The Most Common CPAP Problems: FAQ Page
When it comes to CPAP, finding the necessary amount of comfort and effectiveness can be a surprisingly tricky task.
Sleep apnea patients are often surprised once they start their therapy and quickly find out that CPAP is in a class by itself of medical treatments.
One big reason is because CPAP doesn’t come in a one-size-fits-all, plug and play package. Unlike, say a headache, you can’t really take a magic pill to treat sleep apnea. That being said, it’s perfectly normal to go through a bit of an adjustment period when starting CPAP for the first time.
The honest truth about CPAP is that it can be a bit of a tedious treatment to use. However, it is also extremely effective once you get the kinks figured out.
To help you with whatever struggles may come up while using CPAP, I’ve prepared a troubleshooting guide of some of the possible issues you may face.
As time goes by, I’ll keep updating the list to reflect changes in the therapy and any other other common problems that may arise.
CPAP Problems FAQ
1. How often should I clean my CPAP machine?
We suggest you clean out your machine at least once per week:
– Inspect any washable foam filters and clean them as soon as they become discolored by using warm water.
– If your machine has a water bucket for the humidifier, scaling can cause the build-up of bacteria and lead to respiratory issues. Clean it by using hot water and soap or a mild detergent.
– Clean your hose with hot water and allow it to air dry.
2. How do I know if my CPAP therapy is working?
There are various free mobile apps you can download to check if your CPAP therapy is working. These download your sleep data from the CPAP machine and analyze them to provide feedback on your treatment.
Sleepyhead gives you a lot of information that you can use to determine the effectiveness of your treatment. It’s one of the most accurate ways to fine-tune your therapy and check if it’s working. However, it does take a bit of learning to interpret some of the graphs. Apneaboard is one of the best resources for learning how to read the graphs.
3. What is an exhalation relief? (i.e AFlex, Smart Flex, EPR)
Exhalation relief is a feature that decreases the pressure of your therapy when you’re exhaling in order to make it easier to breathe out. It provides a pressure during exhale that is lower than the inhale pressure in order to avoid difficulties exhaling. Most of the newer CPAP models include this feature.
4. How do I know which CPAP masks can be used with which CPAP machine?
Any CPAP mask can be used with any CPAP, BiPAP, or APAP machine. CPAP masks aren’t specific to any one type of brand or machine.
5. Can I travel with CPAP?
You can travel by air with CPAP. However, some airlines will require you to bring your prescription or proof that you actually need the machine if you bring the machine as a personal item or carry-on bag.
Also, if you’re using a CPAP case, it must meet the guidelines set forth by the airline. Since different airlines have different requirements, make sure to call your airline to ensure that everything goes smoothly.
6. Am I allowed to change the CPAP pressure settings?
Yes. Contrary to what some may lead you to believe, you are allowed to change the pressure settings on your machine. This is not illegal or wrong to do.
However, if you decide to change the pressure settings on your machine, make sure you educate yourself well about the right pressure settings. This is where programs like Sleepyhead come in handy because they can help you decide what pressure settings are best for you depending on your previous sleep data.
Other great resources for choosing the best pressure include sleep apnea forums such as apneaboard.com or myapnea.org. You can quickly create an account and ask for help on what pressure settings are best suitable for you.
7. How do I change my CPAP pressure settings?
Changing your CPAP pressure settings involves accessing the clinician mode in your sleep apnea machine. To do this, you’ll need the clinician manual for your machine.
You can check out this link for a list of hundreds of different clinician manuals. Once you find your machine, follow the instructions in the manual to change your CPAP pressure settings.
Alternatively, you can take your machine to your medical equipment provider and have them change your pressure settings.
8. Why do I wake up feeling bloated after using CPAP?
This often occurs due to swallowing air throughout the night. When you breathe therapy air throughout the night, it goes into your lungs and then exits when you exhale. If you swallow often while having your CPAP on, some of the air enters your stomach, causing you to feel bloated.
