How to Use Your CPAP Machine: A Beginner’s Guide

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What is CPAP? 

A CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine delivers steady and constant air pressure to the upper airways. It is a common therapy used to treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a condition in which patients face difficulties breathing in and out while sleeping. Apnea occurs when breathing involuntarily stops and the flow of air into the lungs is obstructed or halted for brief periods. The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that over 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with 80 percent of moderate and severe cases going undiagnosed. 

Sleep apnea can lead to severe complications if not treated early. Some of the complications include high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems. Sleep apnea patients are often prescribed a CPAP machine to help alleviate the breathing disruptions. The machine delivers air pressure through a hose and nosepiece and helps regulate breathing. While patients often initially report discomfort tolerating air forced through the nosepiece, modern features such as the “ramp” which steadily increases the air pressure, allow the patient to get used to the device easier and more comfortably.  

With the success of CPAP technology, more and more Americans that have been suffering with sleep apnea are finding relief through CPAP therapy. Learning how to use, clean and make CPAP machine use a habit is improving their quality of life with every good night’s sleep.  

For those who are still new to CPAP use, here are some simple steps that will help you with setting up and using the machine. 

1. Set Up CPAP Filters 

Multiple types of filters come in a CPAP machine, so take a few moments to learn how to identify them. Reusable foam filters are placed right at the air intake point of the CPAP machine. If disposable filters are being used, the paper filter will go inside the machine and the foam filter goes on the outside. Bacteria filters are located at the air outtake of the machine and must be installed prior to attaching the hose to the other end.  

For CPAP machines that also have humidifiers, bacteria filters are placed at the air outtake of the humidifier instead of the CPAP machine’s outtake. For those using a heated tube in addition to a bacteria filter, the filter be installed between the hose and mask. 

2. Attach the CPAP Hose to Machine and Mask 

Your CPAP machine will have either a standard or slim hose. Standard hoses have a 22mm connection cuff to fit onto the device. Slim hoses have a diameter of 15mm and the machine should have a compatible setting to accept the smaller hose. The hose should be attached to the air outlet of either the CPAP machine or the humidifier, depending on your treatment plan and equipment.  

Once connected to the machine, the hose then attaches to the mask. Proper connection is sometimes impeded by a swivel on the mask. For a hard-cuffed hose, a hose flexitube adapter may help provide a snug connection.  

3. Properly Wear Your CPAP Mask 

It’s important to follow the mask sizing guide to determine the correct size and shape of your face. The mask also should be the right design for your preferred sleep position. To make final adjustments to your mask, put it on your face with the straps a little loose, then lie down on the bed as you would for sleeping. Then slowly and gently pull the straps on all sides until they feel even and comfortable.  

Masks with an open field of vision are designed with an unobstructed eye area, making it easy to wear glasses, read, and watch television while using your machine. They are available in full face, nasal pillow, and nasal CPAP varieties. 

You might consider a CPAP pillow if your mask has a lot of bulk around the front of your face, which makes it difficult to sleep. These pillows are created with cut-outs to accommodate CPAP masks, permitting a more comfortable sleeping position.  

Don’t forget to check for leaks after you finalize your mask fit. Also, it’s a good idea to wash your face before putting on the mask. A freshly washed, less oily face helps reduce leakage and makes the silicone last longer. 

4. CPAP Pressure Settings 

Your brand new CPAP machine will arrive with your prescribed pressure already set. If you feel the pressure is too high or too low, you should consult with your doctor.   

5. Setting Up Your Humidifier 

Humidifiers are used to add moisture to the air from the CPAP therapy device. This decreases the risk of the user getting a severely dry nose or mouth. Humidifiers come with some machines and are an optional accessory for others.  

It is quite simple to use a humidifier. Just add water to the chamber to the fill line using distilled water. Using tap water will leave a hard film at the bottom of the bag, which is very difficult to clean. Also keep in mind that the water you put in the humidifier is the water that you will be breathing via the machine, so you want to make sure that it is clean and pure.  

6. Turn Your CPAP Machine On 

The CPAP therapy machine should be placed on a stable, flat surface close to your bedside. Keep a minimum distance of 12 inches of space between the vents of the machine and the walls or other surfaces. Once you have put the mask on and are comfortably lying in your bed, turn your CPAP machine on. The pressure will begin to increase, so remain relaxed and focus on breathing evenly. To slowly increase the pressure, you can utilize the ramp feature. This will set the pressure very low to start, then gradually increase it until it reaches your pre-set, prescribed pressure.  

With a little practice the CPAP machine will soon become a seamless part of your life, providing you with deep and rejuvenating sleep night after night. For more help, contact us.

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