Using CPAP isn’t without problems, and we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of solutions to those problems– all in one place!
Table of Contents
1. My CPAP Mask is Uncomfortable | 2. I’m Still Snoring, Even When Using CPAP | 3. I Can’t Fall Asleep With My CPAP | 4. I’m Having Painful Gas and Bloating from My CPAP | 5. I Fall Asleep Before I Can Put on My CPAP Mask | 6. I Feel Like I’m Choking on Air | 7. I’m Feeling Claustrophobic | 8. I Can’t Get a Good Mask Seal | 9. My Mask is Too Noisy | 10. How Do I Get a Good Seal With a Beard? | 11. My Mask is Blowing Air Into My Eyes | 12. My CPAP Mask is Leaving Red Marks | 13. I’m Removing My Mask in the Night and Not Remembering It | 14. My Nose and Throat are Drying Out from CPAP | 15. I Keep Getting Nasal Congestion | 16. I Keep Getting Sick from My CPAP Mask | 17. What’s the Best Way to Use CPAP When You Have a Cold? | 18. How Can I Stop Mouth Breathing?
19. I Wear My CPAP Every Night But My AHI is Still High | 20. My CPAP Machine is Too Noisy | 21. I Keep Getting Tangled in the Hose at Night | 22. I Keep Getting Splashed By Water in the Tube | 23. I Keep Pulling the CPAP Machine Off the Nightstand? | 24. Why Do I Feel Worse After Using CPAP?
Are you feeling like quitting CPAP therapy? You’re not alone. Being new to sleeping with a CPAP machine can be an overwhelming experience, and there are many common problems. When you’re starting CPAP therapy, you have to adjust to a whole new bedtime routine.
There’s no doubt that the first few weeks of treatment are going to be the hardest. But once you fully adjust to wearing your CPAP machine regularly, you’ll love the benefits that you experience. This list is intended to be one of the most comprehensive resources, addressing some of the most significant CPAP problems you’re likely to face, and how to effectively deal with them.
We’ll cover a lot of the side effects of CPAP machine therapy, along with solutions to these problems. Let’s get started!
General Common CPAP Problems
I don’t like sleeping with a CPAP mask at night. It’s very uncomfortable.
If sleeping with a CPAP mask at night is uncomfortable, and it’s difficult to relax or sleep with it– don’t worry! This is a common experience among many first-time CPAP users1. Some new users also complain about the noise from the CPAP mask and machine. It’s going to take some time to get used to your CPAP machine.
There’s no way around it. To get more comfortable with wearing your CPAP mask, try wearing it casually around the house, even when not preparing for bed. Over time, you’ll start to get used to the feel of your mask, and you’ll be more prepared to use it during your routine.
To get used to the sounds of the machine and the pressurized air, try using the device while you read or watch TV. This will help make your CPAP easier to tolerate because you’ll be acclimating yourself to the feeling of pressurized air and wearing your mask. The more you do this, the easier it will be to fall asleep.
Eventually, you’ll be ready to wear the mask and use the machine only when getting ready for bed, and you’ll be able to fall asleep with the mask on and the device running. You can expect this process to take weeks or months. The more you practice, the easier it will be to get there.
I’m still snoring, even when I use my CPAP machine. What can I do?
If you are still snoring, even on nights when you use your CPAP machine, it’s a sign that your therapy is not working. CPAP therapy acts like an invisible splint that keeps the airway open, so you shouldn’t hear much noise from the soft tissues of the airway.
If you are hearing snoring while using your CPAP machine, you may need to have your physician increase your CPAP pressure. It’s also important to look at the results of your night’s sleep data and pay particular attention to your AHI.
If your AHI is regularly above 5, it means your CPAP machine isn’t at the right pressure for your needs.
A possible solution might be to switch from a CPAP machine to an APAP machine. APAP machines are just like CPAP machines, but with one key difference. APAP machines automatically choose the best pressure for your needs.
As your breathing changes during the night, the APAP machine adjusts the pressure so that it’s exactly what you need when you need it. Because APAP machines automatically set the pressure, it can be more effective than a CPAP at preventing you from snoring.
I’m having difficulties falling asleep with my CPAP machine.
If you’re having difficulties falling asleep with your CPAP machine, it’s critical to know why. Are the straps too tight? Do the mask and hose keep you from your favorite sleeping position? Is the noise too loud? All of these things could be keeping you from sleeping2. If the straps are too tight, you could try loosening them and see if you still have a good seal. It may be more comfortable that way.
