CPAP machines problems and solutions to get better sleep.
Common Problems

CPAP Machine Problems and Solutions to Get Better Sleep

If you’re reading this article, you may be having trouble with your new CPAP machine. You may be asking yourself, “Why is my CPAP so hard to use?” or “Will I ever get used to CPAP?”

Perhaps your Sleep Apnea mask is leaking air, or the fit is too tight for your head and gives you a headache. Perhaps the straps are digging into your scalp or the mask is leaving marks on your skin. Either of these issues may be making it tough for you to keep your CPAP mask on all night.

Some people feel claustrophobic sleeping with a CPAP mask. Wearing something on your face can feel awkward, or breathing pressurized air makes you feel trapped.

On the other hand, maybe you sleep fine but you wake up feeling less than terrific in some way: you’re still tired, or you’re bloated, or you have a dry nose or throat.

Adjusting to a New CPAP Machine Takes Time

If you’re struggling with your new CPAP machine, you’re not alone. Lots of people with apnea have an adjustment period as they get used to treatment. If you’ve spent your entire life sleeping without the help of a medical device, adjusting to wearing a “Darth Vader” mask to bed isn’t something that you can do overnight (no pun intended).

And there certainly is a noticeable difference between breathing room air on your own and breathing forced, pressurized air that’s delivered to your nasal passages from a machine. Some people also need time to get accustomed to the light whirring sound coming from the CPAP motor.

For all of these reasons and more, very few users get totally used to CPAP or BiPAP therapy right away.

However, CPAP is the most effective therapy for managing obstructive Sleep Apnea, so it’s worth hanging in there and making the necessary modifications while you get to know the machine. Some of these modifications are tweaks and fine-tuning of your equipment, done by technologists or your doctor at a sleep center. Others are lifestyle or mindset modifications: mainly, adjusting your expectations.

Not All People See Benefits from CPAP Right Away

When you’ve been chronically exhausted and sleepy for months or years on end, it’s only natural to hope for noticeably better sleep on day one. But with Sleep Apnea, that’s not always the case.

Not all people feel the amazing benefits of refreshing sleep on night one with a CPAP machine, or even in week one. Typically, there is a relationship between the severity of your Sleep Apnea and how quickly you’ll begin to feel better.

This relationship is not what you might think. The worse your Sleep Apnea is, the quicker your response will be. If your Sleep Apnea is mild to moderate, you definitely will benefit from nightly CPAP therapy, but the changes in your sleep that you perceive when you’re awake may be more subtle. (Even if the “behind the scenes” health benefits, like reduced risk of heart disease, are already taking place.)

Also, how fragmented your sleep was before CPAP makes a difference in your perception of improvement. If you have upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS)—“breathing through a straw” rather than choking from an obstruction—your number of respiratory events may not look like severe Sleep Apnea at first glance. But your arousals from sleep could be almost as frequent as someone with severe OSA. So for patients with UARS, CPAP may dramatically improve the quality of your sleep pretty rapidly.

Even if you do feel a difference in your sleep and an improvement in your daytime sleepiness right away, you may still struggle with some common issues for which there are solutions. Keep reading to find out what those are.

Common CPAP Machine Problems and Solutions

When people call their CPAP supplier or visit their sleep center to say “I have a CPAP problem,” they’re usually dealing with one of the following issues. Don’t be afraid to share your problems with your sleep experts; they’re familiar with all these issues and know how to help you improve your experience with a few basic changes to your CPAP machine or your routine.

Swallowing air (Aerophagia)

Aerophagia occurs when a patient swallows excess air during the night and feels bloated in the morning or during the night when they awaken.

Causes. You may be experiencing aerophagia for a few different reasons: your air pressure setting may be too high; your full face mask may be causing you to gulp extra air through your mouth, or the positioning of your head while sleeping may be the reason.

Solutions. A nasal CPAP with humidification restricts air delivery to your nose only, leaving your mouth free to exhale without being covered by a mask. Or you could change to BiPAP if the CPAP pressure is too high on exhalation, where the air swallowing occurs (switching to BiPAP often eliminates this problem).

