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How to Sleep Comfortably Using a CPAP Machine for Sleep Apnea

A CPAP facemask looks uncomfortable, but can actually help you sleep better!
A CPAP facemask looks uncomfortable, but can actually help you sleep better! | Source

CPAP Trouble and Troubleshooting

If you have recently been diagnosed with sleep apnea—and have been prescribed a regimen of using a CPAP machine—you may wonder whether you will be actually be able to sleep with a hose attached to your face. You may wonder how you will deal with the air that is being forced into your nose. It doesn't seem right that the thing that is supposed to help you sleep at night is something that looks so uncomfortable and may actually make it harder to sleep in a different way.

I am here to tell you that it is actually possible to sleep with an "elephant nose." I've listed some common issues, as well as ways you can troubleshoot and fix these issues, so that you can finally get some rest.

Finding the Right Mask

The first thing you need to do is get the right machine and mask. You will receive some help from your doctor, the sleep study lab, and/or the home medical equipment provider. It is very important to ask questions and determine your treatment options and try out different masks so that you can find one that is just right for you. For example, if you are claustrophobic, you may be able to get a system that is lightweight and takes up little space.

It may be hard to make a choice though, since there is so much to learn, and it is difficult to determine how the combination of pieces will work together while you are sleeping. Since masks are disposable and will be changed every few months, you may want to keep your options open and try out a different mask when you get a replacement mask. Remember that different brands may fit differently, so if you are not satisfied with one company's products, try another.

It is very important that the size of the mask is correct for your face. If you get nasal pillows that are too small for you, they will not provide a proper seal in your nose. If they are too big, they will hurt your nose. You may want to try different sizes until you find one that is comfortable for you.

Cycle of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The sleep cycle of OSA shows how your sleep is interrupted. Your airway collapses, causing your breathing to stop, which disrupts your sleep.
The sleep cycle of OSA shows how your sleep is interrupted. Your airway collapses, causing your breathing to stop, which disrupts your sleep. | Source

Getting Used to the Mask

It may take awhile to simply get used to having a mask on your face. I have a few suggestions on how to handle this.

  1. Try wearing the mask while you are watching TV or reading. This will give you a chance to simply get used to having it on your face.
  2. Try using it when you are really tired and know you will likely fall asleep right away. You may be too tired to care that you have the mask on.
  3. Don't make yourself keep the mask on all night. If you find yourself getting up in the middle of the night and unable to go back to sleep because you can't find a comfortable sleeping position, it is all right to take it off. Eventually you want to get to a point where you leave it on all night, but you don't have to have to start that way on the very first day.
  4. Alternatively, you may find that it is better to make yourself wear it all night, every night, from the first time you use it. Some people find that the choice may make them "follow the rules" and making it optional makes it easy to take it off, while others may find that being forced to follow the rules makes them more resistant. Do whichever fits your temperament best.

The CPAP can help you sleep better.
The CPAP can help you sleep better. | Source

Comfortable Sleeping Positions for CPAP Machine

It may take some time to get used to finding a sleeping position that is comfortable for you while wearing the mask and hose. Unfortunately, there is no right answer and no solution that will work for everyone; so you have to try out different options until you find the ones that work for you. Keep trying and be confident that you will find something that will work.

It is possible that positions you previously avoided because of your sleep apnea may be now available to you. If you previously found it hard to breathe when you were sleeping on your back, you may find that you can now sleep on your back comfortably. You may be able to sleep on your side, slightly turned away from the pillow.

Millionaire Tip

Several patients have noted that they can get their CPAP supplies cheaper on their own, instead of going through a medical provider, even when their insurance company pays for part of the cost. Be sure to compare prices when ordering your supplies.

Hoses

Some people have found that the hose gets in the way while they sleep, so they prefer to have a strap to hook up the hose to the wall, ceiling, or bedpost to keep it out of their way. Others like to have the hose facing down towards their body. They can simply let it lie on the bed coverings, or they can tie it to themselves using a belt, or strap it to their nightshirt.

Pillows

There are many types of pillows you can try to help accommodate your face mask. While some people appreciate pillows that are specifically designed for face masks, others will be more comfortable using a feather pillow or other pillow designed for general use. You may want to try different pillows until you find one that works best for you.