If the mask and hose are keeping you from your favorite sleeping position, consider getting a CPAP pillow, which is specifically designed to make your preferred sleeping position compatible with CPAP.
Since most of the noise that’s involved with a CPAP machine comes from the mask, investing in a mask that has a low decibel output may make it easier to fall asleep.
I’m getting painful gas and bloating from using my CPAP machine.
Painful gas and bloating is a CPAP machine side effect known as aerophagia. Aerophagia is a condition in which the person swallows air during a night of therapy, causing often painful bloating and gas when the person wakes up in the morning.
Adjusting your CPAP pressure or trying a different style of mask could be the trick, but you may be interested to know that using a BiPAP machine may help you improve your aerophagia symptoms.
A BiPAP has a higher pressure when inhaling, and then a lower air pressure when exhaling. Because the pressure drops when you exhale, you’re less likely to swallow air while using a BiPAP.
Find out more about how BiPAP can help aerophagia, check out this article from our blog.
I fall asleep before putting on my CPAP. What should I do?
If you’re falling asleep before you turn on your CPAP equipment, you’re not getting the benefits of CPAP therapy. To get around this, you’ll need to look for warning signs that you’re about to fall asleep. Does your breathing change? Do your eyes get heavy? Do you start snoring when you’re awake?
If you decided to start your machine when you first notice you’re about to fall asleep, you’re going to be a lot more compliant with your therapy. Compliance is important because if you’re compliant, it means you’re more likely to see the long-term benefits of successful CPAP therapy.
The first step is to start using your CPAP machine. The second step is to start using your CPAP machine regularly.
I feel like I’m choking on air.
At first, the feeling of breathing in the pressurized air can feel suffocating. Here are some possible solutions:
- Attach your mask to your face, and get everything in place
- Turn on the machine. You’ll feel the pressure increase.
- Begin to breathe normally.
By putting on the mask first, you’ll be less likely to feel like you’re choking on air.
Common CPAP Mask Problems
My CPAP mask makes me feel claustrophobic. What can I do?
If you’re feeling claustrophobic when you put on the CPAP mask, a lot of people feel that way3. But there are a few steps you can take to get used to wearing your mask, reducing feelings of anxiety and claustrophobia along the way.
- All CPAP masks have a carbon dioxide venting system, via vent holes drilled into the mask. Locate the vent holes on the mask. The vent holes are there to make sure that you won’t suffocate if the airflow from the machine were to cut off for any reason. If you can, try the mask on and breathe. You’ll notice that you’re able to breathe in and out as carbon dioxide escapes from the mask– even when the machine is not running.
- Get used to wearing your CPAP mask. Wear it casually around the house. The more you wear it, the more comfortable you’ll be when using it at night. Claustrophobia is something that often happens when treatment first starts, but after a while, you’ll get used to wearing your CPAP mask.
- You may want to avoid using a full face mask, or any mask that blocks the field of vision. These masks can make you feel more “boxed in” and less comfortable. Try wearing a nasal pillow mask. Nasal pillow masks have a more open field of vision, and generally, don’t cover the bridge of the nose. It may be more comfortable for you if you’re feeling claustrophobic.
I can’t get a good CPAP mask seal. What can I do?
If your mask isn’t sealing correctly and you’re experiencing mask leaks, there are a few different things you can do.
- Tighten the mask. This may stop the leaks. Be careful not to hurt yourself by tightening too much.
- Consider investing in a mask liner. Mask liners absorb oils from the face, increasing CPAP comfort, and can improve the seal.
- If leaning against the pillow is putting pressure on the mask and in the process breaking the seal4, a CPAP pillow may help. CPAP pillows feature cutout contours that are designed to support a CPAP mask, making the pillow less likely to break the seal.
If you’ve tried these things and your mask still isn’t getting a good seal, it may be time to look for a different mask. Usually, mask leaks become more frequent as pressure increases and the mask doesn’t correctly fit the contours of the face. Reducing the gaps makes it more likely to stay sealed, and the above methods are an excellent way to do that.
But if it’s still not working, it’s time to shop for a different mask. If you can identify where the mask isn’t sealing correctly, you can look for a mask that overcomes those issues.
My mask is too noisy. It seems to make a whistling noise.