Consider an APAP machine if you only need the higher pressures during REM sleep. Or you can add a body positioning device to keep you off of your back, a sleeping posture which needs higher pressures to splint the airway open.

Mask Leaks

Almost half of all CPAP mask users say leakage was their reason for abandoning therapy. A mask leak occurs when you don’t have a firm seal keeping the air in. For example, if you wear a full face mask, maybe the edges of the mask are not fitted properly to your cheeks. If your CPAP mask is leaking pressurized air, unfortunately, you’re not getting the full benefit from the treatment.

Causes. A poorly fitting apnea mask with a weak seal is the most common cause of leaks. Your mask may be worn out, or it could need cleaning.

Solutions. The importance of a good fitting mask is paramount to success. If you have a leak in your apnea machine mask, this needs to be addressed by a different mask so you can comply with your therapy. Don’t assume that what you’re using is all that’s available; depending on your apnea severity, you may have your choice of nasal pillows, nasal masks, and full face masks. And within each of these three basic styles, enough variety exists that you can find something to fit you better. Ask your supplier or home medical equipment provider what your options are.

Also, CPAP mouth leaks can be addressed in a few ways, and in the following order: first, by adding or increasing the humidification level in the circuit (by reducing the inflammation of the nasal passages); second, by wearing a chin strap; and as a last resort, by changing to a full face mask.

Lastly, remember the importance of regular CPAP mask replacements, as the masks are delicate and need to be replaced at least every 3-6 months.

Claustrophobia

Claustrophobia is the fear of being trapped in a small space. People with this anxiety disorder can have panic attacks—rapid heart rate, sweating, hyperventilation, and a feeling of doom—brought on by this fear. If you are claustrophobic, you may have a dread of being unable to breathe (suffocation). This fear can sometimes affect people with apnea when they first attempt to use a CPAP machine.

Causes. A preexisting anxiety disorder can make you more susceptible to claustrophobic reactions when wearing your CPAP mask. You may perceive difficulty breathing against the air pressure.

Solutions. CPAP mask desensitization is the main approach to overcoming claustrophobia. Rather than slapping the mask on at bedtime, try using it in a recliner while watching TV first. Hold it on at first with your hands; then, work your way up to putting the headgear on fully while watching TV in the living room. This approach can gradually acclimate you to the feel of wearing something over your mouth and/or nose.

Tearing the CPAP mask off in the middle of the night and not remembering it

This is a very common complaint from apnea patients. They start out the evening wearing the mask and complying with their therapy, but they wake up in the middle of the night or the morning realizing they’ve removed it while asleep.

Causes. Usually, you’ll take off your apnea mask because of a mouth leak or mask leak during the night.

Solutions. Make sure you have adequate humidification for comfort; wear a chin strap if needed; and, as a last resort, try a full face mask to prevent mouth leaks.

Nasal dryness

Nasal dryness from non-humidified air can lead to a stinging sensation inside the nose, nosebleeds, nasal sores, or nasal infections.

Causes. Lack of appropriate humidification.

Solutions. Increase the humidification setting on your CPAP machine. In addition to this, or in place of it, use a nasal saline spray to moisturize your nasal passages. However, do not use the nasal spray Afrin, as it can have side effects for people with high blood pressure and diabetes (two conditions which often result from sleep apnea).

Dry mouth

A lack of sufficient saliva in the mouth can leave your tongue and mouth feeling sticky or sandpapery. Dry mouth can also extend to “dry throat,” leading to a sore throat, sores, cough, or infections. Chronic dry mouth can also lead to dental problems like cavities and gum disease.

Causes. You may develop dry mouth from a mouth leak or as a side effect of wearing a full face mask.

Solutions. Increase your humidification setting and add a chin strap to eliminate mouth leaks.

CPAP pressure is too high

If your CPAP pressure is too high, you may feel like you’re laboring hard to exhale against the air pressure. This may lead to a feeling of claustrophobia. In some extreme cases, high pressure can lead to trouble eliminating CO2 from your system, which can cause other health problems.

Causes. If your doctor and sleep technologists determine that you require a higher inspiratory air pressure to keep your airway open, you may find it uncomfortable to exhale against this pressure.