Replacement of Supplies

Once you buy your CPAP machine, hose, mask, and any other supplies, your financial commitment is not finished. Fresh distilled water should be used every day. A lot of the equipment needs to be replaced regularly. Along with daily cleaning, changing your supplies on a regular basis will help you sleep more comfortably. Replacing them will prevent infection, prevent leaks, and avoid carbon dioxide buildup from a clogged exhalation port. Medicare and most private insurance companies allow for the supplies to be replaced on the schedule shown on the table. Be sure to check with your own insurance company to determine their particular schedule. Depending on the amount of your deductible and co-payment, you may also find that it is sometimes cheaper to purchase your own equipment from places like Amazon.

Replacement Schedule

Supply
Monthly
Every 3 Months
Every 6 Months
cushions & pillows
x
 
 
filters
x
 
 
mask
 
x
 
tubing
 
x
 
headgear
 
 
x
water chamber
 
 
x

Troubleshooting: Too Noisy

There are several ways a CPAP machine will make noise. If air is escaping from your mask, it will make a loud noise. This can be caused by improper fit and a leak in the seal, as we discussed previously. To fix this, simply readjust the mask. If that doesn't work, try taking it completely off and putting it back on again. Sometimes it helps to start all over by turning off the machine, putting the mask back on, and then turning the machine back on again. Leakage can also happen when the mask begins to wear out. You will need to replace the mask to fix this.

There is also is a low humming sound created by the engine of the machine itself. The air coming into the mask may make a noise, and your breathing sounds may be amplified. These sounds are normal, and if they bother you, you may want to use a radio at a low volume to mask these noises until you become accustomed to them. Please note that newer models of the machine are much quieter than the older models.

The air coming out of the mask will also sound loud especially if it is hitting some bedding or a part of your body. You can try to adjust the bed coverings to keep them flattened against your body and avoid having the exhalation port of your mask directly facing an object to minimize that sound. There are face masks that claim to be quieter that you can try. For example, the Mirage Swift LT by Resmed claims to be "the quietest nasal pillow system on the market." Often, the masks with larger exhalation ports are quieter.

William Howard Taft Suffered From Sleep Apnea

William Howard Taft, the 27th president of the United States and the 10th chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, suffered from severe sleep apnea. This led to continuous exhaustion, some confusion, and other problems.
William Howard Taft, the 27th president of the United States and the 10th chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, suffered from severe sleep apnea. This led to continuous exhaustion, some confusion, and other problems. | Source

Troubleshooting: Mask Won't Stay in Place

You may be worried that the mask will not stay in place while you are sleeping—and you may feel that you need to readjust your mask every time you change positions. Don't worry. The strapping on the mask is designed to stay in place even when you switch positions. A small amount of leakage is also normal and expected by your machine. It will increase the pressure so you receive the proper amount.

If you do have issues, you may want to try adjusting the straps so that they are tighter, but not too tight. If the mask does shift and rub on your face, it can cause skin irritation, and if you pull the headgear too tight, you will have sores and indentations on your skin.The headgear is also disposable and will wear out over time. If the fit is getting worse, you may consider replacing the headgear.

If the straps slip on your head because you are bald, or have short or slick hair, you might try wearing a baseball cap backwards on your head to sleep. This will hold down the strap. If you have long hair, you may want to keep your hair in a ponytail and bring up the pony tail above the strap to keep it in place. Although this adds yet another item you need to sleep with, it may work to keep you comfortable while sleeping.

For nasal pillows, using a water-based lubricant may make it easier on your nose and may help you achieve a better seal.

Troubleshooting: Feeling of Suffocation or Too Little Air

If you feel like you are not getting enough air, first be sure that you have turned on the machine. A small amount of air does come out while the machine is warming up, but you need to turn the pressure on to get enough air. If the machine is on, you may have a mask leak that is letting most of the air escape. If this is the case, you can readjust the mask or replace it. This may also be caused by getting the wrong machine. If you are finding it hard to breath against a steady stream of air, especially if you have asthma, you may need a Bi-level machine instead of a CPAP machine. This machine reduces the pressure when you are breathing out.

Troubleshooting: Other Issues

Waking Up With Dry Mouth or Throat. If you breathe through your mouth, you may wake up with a dry mouth or a sore throat. If this is the case, you can get a chin strap to help you breathe through your nose only. You may also consider getting a full face mask that covers the nose and the mouth if you cannot breathe through your nose due to chronic congestion.

Otherwise, it might have to do with the humidity. Getting a CPAP machine with a humidifier will help. Adjust the humidity settings higher and higher until you no longer wake up with a dry mouth.

