You might be familiar with humidifiers in the home, and you may even use one yourself. Household humidifiers help to add moisture to the air. In some parts of the U.S., they are essential wintertime survival tools.
Not only do they help the air inside your home feel warmer, but it also helps do all of the following:
- Prevent dry skin.
- Reduce ordinary snoring.
- Diminish the spread of airborne viruses.
- Minimize damage to wood from dry air.
- Reduce the amount of static discharge and the potential problems it creates.
Using a CPAP machine equipped with a heated humidifier offers many benefits to users as well. One of the most important benefits is a greater degree of compliance. People who use a CPAP heated humidifier are more likely to continue with their CPAP therapy to enjoy the essential benefits it provides.
What is a CPAP Machine Heated Humidifier?
A CPAP heated humidifier typically consists of a detachable portion of the CPAP machine. It has a tank, or chamber, that you can fill with distilled water. Underneath this chamber, you’ll find a hot plate, which heats the water and humidifies a portion of it.
When the pressurized room air passes through this, the moisture is sent through your airway through the nose, throat, and lungs, resulting in moisturized air delivered through your respiratory system.
People using CPAP machines have their choice of a CPAP humidifier that is heated or non-heated. Heated humidifiers account for the majority of humidifiers on the market today.
The way humidifiers connect to your CPAP machine determines its usefulness for many CPAP wearers. There are essentially three types of connections:
- Built-in humidifiers: These devices are built into the machine and ready to go from day one. Examples include the Fisher & Paykel ICON Auto CPAP Machine with Built-In Heated Humidifier and ThermoSmart Heated Hose and the Apex Medical iCH II Auto CPAP Machine with Built-In Heated Humidifier.
- Integrated humidifiers: Ideally suited for people who do not want to use their humidifiers year-round or wish to travel without the added bulk of a humidifier on occasion. With these devices, you can choose to leave the humidifier portion at home. Examples include the DeVilbiss IntelliPAP Integrated Heated Humidifier and the Philips Respironics DreamStation Heated Humidifier.
- Passover humidifiers: Universal humidifiers that connect to any CPAP machine. While convenient to use, these humidifiers may not provide robust moisturizing of the air inside your CPAP mask. An example includes the Philips Respironics REMstar Passover Humidifier with hose.
Any one of these humidifier choices, though, offers direct benefits over using a CPAP machine without humidity.
Reasons and Indications for a CPAP Machine Heated Humidifier
You may want to ask if it is necessary to use a heated humidifier with your CPAP machine. There is no hard and fast rule that says it is an essential addon for CPAP use.
It does, however, make the use of a CPAP device more comfortable for many sleep apnea patients. And that added level of comfort may matter more than you may realize, particularly in terms of your compliance with your continuous positive airway pressure therapy.
The reason heated humidification for CPAP machines came about is simple. Some patients receiving CPAP therapy complained of one or more of the following problems when using their CPAP machines:
- Scratchy, dry throat
- Dry nasal passages
- Nasal stuffiness
- Dry mouth
In many cases, these symptoms were the result of breathing in dry, pressurized air through their CPAP machine throughout the night while they were sleeping.
In some instances, the symptoms were related to common health problems that cause these symptoms like:
- Sinus infections
Dry air can worsen these conditions by irritating the nasal passages further, causing them to become inflamed and swell. By using a heated humidifier you deliver, moist, warm air into your nasal passages promoting relief to your congestion.
It’s not just the dryness of the air that can cause problems though. Most people prefer to sleep in cooler rooms. When the airflow through the mask is cool in addition to being dry, it can exacerbate the discomfort and lead to other problems, like sore throats, dry mouths, and more.
That is why heated humidification is the preferred choice of many CPAP wearers. Not only does it add moisture to the air inside the CPAP mask, but it also warms the temperature, allowing wearers to experience the benefits of CPAP therapy without some of the common causes of discomfort mask some wearers complain about.
There is also an unintended benefit of using heated humidification with your CPAP machine. It helps to reduce a condition referred to as “rainout.” Rainout refers to the sudden splash of water that happens when condensation builds up inside the mask and drips into the nose or mouth of mask wearers. Heated tubing helps to maintain a steady temperature inside the mask greatly reducing the likelihood of rainout occurring.
That said, people who live in very humid environments, may not feel the need to use a heated humidifier as much as their counterparts in drier parts of the country. In some parts of the country, people may be able to forgo a heated humidifier add-on during the summer months, but use it for the rest of the year.
Uses for a CPAP Machine Heated Humidifier
Why do people use CPAP humidifiers? It’s about so much more than relieving the discomfort associated with wearing CPAP masks.
For many people, the discomfort associated with dry CPAP therapy is substantial enough that they will skip the use of their CPAP machines, making them non-compliant with the instructions of their physicians and/or sleep technologists.
However, untreated sleep apnea carries many risks, including:
- Greater risks of serious health problems, such as, type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart attack, and high blood pressure.
- Greater risks of car accidents due to sleepy driving. In fact, the American Academy of sleep medicine reports that people who have sleep apnea are 2.5 times more likely to be involved in accidents than those who do not have it. Additionally, CPAP users experienced a 70 percent reduction in accident risks than those who do not use CPAP therapy.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness that interferes with quality of life and puts you and those you love in danger.
- Difficulty with concentration, memory, and overall mental clarity.
- Lower than average immune response limiting your ability to fight off illnesses and infections.
- Diminished performance at work that can lead to being overlooked for promotions, demotions, or getting fired.
CPAP therapy can help you avoid many of the risks commonly associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), especially when used as prescribed, which makes compliance even more important.
Since the CPAP heated humidifier encourages compliance by reducing discomfort, it’s a good idea to use it frequently, if not nightly, to reduce the dryness problems associated with wearing your CPAP mask and to keep you compliant with your therapy.
Get Your CPAP Machine Heated Humidifier at CPAP.com
Many of today’s CPAP machines come equipped with heated humidifiers, though some will require an add-on to enjoy these benefits. If you travel frequently, you may opt for the Work with your sleep technologist or CPAP provider expert to determine the right choice for you.
If you’d like to learn more about CPAP machine heated humidifiers, we can help you decide if a CPAP humidifier is the right choice for you, and if so, which one. Contact us today to learn more about your options for an effective and comfortable CPAP therapy treatment experience. Use our live chat option or call us at 1-800-356-5221.
David Repasky has been using CPAP treatment since 2017 and has first-hand experience with what it’s like to live with Sleep Apnea. He brings the patient’s perspective to the CPAP.com blog and has received formal training in CPAP machines, masks, and equipment.