Struggling with CPAP?
Updated: Feb 9
12 Tips to CPAP Success from someone with nearly 30 years of experience.
1. Improve mask seal and prolong the life of your mask with daily cleaning, especially of the silicone parts which make contact with your skin. Natural oils on our skin can break down the silicone prematurely, resulting in it splitting and causing leaks. You can clean your mask with CPAP wipes from your supplier or just warm, soapy water. I use ‘Wet Ones - Sensitive’ wipes as they were recommended to me by a supplier years ago. Just make sure the mask is completely dry before using. For this reason, I recommend cleaning the mask as soon as you wake up.
2. Start with a clean dry face - no moisturisers. The humidification of my CPAP device creates moisture, and when this moisture interacts with emollients in skin moisturisers, it can become slippery and break the seal of the mask. Instead, moisturise in the morning, upon waking.
3. Xylimelts: These are a recent addition to my routine. They are small discs which adhere to your teeth or gums, to keep your mouth moist during sleep. This prevents CPAP drying your mouth out, which also helps prevent cavities. The bonus is no more morning breath, as they have a mild minty flavour. I purchase mine online.
4. Humidification was a game changer for me, after many years of allergic rhinitis from the high pressure I require. The warm, moist air is more gentle on my nasal passages - especially in the cold weather.
5. I use ‘Nasonex’ nasal spray, before bed, to prevent my narrow nasal passages from swelling. ‘Nozoil’ is another option for those who are sensitive to high airway pressure. It provides a light oil coating to your nasal membranes and helps prevent allergic reactions too. Both are available from pharmacies.
6. Finding the right mask fit is pivotal in your CPAP journey. I struggled for decades with mask leakage into my eyes which caused me to remove the mask, unknowingly, in my sleep. The Philips ‘Amara View’ full face mask has been an absolute game changer for me. Most nights, I now boast an AHI reading of 0.0 - meaning zero apnoeas/hypopneas!
7. APAP vs CPAP: Personally, changing from CPAP to APAP significantly improved my comfort and therefore my compliance. The difference with APAP is that it has a variable pressure which adapts to your current needs. For example, you may only need a pressure of 10 when sleeping on your side but once you roll onto your back, you may need 14 to prevent apnoeas, and an APAP machine provides this variable pressure, as needed. For me, this also means less trauma to my nasal membranes from very high pressure, and much improved outcomes.
8. Use a CPAP hose support. This device, secured under your mattress, holds my CPAP hose up in the air approximately 60cm. This allows me to roll over from side to side without the risk of entangling myself in the tubing, nor laying on it and restricting the pressure. Mine also has a little hook from which I can hang my mask in the morning.
9. CPAP Pillow - these are great for side sleepers (it’s recommended that we side sleep to help reduce apnoeas). It is often butterfly shaped with cutout spaces for your mask so that it won’t cause undue pressure on your face and potentially break the seal of your mask. You can find them online or ask your CPAP supplier.
10. Where possible, avoid alcohol, antihistamines, sleeping tablets, muscle relaxants - in fact, anything which causes drowsiness. All of these can affect your ability to keep your airways open while sleeping, resulting in more severe OSA.
11. Be your own researcher and advocate. Search the internet, join FB groups and industry organisations to stay abreast of new developments in the field of OSA treatments. I also recommend reading the book, “Sleep, Interrupted: A physician reveals the #1 reason why so many of us are sick and tired” by Dr Steven Y Park MD.
12. And finally, please persevere…. You won’t always see immediate benefits from the changes you make. It has taken me 30 years to accumulate this list from my experiences of trying different things. For me, finding the right mask for my face shape was the absolute game changer to enable me to get the results I now do, but all of the above tips contribute in their own way.
I am a long term user of CPAP and APAP, since my ‘severe OSA’ diagnosis in 1992. I am not a Doctor. I am not affiliated with any of these products or suppliers. These tips are based solely on my opinion and lived experience. I recommend checking with your own Doctor or CPAP supplier to discuss what will work best for you and your circumstances. ~ Amanda Vernon