If your mask is too noisy, there are a few things you can do. CPAP.com has actually written a whole article about this topic. Different masks have different decibel level outputs. Most of the noise on a CPAP mask comes from the exhalation ports on the mask, as carbon dioxide vents from the mask.
To make your mask a little quieter, consider tightening the straps, and adjusting the mask on your face. When you do this, you’re looking to minimize leaks. Stopping leaks will help keep the sound down.
How can I get a good CPAP mask seal with a beard or mustache?
A beard or mustache presents challenges to making a CPAP mask seal properly. For men with beards, it’s best to stay away from using a mask that rests on top of the lip, as this is the point at which the CPAP mask most interferes with your beard. Try looking for a nasal pillow or a full face mask.
As long as the mask doesn’t have to interact with the top of the lip, you’ll be in good shape.
What can I do if mask air is blowing into my eyes?
Sometimes the vented carbon dioxide from the CPAP mask blows up the sides of the cheeks and vents directly on the eyes. This is a problem that can be very annoying to most users. Try adjusting the mask so that the angle of the vented air blows away from the eyes. Sometimes it’s possible to angle the mask so that it doesn’t blow directly on the face, and that’s the only thing you have to do.
The real culprit here may be leaks, so you’ll want to look into maybe using a mask liner to help improve the seal. This will help reduce the leaks and make it less likely that air will blow directly in the eyes.
My CPAP mask is leaving red marks and causing skin irritation?
If your CPAP mask is leaving red marks on your face, it’s a sign that your mask is on too tight. If possible, try loosening the straps of your headgear. If loosening the straps on the headgear breaks the seal between your mask and face, then it’s probably time for a new mask. When shopping for a new mask, consider models that minimize touchpoints on the forehead and face.
A mask like the Amara View or the Philips Respironics DreamWear Gel Nasal Pillow Mask are designed to reduce touchpoints on the face, and at the same time improve the field of vision.
You may find that not only do you see better, but you’ll also have fewer red marks as well.
I’m removing my CPAP mask in the middle of the night, and not remembering I did it. What can I do?
In this case, practice makes perfect! When you’re adjusting to your new or next CPAP mask, you may wake up in the night because of leaks, or because you’ve shifted position, and as a result, you take your mask off. Or, you may wake up and think it’s time to start the day and take the mask off.
Whatever the reason, taking your mask off in the middle of the night means you’re not getting the benefits you need from your CPAP therapy. You may want to consider tightening your mask or using mask liners to get a better seal so that you’re less likely to wake up because of leaks. The only real way to get past this issue is to keep trying to wear your mask.
If you have a bed partner who is a light sleeper and is willing to help you, see if they can convince you to put the mask back on if you take it off during the night. Sometimes this is all you’ll need to get back on track when you’re having difficulties wearing your mask. This will help in the initial adjustment period, and make it easier to stick with your treatment.
My nose and throat are drying out from my CPAP machine. I’m getting a sore throat from my CPAP. What can I do?
If you’re getting dry mouth from your CPAP therapy, or you’re getting a sore throat and a dry nose, there’s something you can do right away to improve things. Using a CPAP humidifier with your CPAP therapy will add moisture back into the air you’re breathing.
The increased moisture from a CPAP Humidifier will mean less soreness and dried out feeling that you get from your CPAP machine. You don’t need humidification for CPAP therapy to work, but many people consider humidification to be an essential part of their treatment because of the comfort that humidification provides.
I’m having trouble with CPAP nasal congestion. What can I do?
If you’re having trouble with CPAP nasal congestion, there are a few things that you’ll need to do.
- Aggressively treat nasal allergies. Sometimes nasal congestion can make it hard to breathe, especially if you’re using a nasal mask. Aggressively treating your nasal allergies can improve your sinus problems and make it easier to breathe through your nose. This may include using a few different kinds of antihistamines and can include nasal sprays. This may help resolve CPAP nasal congestion.
- Use a heated humidifier. Using a heated humidifier can help with CPAP nasal congestion, as it helps open up the nasal passages, and will keep them more comfortable.
I keep getting sick from my CPAP mask.
If you keep getting sinusitis from your CPAP equipment, the reason could be you’re not sanitizing it completely after you’ve had a cold. Without complete sanitization, germs can linger on your nasal pillows or in the mask, and you can get sick again. There are many different ways to sanitize your CPAP equipment. You can try using mild soap and water, but that may not get it completely sanitized.