Solutions. CPAP desensitization may help you get used to the air pressure. If you can’t adjust or your blood gas levels are not in balance, you may benefit from changing the mode to BiPAP or APAP.

cpap bipap and apap therapy

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.

34 comments

    I have the escape resmed s8. The on off buttons have not worked for a while but now it is not working at all. I really need to use it every night. Is there a way of having it checked serial number 20070329630. mary101197@verizon.net. sadly my doctor passed away and I now live in New York instead of Rhode Island.

      Hi Mary, I am sorry to hear that you are experiencing problems with your Resmed Escape S8 machine. Sadly, the CPAP machines do tend to wear out over time. With the Escape S8 being an aged machine, it could be that you must have it replaced with a newer model. I would however suggest that you try plugging the machine in a different electrical outlet if you haven’t already. Resmed will not evaluate any machine for repair that is older than an S9 therefore, this is not an option.

      If you would like to speak with us about newer, affordable machines, or have additional questions about your current machine, please feel free to give us a call and we will be more than glad to assist you. We can be reached at: 1-800-356-5221.

    I got my first resMed S9 elite CPAP machine in 2010. I had it until February this year. I replaced it with the ResMed air sense 10 machine and I’m using the nasal N20 Mask.

    After I got the new air sense 10 machine I am mediately started having the following problem. When I wake up in the morning I have a lot of air blowing out of my nose like bubbles or a sound a kid makes to be funny. When I wake up in the morning I feel a lot of aur coming out through my nose and it makes noises. About a month ago, I discovered that the motor in the ResMed AirSence machine was defective. Right now I’m using the demo S9 machine. I still have the problems with air blowing but not as bad as before. Do you have any suggestions on what I should do? This problem wakes me up and I can’t sleep so I just take off the mask..

      Hey Kim, I am so sorry to hear that you are having this problem which is affecting your sleep and good therapy. There is definitely some troubleshooting that we can try to help narrow down the possibilities as to why you are experiencing the air blowing and the sound that you are hearing. It sounds like you may be experiencing a mask leak. Has it been longer than 3 months since you changed the cushion on your AirFit N20? If so we recommend that you change your cushion every 3 months and change your entire mask every 6 months. Also, in some cases mask liners have helped with decreasing mask leaks.

      If you would like to get further information on options available, or go through some troubleshooting, I encourage you to contact us at 1-800-356-5221 and we will be more than happy to assist you.

    I would like to know how many people have issues with marks left by the CPAP mask. I spend half the day with marks on my face like I am scar face…it is embarrassing. If I loosen the mask for no marks then I have leaks…it is a vicious circle, but one I am very tired of. I was told I was a mouth breather so I have a full face mask and have tried taping my mouth – still wake up with horribly dry mouth. Tried chin strap but than causes more marks on my face. HELP

    I use it nightly but I am tired of feeling “deformed” half my day because of the marks on my face. I am a side sleeper if that matters. I had wanted to try a hybrid mask but the Apria lady talked me out of it and into a different size full face mask.

      Hey Wendy, you may be surprised to learn that marks on the face is a very common issue. We know this can be very frustrating to deal with on a daily basis. Whereas we can not guarantee complete elimination of the marks on your face, some of our customers have found success in using mask liners to decrease the markings on the face. Please see the links below for a couple of mask liner options.

      This is the link for RemZzzs liners https://www.cpap.com/productpage/remzzzs-full-face-cpap-mask-liners, you may find interest in the Silent Night liners also https://www.cpap.com/productpage/silent-night-full-face-cpap-mask-liners.

      Please let us know if you require further assistance. We can be reached at: 1-800-356-5221 and we certainty hope that you find this information helpful.

    I have been using the nasal namachine since 2010.
    I enjoy it but it interferes in my voice.
    Professor Dr Roumani

      Hey Dr. Roumani, I would like to get a little bit more information from you. The interference that you are having with your voice, is that while you are wearing your mask and trying to talk? If so you may want to try this product https://www.cpap.com/productpage/ez-talk-connector-cpap.