Trying out a different sleeping position may be enough to prevent this. Alternatively, it may be a sign that your prescribed pressure is too high. If that is the case, you can decrease the higher pressure limit on your machine or have it decreased by your medical equipment provider.
9. How can I buy a mask without a prescription?
A few online stores allow you to purchase a CPAP mask without a prescription. Some of these sites are Bonanza, Dotmed, and Walmart. Keep in mind that these sites may choose to begin asking for prescriptions at any moment.
10. Where can I purchase CPAP machines online?
You can find some of the most popular CPAP machines sale websites here.
11. Why does my machine turn down at night?
The following are common causes for a CPAP machine powering down automatically:
– Many sleep apnea machines have a feature that turns them off at high leak rates. If you take off your mask unknowingly at night, this can cause the machine to shut down. You can turn this feature off by going into the settings of your machine.
– Make sure that the power plug and humidifier tub (if present) are correctly connected.
– Try cleaning your filter. Some machines will shut off automatically if the filter is too dirty or blocked.
– Try unplugging the device and plugging it back in after a few seconds
12. Why am I waking up with a dry throat or congestion?
Dry ambient air can cause a dry throat and lead to nasal congestion and discomfort. Try getting a humidifier attachment for your machine. If you already have one, try turning up the humidifier moisture setting.
Additionally, if you breathe through your mouth while sleeping and you’re using a nasal mask, having your mouth open through the night can cause a dry throat. Try using a chinstrap to keep your mouth closed or switch to using a full face mask.
13. I’m having trouble falling asleep while using the machine
If you’re starting out or haven’t used your CPAP machine in a long time, keep in mind that it takes time to get used to the therapy. For some people, it can take various weeks. As you use it more and more your body will get used to it.
It really helps to follow proper sleep hygiene practices when using CPAP. Take a quick peek at the Rested Life sleep hygiene checklist for a comprehensive list of sleep habits to follow and fall asleep easily.
14. My CPAP mask makes me feel claustrophobic
Try wearing your mask while you’re awake during the day to allow your body to get used to the feeling. This will make it easier and more comfortable to fall asleep with the mask on.
Keep in mind that this also depends on the kind of CPAP mask that you have. Nasal masks are generally less prone to making you feel claustrophobic than full face masks.
Some full face masks don’t give you that claustrophobic feeling and are also very comfortable. My personal favorite of these is the Resmed Airfit F20.
15. My mask is leaking throughout the night
This is one of the most common and annoying problems with CPAP. Leaking may be the product of a mask of the wrong size, adjustment, or design.
Before taking any steps to replace your current mask, follow these instructions to make sure your mask is strapped on correctly:
– Lay on your back and wear your mask starting with the upper part and then lowering it to your mouth area.
– Adjust your top and bottom head straps so the mask fits snug.
– Slowly move the mask in a circular motion so as to find a comfortable fit.
– Turn on the CPAP machine. Adjust the straps to stop any leaking.
– Proceed to tighten your straps a tiny bit more than you just did. This is because many CPAP machines increase pressure as the night goes by. So while you might not feel any leaking now, your mask may start leaking later at higher pressures. Additionally, the face produces oil which can lead to more leaking throughout the night.
If these steps don’t work out, you may benefit from trying out another mask. When trying masks, you can purchase from thecpapshop.com as they have a full 30-day money back guarantee, so if you don’t like the mask you can return it for a full refund.
For some CPAP mask suggestions, check out the Rested Life review section and see some of the CPAP masks that I’ve reviewed so far.
16. Why am I’m taking off my CPAP mask at night without realizing it?
If you are waking up to find your CPAP mask removed from your face, you likely woke up at some point in the night and took it off unknowingly.
As you may imagine, when this happens, it is done is unconsciously. You may wake up and remove your mask due to many different kinds of discomfort:
– If your nose tends to be itchy before falling asleep, it’s possible that itchiness may be causing you to take off your mask in the middle of the night.
Clean your mask with warm water and a bit of detergent and rinse out your humidifier tub. It also helps to wash your face with a face cleanser such as noxzema and allow it to air dry rather than drying it with a towel to prevent any tiny fibers from staying in your face.