Waking Up With Sinus Congestion or Pressure. Sinus congestion or pressure is probably due to your humidifier setting. Try adjusting it up or down until you find the setting that is best for you. You may even try to eliminate the humidifier altogether. If you have COPD, chronic bronchitis, asthma, chronic rhinitis, or other respiratory problems, you may find that a BiPap or Bi-level machine works better for you.

CPAP Mask Is Causing Irritation or Sores. The first thing you want to check is that you have a good fit on your mask. Make sure you purchased the right size and adjusted it properly to your face. After that, especially if you are using nasal pillows, you may find some irritation in your nose. Try using a water-based lubricant to act as a barrier between your skin and the pillows. If this is happening after you have had the mask for a while, you may need to clean it thoroughly or replace it.

Waking Up With Dry Eyes. Covering your eyes with an eye mask will keep your eyes protected from the air leaks and air from the machine.

CPAP Is Spitting Water Into Mask. Especially in the winter, condensation can form in the hose, making it seem like water is spitting out of the mask. This is called rainout. In order to prevent this, keep the CPAP machine lower than the bed and wrap the hose to insulate it. There are hose covers on the market in a variety or designs, or you can simply find some fabric and wrap it around the hose to fashion one yourself. The bonus of using these covers is that the hose will not feel cold against your skin. You can also place a hook on the ceiling or wall and hang the hose higher so that gravity keeps the condensation out of your mask.

How to Be Comfortable While Sleeping With a CPAP Mask

You may feel like you have to go through a lot of obstacles to find a way to sleep comfortably with a CPAP mask hooked up to a CPAP machine. Try to remember that the reasoning behind the setup is to help you reduce snoring, sleep better, and get more rest. It can also mitigate a lot of health problems. Realize that the effort is worth it because it will help the overall condition of your health.

Be patient and persistent while trying the tips and suggestions discussed in this article.

Good luck ... and good night!

Jobar International, Inc. (a) Cpap Chin Strap
Jobar International, Inc. (a) Cpap Chin Strap

The chin strap will keep you from opening your mouth, since the nasal mask and nasal pillows makes it uncomfortable to breathe through your mouth.

 

Be comfortable with these CPAP Supplies on Amazon

North American Healthcare JB5651 Cpap Hose Holder
North American Healthcare JB5651 Cpap Hose Holder

The hose holder keeps the CPAP hose tangle free and out of your way.

 

© 2012 Shasta Matova

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Comments: Do You Have Problems With Your CPAP Machine? 27 comments

Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 9 months ago from USA Author

Thank you Kellie. I am sure this will help the readers. I also have a full face mask now.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 2 years ago from USA Author

Thank you Ron, the adjustment process is a long one, but the goal is to help get a good night's sleep. Sleep apnea takes a toll on your body and can cause heart problems. It is definitely worth the effort to persist through the discomfort because you will eventually get used to it.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 2 years ago from USA Author

Thank you pstraubie, I am glad that your grandson was able to make the adjustments he needed to get along well with his CPAP machine.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 2 years ago from USA Author

Thanks favored. A CPAP machine is an awful-looking contraption but it has helped many people get a good night's sleep, once they figure out how to work out the bugs.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

I've used a CPAP for many years now, and still deal with some of the issues you mention. I wouldn't say it's ever become comfortable for me. But the discomfort doesn't interfere with my sleep. It took a while, but I got used to it. Now I would never consider going back to my pre-CPAP sleep patterns. I would encourage people to persist through the discomfort.


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 2 years ago from sunny Florida

My grandson has a CPAP machine and does quite well with it. A few adjustments have had to be made over the years but he seems to benefit from it greatly

Good tips especially for someone who is new to using their machine.

Angels are on the way to you this evening ps


favored profile image

favored 2 years ago from USA

You did a good job explaining so many things I had questions about concerning this condition and machine. Really glad I visited. Posting to my health board.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 2 years ago from USA Author

Tamara, I don't remember how much I paid for mine, but I have insurance which helped pay for some of it. Besides the machine itself, there is also the cost of ongoing supplies. The nasal pillows, the mask, the hose, and the filter all have to be replaced from time to time. My provider told me the ongoing supplies would be about $25 a quarter, but it turned out to be more than that, so I wound up shopping online instead.

