you from the dangerous side effects of sleep apnea. You will then be free to live a more productive life, well-rested, and functional during your waking hours.
Understanding your CPAP machine
Once you begin using your CPAP, it becomes essential that you take regular and thorough care of your machine. To do that, it helps to understand how the machine works. Your CPAP machine pumps air through your airways via a mask, which allows you to breathe regularly and without interruption. Before the air goes into your lungs, it circulates through the CPAP machine where it gets humidified and filtered. If your device is not adequately cleaned, the air going inside your lungs may be contaminated and lead to infections or breathing problems.
It cannot be stressed enough how important cleaning your CPAP machine is. While all the components of your CPAP machine require your attention, the CPAP water container needs it the most. An optional attachment in CPAP machines, the humidifier maintains the moisture level in the air delivered to your lungs. This keeps you from developing nasal dryness, irritation, or other side effects from dry air. To maintain the air’s moisture as it is circulated by the CPAP machine, the humidifier uses water from the CPAP water container. Your CPAP water reservoir can be cleaned in a few straightforward and inexpensive steps.
The importance of regular CPAP cleaning
By delaying cleaning or not cleaning regularly, your CPAP water reservoir can become contaminated, leading to many health risks for you. Any surface gets exposed to microorganisms sooner or later. Inside a CPAP machine, the chances of exposure to bacteria are very high if you are not attentive. Because the humidifier uses water, the additional moisture significantly increases the chances of mold build-up. If the humidifier’s water tank is not cleaned regularly, mold-related allergies can develop.
If you already have allergies, using an unclean CPAP machine can aggravate the symptoms. It can also increase your risk of sinus infections or pneumonia. Poorly cleaned CPAP machines develop musty and foul odors. Apart from disturbing your sleep, the smell is also a sign of dangerous microbial overgrowth in your device.
If it is not sanitized regularly, your machine will also develop mineral deposits. Continuing to breathe in air circulated through an unclean CPAP machine is damaging to your lungs. In addition to harming the user, lack of maintenance of a CPAP machine may cause the equipment to breakdown prematurely or lead to the loss of the device’s warranty.
How to clean your CPAP water reservoir
Cleaning your CPAP water reservoir is a very simple task. The process begins with filling a tub or basin with water. For most people, a clean sink is the easiest spot. Add a small amount of mild soap to the water. Submerge the CPAP water reservoir and other washable components of the machine in the soapy water and soak them for about thirty minutes. Wipe everything clean with a fresh towel and hang them to air dry.
Cleaning your device can be more effective with a few small changes. To ensure that your cleaning is thorough, here are some dos and don’ts that you can follow to perfect your cleaning skills.
DOs for cleaning your CPAP water container
- First, be sure to follow all the instructions provided by your doctor and the manufacturer of your CPAP machine closely. While the machines are simple to clean, an error can damage the device and be costly to fix or replace. You can avoid these errors by being familiar with the machine’s instructions.
- Always fill your water chamber with distilled water only. Most manufacturers stress the use of distilled water in CPAP water containers as it causes fewer mineral deposits in the tank. Using tap water can also promote microbial growth in the water tank.
- Clean your CPAP water reservoir at least once a week. Doctors and manufacturers alike agree that one week is the maximum amount of time you should go without cleaning your CPAP water container.
- Sleep apnea experts recommend that you soak the components of your CPAP machine in soapy water for fifteen minutes to half an hour before rinsing.
- Hot water is better for soaking or cleaning your CPAP water container. It helps remove contaminants far more easily compared to cold water.
- For routine cleaning, you can use regular tap water. However, if you see that you have mineral deposits or mold build-up in your CPAP water chamber, you should use hot water mixed with vinegar for soaking. A ratio of 1 to 2 parts vinegar to 3 parts water is recommended; be sure to consult your user’s manual or contact the manufacturer to ensure that vinegar is safe for your specific device. Remember to rinse it well with clean water before refilling it with distilled water.
- If hot water and vinegar fail to do the trick, you can use a suitable cleaning solution for your CPAP water container. Be sure that the cleaning solution you are using is stronger than vinegar but gentle enough not to harm the machine’s components.
- For better rinsing, you can fill the CPAP water container with water or cleaning solution and shake it well before draining it. Shaking helps the clean water reach every nook and cranny of the CPAP water container and remove any remaining contaminants.
- The final step in cleaning the CPAP water container is to let it air dry. Ensure that there is no moisture remaining in any part of the tank before you use it again.
- Handle the machine components carefully while cleaning to avoid damaging them.
- Lastly, if you have been ill, you will want to clean your CPAP water tank and the rest of the machine’s washable components more often. This will help keep viruses or bacteria from multiplying inside of it.
DON’Ts for cleaning your CPAP water container
- Your CPAP’s humidifier should never be run using tap water. It should only function with distilled water.
- Manufacturers do not advise cleaning your CPAP water container, or any other component, in the dishwasher as it could damage them.
- Do not use any perfumes, scented soaps, or other scented cleaning agents in your CPAP water reservoir. These fragrances can irritate your lungs or cause allergies.
- Avoid using harsh soaps or dish detergents for cleaning your CPAP water reservoir. Using these products on the water container or other components may be damaging.
- Do not use a washing machine or dryer to clean your CPAP water container or any other washable parts of the device.
- Do not use antibacterial soaps for cleaning the CPAP water reservoir and other parts of your machine. They can cause cracking and lead to poor functioning of the device.
- Never attempt to clean any part of the device when it is plugged in.
Getting used to a CPAP machine can be a challenge in the beginning, and the regular maintenance of your CPAP device can feel burdensome. Keep in mind the long-term positive effects that CPAP therapy is capable of bringing to your life. When you also consider the serious consequences that untreated sleep apnea can have on you and your family, it will make it worth the comparatively minor inconvenience.
Sticking to a healthy sleep schedule should be part of everyone’s lifestyle, but for those who have to put in some extra effort because of their sleep apnea, following these simple dos and don’ts can make living with a CPAP machine a painless and more positive experience.
If you are still facing any issues with your machine after following the guidelines and regular cleaning, you can contact a professional for help.