Common Problems

6 Weird CPAP Side Effects And How To Handle Them

As a CPAP user, you’re familiar with the common CPAP side effects, but there are some lesser known side effects that are less obvious to detect, but still can hinder your compliance with CPAP therapy. They may seem like minor annoyances, but they’re side effects you don’t have to deal with! With these remedies, we hope to have you snoozing soundly with  your CPAP machine!

Headaches in the Morning

Headaches are not common in the way of CPAP side effects, unless they’re caused by sinus related issues or your pressure is too high.

When your CPAP is blocking a part of your sinus cavities, it can create pressure between your sinus cavities, leading to a headache.

Try over the counter medications to help open your sinus passageways and give you sinus congestion relief. Another solution could be to add a heated humidifier to open your sinus passageways during treatment. If you’ve tried these solutions and still have no relief, it may be time to contact your ENT for further advice.

Dry Mouth

If you’re waking up with a dry mouth, it’s likely you’re sleeping with your mouth open which can reduce the effectiveness of your CPAP treatment. Luckily, there are 3 easy solutions for CPAP dry mouth you can try right now. The first solution is to check your mask for leaks. If your mask is over 6 months old and leaking, you may want to replace it. If it’s brand new and still showing signs of a leak, try adjusting your fit.If you use a full face CPAP mask and see no sign of a leak, consider a heated humidifier to add moisture and relieve your dry mouth. If you’re using a nasal mask instead of a full face mask, try using a chinstrap to keep your mouth from dropping open as you snooze.

If none of these solutions work for you, try looking into masks recommended just for mouth breathers.

Dry Eyes

Dry eyes may not seem obvious when thinking about common CPAP problems, but it can happen! If you’re waking up with dry eyes, you may have a leak in your mask at the bridge of your nose. This could cause the air to seep out right around your eyes, causing excessive dryness. This just means it’s time for an adjustment!

We don’t recommend tightening your mask, but rather adding a nose cushion or nasal pillow to help keep your mask flush to your skin.

If this doesn’t work, you may need to resize the mask, as your current mask may be too big or long for your face.

Bloating & Gasbloating with cpap

Nobody wants these CPAP side effects! If you feel bloated first thing in the morning, as if there is air in your stomach, you may be swallowing the CPAP air. While there’s not a medical solution for this, you can try adjusting your sleeping position.

The first position we’d recommend is laying as flat as possible – even without a pillow. If this doesn’t work, try sleeping on your side or elevated, whichever is different from your current sleeping position.

If changing your position doesn’t work and you’re still feeling very bloated, speak to your doctor about lowering the pressure in your CPAP treatment. While this may slightly increase your number of apnea episodes in a night, the relief it provides to your bloated stomach may be worth it!

Dry Nose & Congestion

As far as Sleep Apnea machine side effects go, this one is easy! Waking up with a dry nose or congestion are both common side effects of CPAP use and usually just indicate a simple lack of humidification. The air your CPAP blows through your nasal passages can irritate your passages and cause them to dry out or bleed. Dry or cracked passages are definitely uncomfortable, but can also put you at a higher risk of contracting an infection. On the other hand, your nasal passages may try protect themselves by producing excess mucus, leaving you with congestion.

For either of these CPAP side effects, a heated humidifier can add the moisture your nasal passages need to reduce or entirely eliminate the irritation.

If you’re already using a heated humidifier, try out a higher setting. If this doesn’t work, you can also try using a soothing nasal gel.

Breaking Out Around Nose

If you’re finding redness and bumps around your nose after using your CPAP, there are 3 things that could be happening. 1) Facial oils are building up under your mask, 2) your mask is too tight on your face, or 3) you’re having an allergic reaction to the mask material. Here are some possible remedies for these CPAP side effects.

To minimize facial oil buildup, make sure you’re washing your face prior to putting on your mask at night. In the morning, when taking your mask off, make sure you’re cleaning the facial cushion so oils don’t sit on the mask and end up back on your face. If, after a while, you’re still getting breakouts, try out a nasal pillow mask that is designed to have less direct contact with your skin, or a mask liner.

If the redness and bumps are found below your nose, or around the bridge, it could mean your headgear straps are too tight. The pressure of this tightness will create sores and possibly a bruise, even open sores if left untreated for too long. If you’re over tightening to prevent a leak, you should consider switching masks. When adjusting your mask, make sure to make small and consistent adjustments, working clockwise around the mask, to prevent uneven tightness.

Finally, if you’re experiencing breakouts with a new mask, your skin could be having a reaction to the chemicals used to manufacture your silicone mask.

Most of the time, these chemicals degrade over time and eliminate the problem on their own. However, the easiest solution is to soak your mask in warm, soapy water to help remove the chemicals prior to use. This method works with all types of masks and can be used with replacement parts as well, but prolonged soaking could reduce the lifespan of your silicone.

We hope these solutions to less common CPAP side effects help ease your discomfort. Remember, your CPAP therapy is worth a few minor inconveniences!

Tell us about your experience with side effects from CPAP therapy in the comments below.

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Daniela has researched and published over 60 articles covering topics that aim to inform and empower people living with Sleep Apnea. As an avid reader and researcher, Daniela continues to grow her knowledge about Sleep Apnea and CPAP therapy everyday with the help of coworkers, CPAP.com customers, and members of other CPAP communities online.

2 Comments

  1. Most of my 34/hr OSA events were hypopneas during my limited sleep study (maybe 3hrs of actual sleep, no REM, tried additional meds on this the 2nd attempt). I had to get a CPAP machine to trial. I never got a single minute of sleep with it. Tried to use it while sitting in front of the TV to acclimatise. Adjusted settings to the lowest with maximum exhale relief (c-flex aPAP), slower ramp. About 30mins and the pressure in me had built up so much: headache, nausea, lightheaded, gas in stomach, heart was pounding trying to push blood against an unknown pressure, diastolic pressure increased by 20mmHg or more. I could consciously try to breathe with it but when I relaxed the CPAP pressure would stop me from breathing out. It was making me hyperventilate if I went with the flow (@volume*rate not normally associated with hyperventilating) and then it thought I had stopped breathing when I was trying to breathe out slowly (my natural rate). It made it easier to breathe in (inhale), but much harder to breathe out (exhale). No panic, no anxiety, I knew all about CPAP and the value of it from my brother so problems were not expected. Lung Xray, PFT and heart tests indicate all good, except: the peak flows were really high (150% of predicted), low resistance (sRAW 41%) and lower ERV/RV (63/79% of predicted). For a 38yr old with Asthma, hiatus hernia, reflux and a BMI of 26, They said I should be fine and didn’t understand my symptoms apart from insisting CPAP would be good fo me. Suspected anemia/thyroid tested but results were normal. PB typically 110/70 but sometimes as low as 90/55. These medical/OSA/CPAP textbooks don’t seem to have enough detail regarding the rare cases.

    • Timc, have you seen an EMT? I had OSA due to lack of space. I had a tonsilectomy, uvulectomy, pharyngoplasty and my tongue shrunk. Cleared the OSA right up.
      Good luck, I know how horrible both OSA and CSA treatment can be, just keep pushing for something that works for you.

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