Thank you msviolets for your information. I would add that since many people give up on CPAP machines, you may be able to find a used one that has hardly ever been used for a lower price.


msviolets profile image

msviolets 2 years ago

You can find relatively affordable ones here: http://www.cpap.com/

(Under $500, which is what the low end models through the dr's office cost)

They require a dr's prescription. Some insurances will cover them as Durable Medical Equipment. Not all will; check with your benefits coordinator. At the very least, it's worth seeing if it can count toward your deductible or maximum out of pocket.


tamarawilhite profile image

tamarawilhite 2 years ago from Fort Worth, Texas

How much do CPAP machines cost?


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 3 years ago from USA Author

Roberta, I hope this article helps your friends adjust to their CPAP machine. It will make a big positive difference in their lives if they can.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

Thanks for putting together this guide for people who use the CPAP Machine. We have friends who struggle with theirs and they may find this helpful--I hope!


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 3 years ago from USA Author

Thanks rajan. When you first starting using a CPAP machine, it is often difficult to find a way to sleep comfortably with a face mask. Many people give up when they could do simple things to make the experience more comfortable.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Voted up and useful. This is a comprehensive and useful write up on the many aspects of using a CPAP machine.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks tobusiness. I appreciate the visit and comment.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

A very well presented and informative hub, great job. Voting up and useful.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks Aurelio, it does look daunting to sleep with a CPAP mask, doesn't it. But as you can see, many people swear by it. Having more energy during the day maybe worth some minor discomfort at night, especially knowing that there are things you can do to minimize the discomfort.

Thanks Dianna, I was happy to find that photo. Most people don't really know that they are having trouble breathing, unless someone else tells them, but it does affect how they feel in the morning. They are more grouchy and have a lot less energy.

Thanks Jasmine, I am sorry your husband was not able to find a mask that worked for him. Maybe if he continues to have sleep apnea issues, he can look over his options again. Depending on when he tried, and what bothered him the most, he may find that the companies have come up with a solution for it.


vox vocis profile image

vox vocis 4 years ago

My husband returned his mask as it was impossible for him to sleep with it. We found out that there were many people who gave up on their mask. This is a great article on the topic, and hopefully, people who have this problem will find and read it before giving up on the machine.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

I love the cat watching his master sleep, so adorable! I have empathy for those who have to use this apparatus to sleep. But, I am sure they are very thankful for the aid in breathing. Wonderful advice, tips and well done.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

Yikes, I don't see how anyone can sleep with that thing on the face. But it's a necessary and better alternative than dying from sleep apnea. Voting this Up and Interesting.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thank you msviolets for your comment and additional insight. I can see how a mustache might interfere with the mask. I appreciate your perspective as a spouse that a CPAP improved your lives.

Thank you for your insight and comment bdegiulio, a chin strap can help keep your mouth closed and avoid dry mouth.

Thanks WannaBWriter, I hope your husband can find some comfort by using one or more of the ideas in this article.


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 4 years ago from Templeton, CA

I'll have to pass this on to my husband, since he's the one who uses the CPAP machine at our house.


bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

I've been using a CPAP for almost 20 years now and can say that you hit the nail on the head. Once I found the sleep position that worked for me it made the whole process much easier to take. I did eventually start using a chin strap due to dry mouth and that helped a lot. Great job.


msviolets profile image

msviolets 4 years ago

My husband has a cpap, and it's made a huge difference in his life. Our lives, I should say! He's much more reasonable to talk to since he started getting enough sleep :-)

For mask comfort and fit, I'd add that mustaches interfere quite a bit. My husband keeps his upper lip shaven to protect it from rubbing, and to improve the fit of his mask.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thank you Bill and Keala for your comment, additional insight, and verification of these ideas. Sleep apnea is no fun, and a CPAP mask and hose does take some getting used to, but the benefits are worth the initial discomfort.


hawaiianodysseus profile image

hawaiianodysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

I use the CPAP machine (nasal pillows) and know for a fact that it's saved my life--or at least enhanced the quality of my life.

The ancient Hawaiians promoted obesity as a cultural hallmark...unfortunately, the island food tastes so good that this tradition carries on today, albeit for different reasons.

So, if I want to be around a bit longer and enjoy my Hawaiian Odyssean epic on this big, blue marble, I need to faithfully use my CPAP machine.

Which is all a long-winded way to simply say--

Thank you so much for writing this comprehensive article that promotes a wonderful lifesaving medical apparatus.

Aloha, Millionaire Tips! You're certainly a writer with range!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

I actually know several people who have used these and they swear by them. From my discussions with them, I can tell that your research and suggestions are right on. Good job!

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