– Mask leakage due to higher pressures later in the night can cause you to take off your mask due to discomfort. See above for how to address mask leakage.
– Poor sleeping habits can cause you to wake up more easily throughout the night, which increases your chances of removing your mask. Some people may find that poor sleeping habits, such as watching TV before going to bed, leads to lighter sleep. Check out this infographic for 10 ways to sleep better and help you have deeper sleep.
– Your CPAP humidifier may also be causing you discomfort at night. Too much humidity can cause wetness and itchiness on your face. Too little, and you might wake up with a dry throat. Try setting your humidifier settings to different levels and see if that stops you from removing your mask at night.
17. My CPAP mask is too loud
Certain masks have crevices or joints that produce louder than desired sounds while being used. Sometimes, adjusting the mask joint to another position can help reduce the noise.
Alternatively, wearing earplugs or turning on a source of white noise (such as a fan) helps block out the noise.
18. I hate CPAP and refuse to do it no matter what
If you feel like CPAP is simply not for you, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there are many other options to treat sleep apnea and help you get the sleep you deserve. For more information, check out the 10 best treatments for sleep apnea without CPAP.
19. How often should I replace my mask cushions?
In general, you want to replace your CPAP mask cushions when you’re starting to notice leakage or you start to see some bruising on your face.
Most CPAP companies suggest replacing the CPAP mask cushion every 3 months. However, you can easily make your cushion last way longer by cleaning it every night and protecting it from direct sunlight and other things.
Also, always wash your face before wearing your CPAP mask to prevent the oils on your skin from damaging the cushion.
20. How do I know if I should use a nasal mask or a full face mask?
Nasal masks are generally the most commonly used type of mask. They’re usually pretty comfortable to sleep in and allow for a clear field of vision.
Full face masks are better suited for people that breathe through their mouth while sleeping. As the full face mask delivers air to both the nose and mouth, it helps stop apneas caused by either entryway.
If you breathe through your mouth while sleeping, it’s recommended that you use a full face mask or a nasal mask with a chin strap. For people that suffer from a deviated septum, broken nose, or other nose injuries, consult with your doctor before using a nasal mask.
21. How to stop CPAP mask nose bruising?
Nose bruising is usually a sign that your mask is on too tight or that you have the wrong size.
Look up your mask sizing guide and print out their instruction sheet to check that your mask size is the right one. Masks that are a size or more too small are more likely to cause nose bruising.
Nose bruising is one of the most cited reasons for people deciding to stop using CPAP. If you feel like you’re starting to consider this as an option, check out how I was able to stop CPAP mask nose bruising for myself before quitting CPAP.
22. Should I adjust my CPAP therapy when switching from a 6 feet hose to an 8 feet hose?
No, changing hose length will not affect your CPAP therapy settings.
23. Do I have to use CPAP every night for the rest of my life?
Because CPAP is a treatment and not a cure, it has to be used every single night in order to effectively treat sleep apnea.
Many patients with sleep apnea have been able to reduce, and sometimes even eliminate, their apneas over time. Oftentimes, this is done through a healthy diet and exercise. Additionally, you can try our many different treatments that don’t require wearing a mask at night.
24. How often should I get my CPAP equipment pressure setting re-adjusted?
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that sleep apnea patients adjust their pressure settings at least once a year or when major lifestyle changes occur.
25. I’ve been sneezing a lot after beginning to use my CPAP machine, what’s going on?
Although most CPAP masks produced nowadays are made of hypoallergenic materials, it’s possible that you may be having an allergic reaction to the CPAP mask cushion. Alternatively, you may be having an allergic reaction to the detergent or cleaner that you’re using to clean the mask or machine.
Try switching cleaners or using warm water by itself to check if that stops the sneezing. If it doesn’t work, contact your doctor for help.
Hope you’ve found the list useful! As previously mentioned, this list will be updated over time.
If you have any other questions involving CPAP treatment or sleep apnea, feel free to leave them in the comment section below and I’ll answer it as soon as possible.