For complete sanitization, you could use Control III Disinfectant, a strong disinfectant used in hospitals and sleep labs. You could also invest in a CPAP cleaner like the Lumin which uses UV light to completely disinfect, killing all germs on a mask inside of 5 minutes.
Whichever way you choose, following good sanitization procedures with your CPAP equipment after a cold will help keep you from getting sick again.
What’s the best way to use a CPAP machine when you have a cold?
It’s one thing to be sick, but it’s another thing to be sick and try using a CPAP, especially if you’re a nasal or a nasal pillow user. The added congestion from the cold can make breathing difficult. Here are some tips on how to navigate using a CPAP while having a cold. Here are some things that may help.
- Sleep on your side or elevate your head. Generally, sleeping on your side can make it easier to breathe with your CPAP machine. This can be especially helpful when you have a cold, and it’s harder to breathe. Your CPAP machine will not have to work as hard to get the much-needed oxygen to your lungs.
- Use a heated humidifier. Using a heated humidifier will help keep your nasal passages from getting dried out, and it will make your CPAP therapy more comfortable– even when you don’t have a cold.
- Use a decongestant nasal spray. Decongestant nasal sprays can help make it easier to breathe at night, especially when you’re sick. If you’re using a nasal mask or a nasal pillow mask, you may find a decongestant nasal spray makes a big difference and helps you breathe.
- Try an APAP machine. An APAP machine adjusts with your breathing to provide greater pressure when you need it the most. If you’re sick, you may temporarily require a higher pressure to get air into your lungs. If you’re using a CPAP machine, it doesn’t have the ability to increase the pressure and you may not be getting enough. That’s why when you’re sick, an APAP machine can be a big help.
How can I learn to stop mouth-breathing?
Mouth breathing can be difficult to stop because you have to first figure out why you’re breathing through your mouth as opposed to the nose. The nose is designed to warm and moisten the air, filtering out any dirt or allergens along the way. The nose is meant to be the usual way humans breathe.
When you breathe through the mouth, you’re not filtering the air at all and it can result in a sore throat. You could be mouth breathing at night because your nose is clogged and it’s difficult to breathe To stop mouth breathing, you can try using a chin strap which is designed to hold your mouth shut while you sleep and force you to breathe through your nose.
If you want to stop mouth breathing, CPAP.com has written a helpful article on the topic that you may find useful.
Common CPAP Problems: CPAP Machines
I’m wearing my CPAP machine every night, but my AHI is still high.
If you’re faithfully wearing your CPAP machine every night, but it’s not working (meaning you’re not getting any of the benefits like increased energy, reduced fatigue, or a well-rested feeling), there are a few things you can try.
- Change Sleeping Positions. Sleeping on your back is the worst sleeping position for CPAP therapy. When you sleep on your back, gravity works naturally to help close the airway. This means your CPAP has to work harder, and still may not be helping you get a good night’s sleep. If you switch to sleeping on your side, gravity works with you, not against you, and it helps naturally keep your airway open. This means that your CPAP has to do a lot less work to open your airway, and your therapy can be effective again.
- Increase CPAP Pressure Settings. If your CPAP isn’t working, and you’ve tried sleeping on your side, you may need to increase your therapy pressure. You’ll need your doctor to change the pressure settings on your machine to a higher setting so that your CPAP machine can do a better job of opening your airway.
CPAP.com has written an article that offers advice on how to tell if your CPAP therapy is working. Following some of these tips will help you gauge your progress as you evaluate your CPAP performance.
My CPAP machine is too noisy. What can I do?
If your CPAP machine is too noisy, you can start by taking steps to quiet your mask. Since most of the noise from a CPAP machine comes from the mask, quieting the mask is a good first step. We’ve also written an article covering the quietest CPAP machines in terms of decibel output.
The best way to make sure that you have a quiet machine is to pay attention to decibel output when you get your first machine. Some machines are quieter than others. One of the quietest machines on the market today is the Philips Respironics DreamStation Auto, which checks in at around 25 decibels and is one of the quietest machines overall.
Choosing a quiet machine and a quiet mask, in the beginning, are a great way to get your CPAP therapy off to a great start and will help make it easier to fall asleep.
What should I do if I get tangled in the hose during the night?
If you’re getting tangled in the hose and tubing, there’s an easy solution for that! We recommend using a hose suspension system like the Hose Buddy.
This product elevates the hose so that it hangs down above your head. If you toss and turn in the night the hose moves with you, keeping you from getting tangled during the night.
