Living with CPAP: 7 tips for a better experience

Getting used to CPAP therapy isn’t always easy. As many people with sleep apnea can attest to, the first time you try your CPAP mask: you hate it. You may feel hesitant about wearing the mask to sleep, or fear you’ll never find a comfortable sleep position. The good news: you’re not alone. The better news: there are plenty of tips and tricks to make it easier to adjust to your sleep apnea therapy so you can get start getting quality sleep every night.

Tip 1: Practice makes perfect

Like anything else you try for the first time, wearing a CPAP mask can feel weird. But if you don’t get accustomed to wearing it, you’ll have trouble sleeping with it. Instead of putting it on right before you try to sleep, start by wearing it as much as you can before bedtime. If you’re sitting around the house relaxing during the day, wear it. Or even just try wearing it for an hour or so before you get into bed every night.

The more you get used to wearing it, the sooner you’ll have sweet dreams.

Tip 2: Use your CPAP mask every time you sleep

This might be the most important part of adjusting to your new sleep apnea therapy. In medical terms, physicians call this “patient compliance.” Don’t use it one night, but not the next. Make sure you’re using it every night, and for naps (if you’re a frequent napper), even if it’s a bit uncomfortable at first. Get yourself in a routine right away by putting it on as soon as you get finished with another routine, such as brushing your teeth.

Keep in mind that it’s important to avoid naps, especially as a CPAP beginner, because they reduce your sleep debt. Believe it or not, sleep debt is a good thing to have when you’re adjusting to CPAP treatment because it makes you feel more tired at bedtime. This, in turn, makes falling asleep easier to do while you’re getting used to your new equipment. The more tired you are, the faster you’ll sleep with CPAP. And the more you sleep with CPAP, the more familiar and second-nature it will become.

Tip 3: Make small adjustments to your CPAP mask nightly

Your mask may need adjustments every night. If you’re waking up with red marks on your face, loosen the mask up a little. If it falls off your face in the middle of the night, tighten it up. Even if your physician or medical equipment provider personally fits your mask for you, it doesn’t mean you can’t tweak it to make it more comfortable.

If you’re making adjustments, make sure you do so lying down and with the device on. Many masks inflate slightly with the air on, which is a function of how they seal, so lying down with the machine on can help ensure you’re getting an accurate fit.

Tip 4: Make sure your mask is fitted for YOU

Before you even try a CPAP mask, you may find yourself going online and researching the best mask for you. It’s a great idea to have your perfect mask in mind when you get fitted, but even if you don’t know which mask you want, it’s important to talk to your doctor or medical equipment provider about how you sleep. Are you a side sleeper? Do you breathe through your mouth? Be upfront and open with your sleep physician and speak up about your sleep needs. Be your own advocate so you can get the right mask for you.

Tip 5: Use AutoRamp™ on your CPAP machine

This is one of the most popular settings on CPAP machines. The AutoRamp setting allows you to adjust to air pressure by starting at a very low air pressure setting while you’re trying to fall asleep and then it increases to full pressure after you’re asleep. The reason for this feature is so you can fall asleep easily and comfortably, and then get the full treatment while asleep.

Tip 6: Use a CPAP humidifier if your nose or throat is dry

Keeping your nose and throat moist is a must when receiving CPAP treatment. All that air pressure can and will make it drier than what you’re used to, especially if your room is already lacking moisture.

Humidity is essential for success with CPAP, and while room humidifiers are good, CPAP machines now come with their own heated humidifier and heated tubing. Being able to custom-tailor the right amount of humidity for your body can help keep your throat and mouth less dry, for a more comfortable experience.

Tip 7: Wear gloves if you’re having trouble keeping your mask on

It’s not uncommon for people to wake up and find their CPAP mask off, but they don’t remember actually removing it in the middle of the night. So how do you keep it on? The answer is pretty simple: wear gloves.

It doesn’t matter what kind, but preferably gloves with a poor grip or no grip. The gloves will help prevent you from pulling off your mask in the middle of the night when you’re unaware you’re doing it. After you train yourself this way for a week or so, you should be able to ditch the gloves.

If you still have issues with taking your mask off after a few weeks, speak to your doctor regarding possible causes for this and treatment options.