Benefits of CPAP Treatment
Many CPAP users report feeling much better after their very first night of CPAP therapy. Partners of CPAP users often report an immediate end to the snoring and thrashing that had been disturbing their own nightly sleep as well as their bedmate’s. With continued use, CPAP therapy enhances quality of life and reduces or eliminates OSA’s health risks.
Generally, the more severe the OSA, the more dramatic the improvement with CPAP therapy. People who have less severe OSA, or a fainter awareness of their symptoms, may find that their improvement is less dramatic but still rewarding. Many CPAP users are delighted by the benefits of good sleep which include: improved energy and mood, renewed interests in work, hobbies and social activities. Many are able for the first time to succeed with their weight-loss, fitness, or quit smoking plans. Some are even able to reduce their dosages of blood pressure or heart medications after consulting their doctors.
In most cases, CPAP is needed for the rest of the user’s life to keep OSA under control. Unless the OSA is eliminated by lifestyle changes or other treatments, its symptoms and health risks will return if CPAP therapy is stopped. A repeat sleep study is needed to determine whether OSA has been eliminated by other measures.
What more should I know about CPAP?
A CPAP machine is an electrical device, small enough and quiet enough to sit on a nightstand. It takes in air from the room, lightly pressurizes it and delivers it through a flexible tube to a special mask. CPAP uses ordinary air to keep your airway open while you sleep. It is not the same as oxygen therapy, although oxygen can be added for people who need both. A complete CPAP system has several essential components:
— CPAP machine,
— Flexible air tube,
— Face mask and straps that hold the mask in place.
Other accessories may be added to enhance comfort or provide flexibility for travel. Your therapist or physician will help you select the system that best meets your needs.
The pressure of the CPAP air stream needs to match your individual needs. Usually this pressure is determined in the sleep clinic after you have been diagnosed with OSA. This may be done after your first sleep study on a separate night, or it may be done during your first sleep study. To determine your optimum CPAP pressure, the sleep technician tests various levels of CPAP on you while you sleep. You will receive a prescription for the CPAP pressure level that best treats your condition. By contacting your local SSA or homecare supplies office, you can arrange to meet at your convenience with one of our health care professionals. They will teach you more about OSA and CPAP, help you select the CPAP system that suits you best, get you started and help you continue your therapy.
Are there any problems related to CPAP use?
Problems and potential problems associated with the correct use of CPAP are very few and very rare. They mainly are related to the use of CPAP in certain types of lung disorder. Your doctor can tell you if you should avoid CPAP because of other medical conditions. You should remember that, just like other treatments, CPAP is most successful when you are determined to get started and keep going. Your doctor and your SSA therapist can help you with issues you might face early in your CPAP experience, as well as later on.
Is the equipment complicated?
CPAP equipment is intentionally designed not to be complicated because it is meant to be used every day by people from all walks of life. Every piece of equipment comes with written instructions on how to use it and care for it. Our health professionals will teach you how to manage your first night at home, from setting up your system to fitting your mask, to breathing easily while you fall asleep. They will let you know what you can expect to experience as you continue with your CPAP therapy.
We encourage you to call us if you need more help.
Why do I have to clean my equipment?
Equipment that is kept clean works better, lasts longer, and will help prevent nose, sinus, throat and chest infections. Skin irritation may also by avoided. Keeping your equipment clean is a very good investment in your therapy.
When do I need to use my CPAP and for how long each time?
You should use your CPAP every time you sleep, including naps. Without it, your OSA is untreated and will cause the same problems it did before. You should take your CPAP with you wherever you plan to sleep, whether you are working or vacationing out of town, being admitted to hospital, or just napping in your living room. Occasionally, new CPAP users have difficulty going back to sleep if they have awakened during the night. This can usually be remedied by ensuring proper mask fit and a relaxed breathing pattern. If these steps do not help and a return to sleep seems impossible, the only option may be to remove the CPAP for the last few hours of sleep. Some doctors feel that in these cases, using CPAP for at least 4 sleep hours is adequate in the early phase of treatment. The goal is to increase gradually to a full night of CPAP.
Can I breathe through my mouth?
