CPAP use has its own unique set of problems. However, there are workable solutions to these. In this article, I’ll explore some of these issues.
Common Problems People Have With CPAP
Perhaps one of the bigger problems people have with CPAP is related to the mask itself. Many people don’t like anything on their face, usually because it feels claustrophobic. This can be an initial reaction to CPAP. However, some people never work through this, and as a result, can’t use the mask at all.
Another one of the problems people have is breathing against the air pressure. This is especially so if their CPAP pressure is too high.
There are solutions to these dilemmas, however.
Non Surgical Solutions
People who are claustrophobic don’t like ‘all this stuff’ on their face. Sometimes they do better with a nasal mask because of that. Then again, some people feel more claustrophobic with the nasal mask. This is because they need to keep their mouth closed. In that case going to a full face mask would allow them to breathe through both nose and mouth. There’s an alternative to this dilemma. Check out this mask; it covers your mouth and just sits under your nose.
Another possibility is a device called an Oral Appliance. There are different variations on a theme. One type works by holding your jaw forward; the other works by holding your tongue forward. In either case, the result is that ultimately your airway stays open.
For those who can’t breathe against all that pressure, there’s something called bi-level. This type of machine has a higher pressure when you breathe in, and then goes to a lower pressure when you breathe out. Many people find this really helps them tolerate treatment.
For more information on this and other treatment options, see http://sleepguyblog.com/best-way-treat-sleep-apnea/
Also, check this out!!
Singing or Playing a Wind Instrument
There’s some interesting research that shows either singing, and/or playing a wind instrument can lessen the severity of OSA. This apparently works by strengthening certain mouth and throat muscles; thus making it less likely your airway will collapse
One of the more interesting wind instruments, and perhaps the one showing the best response is the Didgeridoo. Check it out here http://www.didgeridoostore.com/didgeridoo_sleepapnea_snoring.htm
But really, any wind instrument can help strengthen those muscles. So, sing away and learn to play! Even if all you do is make a joyful noise!
Cleaning Your CPAP Equipment
Sometimes your mask can cause redness and irritation. However, properly cleaning your equipment can often reduce, or even eliminate these issues.
Empty the water chamber daily, and soak it, your mask, and hose, in warm soapy water every day. Also wipe down your CPAP machine weekly with a wet wipe.
The humidifier chamber should be soaked in a mixture of 1/3 white vinegar in 2/3 water for around 15 minutes at least once a week. Then rinse in distilled water. Let air dry on a towel.
Properly cleaned equipment not only can reduce irritation, it’s also less germy, and doesn’t look gross.
The most common type of surgical procedure involves removing excess soft tissue from the back of your throat. This procedure can also include removing your tonsils and trimming other soft tissue. More aggressive surgery involves Surgically moving your jaw forward.
Click on the attached link for more information on these, and other procedures. http://www.sleepeducation.org/treatment-therapy/surgery/surgical-procedures
Other Questions and Concerns
How am I supposed to sleep with this thing?
It’s helping you breathe, so if the mask fits you right, and the pressure is good, you will breathe much better. Although, the mask and pressure can take some adjusting to.
How long does it take to get used to CPAP?
There’s a full range of how people respond initially to CPAP. All the way from “Take this thing off me! I’ll never wear that!” To as soon as I put the mask on them they’re like “Wow! This thing is awesome!” ” I breathe much better with it.”
Also, time after time, I see patients in the sleep lab who’s sleep improves after I put them on CPAP. Yet they wake in the morning not feeling any better than usual. Apparently, sometimes it takes your body awhile to ‘work its way’ out of a condition it’s been in.
If your body is used to a certain way of breathing, then if you suddenly start breathing more efficiently, your body will naturally react negatively to that. So then, good, healthy breathing becomes a struggle in itself, until your body adjusts.
Do I have to sleep on my back all the time?
No, even with a full face mask you should be able to lay on your side or even your stomach. We only encourage back sleep in the sleep lab because obstructive breathing is generally worse on your back, and we want to see how you look that way.
But I never sleep on my back, why should I during the sleep study?
We want to establish the true severity of your apnea. Besides, I’ve seen many patients say they never sleep on their backs.
Then during the sleep study, they’ll fall asleep on their sides; and once asleep, will turn on to their backs. Some will turn back onto their side, wake up and say “See, I told you I never sleep on my back”
If you can’t sleep on your back because of an injury, then you won’t be required to for the sleep study. Just let your sleep technologist know this.
Do I have to wear this all the time?
As long as you wake up feeling refreshed and have no problems with your mask, yes. If you have a change in your medical condition or even a change in insurance, you might need another sleep study.
Is there a cure for sleep apnea?
While losing weight can help, it shouldn’t be considered a ‘cure’. Also, smoking is irritating to your airway, causing it to swell up a bit. So if you smoke, quitting will open your airway more once the swelling goes down. This will, of course, reduce the severity of your sleep apnea.
Are the machines noisy?
Years ago, many people complained about how loud their CPAP machine was. However, machines these days are very quiet. Actually, a mask leak will be your loudest sound (from the machine).
The mask leaves red marks on my face.
If you have sensitive skin, the mask can leave a red mark on your face. But generally, any redness shouldn’t last very long. And you don’t need to cinch the mask down tight on your face either. It should sit comfortably.
Actually, the air movement within the mask generally acts like a type of suction and can create a seal that should keep air leak to a minimum, without clamping the mask down onto your face.
Knowledge is power, and there are no dumb questions (well, o.k., maybe there are, but none of my patients have asked any).
I hope you’ve found this article at least somewhat useful, in addressing some of the problems you have with your CPAP. If you have a question that wasn’t addressed here, please leave a comment and I will get back to you.
Till next time…Blessings.