      If there is some other interference that you are referring to, please contact us at: 1-800-356-5221, or you can e-mail us at: cpap@cpap.com so that we can get further information.

      I hope this helps, enjoy your day!

    my mask is to wide even if it is a small!!!!
    does an extra-small exist???
    F10 – fyll mask

      Hey Michael, irritation is a common issue when wearing masks. Just to clarify do you feel that the irritation that you are experiencing is from an allergic reaction, or is the irritation coming from simply wearing the mask in general? If the irritation is coming from just the mask in general, a lot of our customers find that mask liners helps to alleviate the irritation.

      There are a few type of mask liners that you can select from, one is called the RemZzzzs (full face, or nasal), or you can try Silent Night (full face, or nasal).

      If you would like to speak with us about this further please feel free to contact us at: 1-800-356-5221.

      Enjoy your day

    Hi David, Thanks for this article. I have been using a CPAP for four months and still have issues with the head gear and nose pillows. I have tried four types of masks and three different size nasal pillows. The original head mask that came with the unit is not big enough for my head. I keep trying to stretch it to fit more comfortably. It’s not a good design but the easiest one to use. The DreamWear mask and nasal pillow has an annoying hose design– It’ heavy and keeps moving the mask.
    I just needed to vent my anguish over these product designs. I am getting better and more restful sleep with the CAPA but I’m hoping to discontinue using it in the future.
    I will follow your information since I found it very useful. I don’t feel all alone in this journey.
    Thanks,
    Stella

      Hi Stella, I totally understand your need to vent. There may be some troubleshooting that we can do to help you get a better fit with your mask. I am not certain which mask you are currently wearing. It could be a sizing issue. If you would like to contact me at: 1-800-356-5221 ask for Carol M, I will be more than glad to see if we can figure out the root of the problem. Also, you mentioned you have tried different size nasal pillows. It could be that the nasal pillows are just not a terrific fit for you.

      I am happy to hear that you are at least getting some restful sleep. It can be tough finding that perfect fit, but at least you are on the right track.

      Have a great day!

    Yes, my mouth is parched when I awake
    The water level is often the same in the morning also. How do I know if I need more air pressure?
    My dentist started me on fluoride so I don’t start getting cavities .

    I have a nose mask.

      Hey Sherie, I am so sorry that you are experiencing dry mouth. To determine if more pressure is required, that usually requires a new sleep study. If you are using an APAP machine, it is usually set to a high and low pressure. This allows the machine to adjust to the pressure you need on a breath by breath basis. This may be a good option over having to have a new sleep study. You may be experiencing dry mouth because your mouth falls open during the night. You may consider switching to a full face mask to see if this may help with the dryness. The temperature that your humidifier is set at may be a factor on your water level also.

      If you need assistance with selecting a full face mask, or would like for us to verify the settings on your machine that may be contributing to the dryness that you are experiencing, we are here for you. Please reach us at: 1-800-356-5221 with your machine next to you.

      Hope this helps, have a great day!

    My Wife’s Dreamstation(bipap) will sometimes start to stutter (probably the valve). We keep it clean and wash frequently. Usually stops when I hit the ramp button. May solve the problem for a while, but by continually ramping down she is not getting full effect.

      Hi Richard, I am sorry to hear that there is a problem with your wife’s machine. The problem could be with the valve, but then it could be a different problem. I agree that being forced to press the ramp button is not the best solution. I am not certain if your wife purchased her machine from CPAP.com, but if so it was sold with a 2 year manufactures warranty and if it is still within this time period, the machine may need to be evaluated.

      If you would like we would be happy to troubleshoot over the phone with you. We can be reached at: 1-800-356-5221.

      Enjoy your day

      Hey Jacques, I am sorry to hear that you are having problems with your heater. You stated the water is cold, and the water level does not decrease. Would you please turn your humidifier on and carefully put your hand over the heat plate to see if it is warming up at all. If the heat plate feels warm, please confirm what setting it is on. If it is a low setting, you may try increasing the heat setting.

      If the plate is not warming at all, this may indicate a problem other than settings and in this case we would want to do some troubleshooting over the phone to see if we can determine what the problem is.