If your mouth is open, the pressurized air stream from the CPAP unit will leak out, rather than reach your airway. This is not only ineffective, it is often uncomfortable and can cause awakening. Many people adjust naturally to keeping the mouth closed during sleep, others learn it with a bit of practice. Your SSA therapist is knowledgeable in the different causes and treatments of persistent mouth-breathing and can help resolve this problem.
Why is it harder to exhale than inhale with my CPAP on?
The air stream from the CPAP machine is pressurized and directed down your airway to keep it open. Inhaling this air stream usually feels more natural than exhaling. By relaxing, keeping the mouth closed and concentrating on a slow, regular breathing pattern, most people get accustomed to the different sensations of inhaling and exhaling.
You should ask your doctor or SSA therapist for help if this problem persists.
What if I have a stuffy nose?
A stuffy nose is often a common cause of persistent mouth-breathing and difficulty exhaling with CPAP. Whether you notice a stuffy or runny nose before bedtime or only after a few hours of sleep, your CPAP therapy may become intolerable.
The first step in treating this problem is ensuring you use a CPAP humidifier and properly clean all equipment. If your nose is usually stuffy or runny, ask your doctor about nasal irrigants or prescription nasal sprays. These nasal treatments can safely be used long-term to help keep your nasal passages clear, make breathing with CPAP more comfortable and prevent mouth-breathing. Non-prescription nasal sprays may be used for occasional, short-term treatment of a cold or congestion, but should otherwise be avoided.
I am having trouble fitting my mask. What should I do?
If you are a new CPAP user, remember that you should fit your mask just snugly enough to prevent leaks in all sleep positions. Mask fitting takes practice. Over-tightening the straps can cause or worsen a leak. Try readjusting the position of your mask before tightening the straps - gently pull the mask away from your face with the CPAP on, then resettle it until you find the right position. If that does not work, try adjusting the straps. If you have had your mask for some time and it has just recently become difficult to fit, it may need to be replaced.
Why do I still snore with my CPAP on?
If you are having trouble with mask fit, stuffy nose, or mouth-breathing, you may continue to snore. Snoring may also occur if your CPAP pressure needs adjusting.
Why do I sometimes remove my mask in my sleep?
If you are new to CPAP, you might simply need time to get used to your treatment. If you are experiencing other problems such as unstable mask fit, stuffy nose, difficulty exhaling, or snoring, you may remove your mask while you are asleep.
Whether you are a new or experienced CPAP user, call your SSA therapist for assistance.
Can CPAP cause bloating or burping?
If your stomach feels bloated or you burp a lot after using your CPAP, you may be swallowing excess air during your sleep. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of getting used to relaxed, regular breathing with your CPAP. Other times it is related to a mouth-breathing issue that requires some form of treatment. In either case, it usually disappears once the cause is addressed. If the problem persists, or is accompanied by ear discomfort, inform your doctor.
I have numerous, vivid dreams now that I’m on CPAP. Is this normal?
Dreaming is normal, and is good for you. Quite often, untreated OSA disrupts sleep so severely that the dream stage is constantly interrupted or never reached at all. When the OSA is suddenly eliminated by CPAP, dream sleep is restored. It may occupy much of your sleep time for the first week or so. After that the dreams will taper off, toward the levels seen in normal, healthy adults.
When I first started CPAP I could fall asleep very quickly. Why does it take longer now?
It takes a normal, healthy adult 10-20 minutes to fall asleep. Before you started CPAP, you probably ha significant sleep deprivation caused by your OSA. CPAP suddenly controlled the OSA, which in turn allowed you to fall asleep very quickly for the first few weeks. As your sleep pattern continues to stabilize, you naturally begin to take more time to fall asleep. Though this can seem like a step backward, it usually means that your CPAP is doing its job and you are getting better. If your CPAP is disturbing you during this time, or if it’s consistently taking you more than 20 minutes to fall asleep, certain adjustments to your machine may help you fall asleep faster.
I feel much better after a year on CPAP. Can I stop using it?
Your OSA will return, with all of its negative effects, unless it has been cured by some other measure. If you have lost weight, quit smoking, given up alcohol or sleeping pills, you have done yourself a big healthy favor and you should feel proud. However, you should not stop using your CPAP until your doctor tells you that it’s safe to do so. A repeat sleep study is the best way to know for sure whether OSA has been cured.