CPAP 101: Expert Tips For Getting Started with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Machines

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is due to an allergy to the mask materials. Changing masks and brands is sometimes helpful. We have had to send some patients to see an allergist when a runny nose persists despite humidity and multiple mask changes.

What if I’m having trouble breathing?

Difficulty breathing with CPAP can be due to the newness of the experience or pressure problems. High prescribed pressures may be uncomfortable initially and low settings, such as 4 cm, may create a sensation of being “air starved.” Contact your homecare provider to check the accuracy of your equipment and discuss the problem with your sleep specialist so they can determine if a pressure adjustment is required.

How do I clean my CPAP?

You should receive specific cleaning/maintenance instructions from the homecare company that delivers your equipment. We recommend taking the mask, tubing and headgear in the shower with you once a week, rinsing it with a mild dish soap (odorless or with a smell you can tolerate), hanging it over the showerhead to dry and remembering to hook it back up the next night. Filters should generally be checked once a month, more often if the environment is dusty. The humidifier chamber should be rinsed daily, and the use of distilled water will keep it clean and free of mineral deposits.

How long do I have to wear my CPAP each night for it to be effective?

Studies show that at least 6 hours of CPAP usage per night is needed to reduce the long-term health risks of obstructive sleep apnea. We encourage our patients to put the CPAP on at lights out each night and to make every attempt to put it back on after nighttime awakenings. If there are frequent awakenings or if you are finding the mask on the floor in the morning, then pressure adjustment or a mask refitting may be necessary.

Who should I call if there’s a problem?

For technical problems with the equipment, check in with the homecare company. Your doctor/sleep lab should also provide troubleshooting services if the problem has to do with mask fit or pressure