      For further troubleshooting we can be reached at: 1-800-356-5221.

      Enjoy your day!

    What a great article! I agree with you 100 percent. I would like to add that putting my full face mask on is the very last thing I do before going to sleep. I turn off the light, get comfortable, say whatever I have to say to my husband, put the mask on, get on my side as I reach over to turn on my machine. According to my FitBit, I am asleep in moments. I cannot go to sleep now without my CPAP. I go to sleep knowing my heart is not working harder than it should with this equipment. Thank goodness for the CPAP!

      Hey Grace, yes! Peace of mind is the most important factor when being treated for Sleep Apnea. CPAP Therapy is responsible for changing and saving many lives. We wish you continued success with your CPAP Therapy.

      Have a great day!

    Great article, very informative. I’m wondering if there is some sort of test to check blood gas levels? My pressure is pretty high on my cpap. It doesn’t bother me, but I still wake up a lot at night. Maybe I need this checked? User for 3 years now.
    Thanks!

    I have an older Phillips Respironics A-Flex C-PAP and lately it has been pushing the microfilter and microfilter out. It doesn’t do it all the time and I’m wondering why it does it at all. There doesn’t seem to be any obstruction.

      Hi Bonnie, I am sorry to hear about the problem with the filters being pushed out of your machine. This is not a common issue that I have come across. The only time I have come across a customer having this issue was because the customer was using the wrong filters. Please confirm that you are using the filters that were designed specifically for your particular machine. If the filters are slightly smaller or larger then they may fall out.

      I hope this helps, if you have any questions please feel free to call 1-800-356-5221, and you can ask to speak with Carol M.

      Have a great day!

    I have had an ongoing problem with mask leaks! So far, I have changed masks several times, reduced the pressure from 21 to 19, tried a chin strap but saw no difference, My events/hour have decreased from 28 on the CPAP to 5 or less on the BIPAP but it appears the quality of sleep has depreciated. This is compounded by the fact that my supplier is 90 minutes away so I can’t keep making trips too regularly. Got any ideas?

      Hey Ken, sorry to hear that you’re having some mask leak problems. A lot of our customers have experienced the exact same problem. Finding a mask that you are comfortable with and does not leak can be extremely tricky. I know you stated that you have tried several masks. I think the first step would be to determine which mask type you are most comfortable with. From there we can determine which mask best fit your own specific needs.

      I understand that it is difficult to get to your supplier when they are so far away. I am not certain as to what state you are located in, but our office is in Stafford, Tx so if you are in the area we would love to have you come in so that we can assist with getting you fitted for a mask. If not, no worries we offer free 30 day returns on all of our masks. You can select a mask that you have interest in, purchase it, if for any reason you choose not to keep the mask send it back to us with the return label that we will send you, and we will refund your money, or you can select a different mask.

      Please let us know if we can be of more assistance. We can be reached at: 800-356-5221.

      Have a great weekend!

      You

    I am getting a lot of moisture in the heated hose at night and have to let it blow to clean itself out. Any answers?

      Hi Kevin, sorry to hear that you are having a problem with moisture in your hose. This is a common problem for some of our customers. I would recommend that you try increasing the temperature on your heated hose and decreasing the heat on the humidifier. I am not certain as to which machine you are currently using, but if you are using a Resmed machine, try turning off the climate control and if it is a Philips Respironics machine turn off the humidification.

      Hopefully taking these actions will provide you some relief from the moisture in the hose, but if not please feel free to contact us at 1-800-356-5221 for further assistance.

      Enjoy your day!

    i have a philips dream machine and recently when i breath out i can hear every breath coming out of the air intake on the machine it never did that before

      Hi Jerry, I am sorry to hear that you are having this problem. It is difficult to say what exactly is causing the difference in sound. Have you changed your mask, hose, filters, or made any other change with your machine recently? Also, you may need to adjust your FLEX setting to see if this will help soften the breathing sound.

      We would be more than happy to troubleshoot with you over the phone to see if we can get to the bottom of this noise for you. Please feel free to call us at: 1-800-356-5221

      I hope this helps, enjoy your day!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top