Step one to getting accustomed to your CPAP therapy is finding the air pressure level that is just right for you.
However, don’t get discouraged—it can take time and adjustments to get your CPAP pressure settings right for you. Let’s face it—there is no one-size-fits-all pressure setting. You want a pressure level that is comfortable and also consistent. By finding your ideal CPAP pressure, you can ensure that you are using your CPAP therapy in a way that is comfortable, safe, and effective while also preventing any pesky side effects.
What Is the Average Pressure for Treating Sleep Apnea?
The average pressure for treating sleep apnea is 10 cm/H2O. Average pressure levels for treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea range from 6 to 15 cm/H2O. If you require higher pressures, you would then use a high-pressure CPAP mask. Others will find that their treatment is more effective and comfortable at lower levels of pressure. Your pressure levels are customized to fit your CPAP therapy needs. The pressure that is most comfortable for you is what’s most important!
If determining pressure levels is a new concept to you, you’re not alone! The pressure settings on your CPAP machine are measured in centimeters of water pressure. For instance, if the pressure is set at 10 cm/H2O, then the pressure is the same as if you were drinking water through a 10-centimeter straw. The highest pressure available on your CPAP machine will depend on the model you own. In most cases, CPAP pressure settings max out at 20 to 25 cm/H2O. However, this rating is too high for most people.
How to Tell if Your CPAP Pressure Needs Adjusting
Is your therapy feeling uncomfortable? Are you still tired after a night of getting your recommended amount of sleep? Do you feel as if your sleep was of poor quality? Are you starting to feel sick after not enough quality sleep?
These are all great questions to consider when wondering if your CPAP pressure is too high. Feeling uncomfortable due to the pressure may be a sign that you need to titrate your treatment up or down. It is natural to be concerned about if you are using your machine at the right pressure level. Pay careful attention to how you feel during treatment, throughout the night, and the day after to gauge whether you are using the right level of pressure for you.
Now, are you wondering what factors help to determine your proper pressure level? Many people think that the amount of pressure needed is directly correlated to the severity of your sleep apnea, but that is not always the case. Your age, weight, overall health, and more can help to figure out your correct pressure. However, only through the act of testing different pressure levels can you determine the best level for you. Additionally, that level may change over time. Pay attention to your AHIs, side effects, and sleep quality to determine whether you are at the right level of treatment, receiving too much pressure, or if you are not getting enough pressure.
How Do I Adjust My CPAP Pressure?
It is not advisable for individuals to adjust CPAP pressure themselves. When you first start using CPAP therapy for sleep apnea, your doctor will have you go through a process known as titration to arrive at the proper pressure prescription for you. This means that you will test out different CPAP pressure levels until your ideal therapeutic level is reached. If you are having trouble with your pressure levels, you can ask your doctor to order a new titration study to evaluate the right level of pressure for you.
Another option to discuss with your doctor is switching to an auto-adjusting CPAP machine (APAP). APAPs automatically adjust your pressure throughout your therapy, which greatly reduces the chances of having a pressure that is too high and interfering with your therapy quality. If you’re ready to make the switch to an APAP machine, take a look at the ones our customers are loving!
What Are the Side Effects of Your CPAP Pressure Being Too High?
Getting a level of pressure that is enough to hold your airway open in a safe manner is essential. What happens if your CPAP setting is too high? If your CPAP pressure is too high, your symptoms and side effects can include:
- Uncomfortable CPAP Therapy
- Significant Air Leaks From Your Mask
- Dry Mouth and Throat, Even When You Are Using Heated Humidification
- Swallowing Air
- An Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI) Above the Normal Five Events per Hour
- Feeling Tired or Fatigued During the Day
Additionally, some experts worry that setting your CPAP pressure too high can lead to pressure-induced Central Sleep Apnea. In contrast to Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which is caused by your airways being blocked, Central Sleep Apnea is the result of breathing signals failing to be sent from your brain.
What CPAP Masks Are Best for High Pressures?
Mask choice is extremely personal and varies from person to person. One that works well for you may be a poor fit for your best friend or spouse. If you have gone through a titration study and arrived at a higher than normal pressure, talk to your doctor about the right high-pressure CPAP mask for you. You can choose between a range of models and features that can help you breathe comfortably through the night.
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.