CPAP therapy is considered the gold standard for treating sleep apnea.  It is a machine that uses a mask of some type to deliver   a specific pressure of air to help keep the airway open.  The problem with CPAP therapy is that it does take getting used to in order to be successful in using it nightly.  There are some very specific reasons that people fail to be able to adjust to it and there a definitely ways to overcome these obstacles to be successful and feel better.

  1. There is a lack of communication.  Many patients are afraid they are disturbing someone if they call when they are having issues with their CPAP.  The truth is that if you want to be successful using your machine you need to communicate your issues with a professional.  Depending on who you are working with you should call your doctor, the company that set up the machine or the sleep lab who performed your study.  There can be many issues but if no one knows you are having problems then the problem can not be fixed.
  2. You have the wrong mask.  If you had a sleep study where they fit you with a mask you must remember that you were only there for a short time.  A mask might seem right during the study but may not fit as well at home.  You may also find that although the mask is good the first couple of night after wearing it for a week it may not be as comfortable.  In most cases insurance will pay for a change of mask during the first 2-4 weeks after your machine is delivered.  This may not be true for those who have an HMO where the insurance company may dictate which mask you are given.  In those cases it may benefit you to purchase a mask that might fit you better.  It may cost you but it will be worth it in the end.  Also those who have sensitive spots from the mask may benefit from having two masks to rotate through to change the pressure point.
  3. You do not use the humidifier.  Many patients think that the humidifier is an optional piece of equipment but it is not.  It is essential that you use the humidifier and that you set it to the appropriate setting.  In the winter you will need more humidification then during the summer due to the air being dryer.  If you do not get enough humidity you will find your mouth, nose and sinuses will get sore, swollen.  You may also find that you will develop a stuffy nose due to the welling of the nasal tissue and the increase of mucus being secreted to deal with it.
  4. The pressure is too high or too low.  The goal of the sleep lab is to find the lowest pressure needed to eliminate most of your respiratory events.  However, just because they achieved a final pressure does not mean that it is the best pressure for you.  Remember you are only in the sleep lab for one night and it is not the optimal sleep conditions.  You are wearing wires, sleeping in a strange bed and it is usually the first time you have ever tried on a CPAP mask.  The pressure achieved may be a little high or a little low.  It may be that you need a higher pressure then you can handle.  No matter what the issue there are certain procedures that must be followed before lowering the pressure.  You will probably be asked to try a different mask.  This is to see if the issue is not pressure but comfort.  You may then have to see the sleep specialist before he is willing to turn you pressure down.  This is because he is ultimately responsible for making sure your care is the best you can receive. 
  5. You did not give yourself enough time.   This is long term therapy.  That means you will be using this equipment for a long time.  So give yourself a little time to get used to it.  For the first few days if you feel uncomfortable wearing it at night.  Put it on while you are sitting in your recliner in the living room.  Wear it for about an hour.  Get used to it.  Then increase your time wearing it.  Usually be the end of the first one or two weeks you should be ready to sleep with it. 

CPAP therapy is an important part of keeping you healthy if you have sleep apnea.  Giving up before you give the therapy some time will do nothing to improve your health and in the long run can have very serious consequences.  Remember your doctor and the people who have worked with you want you to be successful.    


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