As an obstructive sleep apnea patient, you probably know by now that you need to wear your CPAP mask while you sleep to improve the amount and quality of sleep you get each night.
What you may not know, however, is that there can be a bit of a learning curve involved to learn how to sleep efficiently and optimally while wearing your CPAP mask.
There are some common issues people experience while adjusting to sleeping with a CPAP mask, including the problem of waking up consistently to find their CPAP mask off. Many people remove their masks while they are sleeping without ever realizing they’re unintentionally doing so.
Below you will learn about a variety of potential causes and solutions to this fairly common problem of waking up with your CPAP mask off.
Causes and Solutions of Waking Up with Your CPAP Mask Off
The following causes and solutions can help you understand why your mask is coming off while you sleep and, perhaps more importantly, how you can address the problem to prevent it from happening in the future.
Sometimes you will require a little trial and error to identify your specific problem. At other times, it will be immediately apparent what is happening to you when you hear the possible cause.
Cause: Leaking Mask
Solution: If you’ve made numerous adjustments and still have issues with a leaking mask, it may be time to consider other CPAP masks. If you’re not interested in a different mask, consider using a chin strap or even cloth tape to hold the mask in place and create a tighter seal.
Related Reading: How to Choose The Best CPAP Chinstrap For You!
Cause: Improperly Fitting Mask, Headgear, and/or Chinstrap
Solution: You may need to work with your sleep specialist or CPAP mask provider to identify the best possible fit for your face, head size, and head shape. They can help you find the perfect fit for your CPAP make to help you resist the unconscious urge to remove an uncomfortable (poorly fitting) mask while you sleep.
No one feels comfortable sleeping in clothing that is too tight and clothing that is too loose can fall off, get bunched up, etc. The same holds true with your mask. If you don’t have that “just right fit”, you may find yourself removing it during your sleep without even realizing you’ve done it.
Cause: Uncomfortable Dry Mouth From Wearing the Mask
Solution: Use one of the many chin straps available here at CPAP.com to help keep your mouth closed while you sleep. Alternately, or additionally, you may consider adjusting the humidity if your CPAP machine is equipped with a heated humidifier, such as the Philips Respironics DreamStation Heated Humidifier. Creating an atmosphere that is more humid inside the mask can reduce mouth dryness, which improves your comfort, making you less likely to remove the mask while sleeping.
Cause: Too Much or Too Little Pressure
Solution: The wrong amount of CPAP pressure can make it uncomfortable inside your mask and, in some cases, difficult to breathe. Adjusting the pressure provides a much more comfortable sleep solution, one you’re far less likely to attempt to remedy by removing your mask.
If you’re working with a sleep specialist to help you get more productive sleep, consider having them access your sleep data card to determine if your current setting could be adjusted for more optimal sleep results. Another option is to use a pressure ramp that keeps pressure lower while you’re trying to fall asleep before slowly increasing pressure once you’re in a deep slumber.
Solution: This one can be a difficult problem to overcome. Even if you know it’s all in your mind, the panic you experience is very real. You might consider engaging in relaxation exercises (CPAP desensitization) to keep the anxiety at bay. The key is getting accustomed to the mask being there during the day, so you can overcome the panic while you try to sleep.
Cause: Stuffy or Runny Nose After Wearing
Solution: First, make sure your mask is fitting correctly so that it doesn’t allow air leaks that dry your nose out. Then, see if your CPAP comes equipped with a heated humidifier. If so, begin using it to experience nearly instant relief from the problem. If not, consider using nasal spray immediately before putting your mask on to prevent your nasal passages from drying too much as you sleep.
Cause: Not Accustomed to Wearing the CPAP Mask
Solution: Unfortunately, you have to wear the mask to get used to wearing it. One thing you can do is start with a hybrid mask that covers less of your face.
Another option is to wear your mask some during the day, just so that it no longer feels foreign or unfamiliar to you. The idea is that the more familiar the mask seems, the less likely you are to try to remove it, subconsciously, while you sleep.
Cause: Mask is Causing Symptoms Similar to an Allergic Reaction
Solution: If you’re asking yourself whether you might be allergic to your mask, there might be something very wrong. The first thing you need to do is stop wearing the mask and contact your doctor. Then question how often you clean your mask. Sometimes it’s not a matter of being allergic to the mask itself, but a response to what’s on the mask instead.
Most modern masks are made with silicone or another type of gel material. Some older masks, though, may be made with latex which can cause allergic reactions.
Consult with the Experts at CPAP.com
Complying fully with your CPAP therapy instructions is the only way to reap the health and quality of life rewards you can experience from continuous positive airway pressure treatment. Sometimes you need to work closely with experts to find out what is causing your CPAP issues, including removing your CPAP mask while sleeping. If you’ve tried any or all of the solutions above and are still experiencing mouth leaks, you might need a full face mask.
Working with us here at CPAP.com can help you get the insights and answers you need while still adjusting to your continuous positive airway pressure therapy, mask, and machine. Feel free to reach out to us at 1-800-356-5221 or via our live chat. We have experts standing by that can help answer questions about your CPAP machine, mask, issues you’re encountering or sleep apnea in general.
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.