I keep getting water in the CPAP hose and tubing, and it’s splashing me during the night.
If you keep getting splashed by water during the night, it can be an annoying problem. You’ll be pleased to know it has a fairly easy solution. Heated air can sometimes cool as it travels from the humidifier to the mask and cause water in the CPAP hose and tubing as it travels from the humidifier to the mask.
Because cooler air can hold less moisture, water falls out as condensation. This process is known as “rainout.” The only way to stop this is to prevent the air from cooling as it travels through the hose. This can be done one of two ways:
- Use a hose cover. A hose cover is like a coat for your CPAP hose. It traps the heat inside the tube and prevents it from escaping. This, in turn, prevents the moisture from falling out of the air, which prevents the moisture and the splashes.
- You could also opt for a heated hose. A heated hose uses heating coils to warm the air inside the tubing so that it can hold more moisture, which in turn prevents the condensation from forming.
What can I do if I keep pulling the CPAP machine off the nightstand?
Since most hoses are around 6 feet long, you may be able to set the CPAP machine on the floor and have enough hose length to reach your bedside. Setting the CPAP machine on the floor will help prevent rainout as well, as you’re less likely to get splashed if the tubing isn’t hanging above you.
You may also want to consider using a CPAP bedside table which creates a spot for your CPAP machine, right along the bedside.
If setting the CPAP machine on the floor won’t work for your situation, consider using a hose suspension system like the Hose Buddy we mentioned earlier. A hose suspension system can help reduce tangles, which may be the reason you keep pulling your CPAP machine off the nightstand.
Why do I feel worse after using my CPAP equipment?
Sometimes, during the initial adjustment process, you could feel worse after using your CPAP equipment. You may be taking your mask off during the night, limiting the amount of time your therapy is able to work. Or you may find your equipment to be uncomfortable or too noisy and you take it off because you can’t sleep.
Don’t give up! It can take a long time to get used to CPAP therapy, but once you finally do, you’ll find that it has many benefits that outweigh the discomfort you may initially feel.
You may find the following article about feeling worse after using a CPAP to be a good resource with additional information.
Common CPAP Problems: Humidifier Questions
What happens if I spill water inside my CPAP machine?
CPAP machines are electronic devices and can be damaged by water spills. If you spill water into your CPAP machine, it can damage the electronic components, and cause equipment failure. The best way to avoid spilling water in your CPAP machine is by removing the humidifier water chamber and filling over the sink.
This makes spills less likely, and it’s less tedious than carrying the entire machine over to the sink and filling the water chamber there.
Do I have to use distilled water for my CPAP machine? Why can’t I just use tap water?
When you use a humidifier, you’re breathing in everything that’s in the water you put in the humidifier chamber. This includes any germs, pathogens, and chemicals that wind up in your drinking water5. Using tap water will also leave a hard film at the bottom of the humidifier chamber, making it more difficult to clean.
Even using a water filter at home will not remove all of the minerals and chemicals, and it will still leave you with a lot to clean up. The best solution is to use distilled water. Distilled water can be purchased very inexpensively at most grocery stores, and it will be worth the money. It will make cleaning easier, and it will improve the quality of the air you’ll be breathing in.
You won’t be as exposed to bacteria and chemicals as you are with tap water.
Common CPAP Problems: Miscellaneous Questions
What can I do if the bed pillow is breaking my CPAP mask seal?
If the CPAP mask is breaking the mask seal, consider trying to sleep with a CPAP pillow. A CPAP pillow is specially designed to accommodate the CPAP mask, putting less pressure on the CPAP mask so that it doesn’t break the seal.
CPAP bed pillows make it easier to sleep with your mask at night and help to create a more comfortable, restful sleep.
I’m having an operation. Can I use my CPAP?
If you’re having an operation, you’ll need to let your care team know so that they can make arrangements for you to continue CPAP therapy while having your procedure6. Sleep Apnea can make things more complicated for your surgical team, but standards have been instituted to handle Sleep Apnea patients during and after surgery effectively.
If a Sleep Apnea diagnosis hasn’t been made yet, your surgical team may delay your surgery until after treatment for Sleep Apnea begins. This way, they can be sure you’re getting the oxygen you need without waking up to breathe.
We hope you’ve found this guide to be helpful as you look to solve common problems with CPAP machines and CPAP therapy. It can be a difficult task when you start or as you continue CPAP therapy, and problems are bound to come up. If you can work through the problems with CPAP therapy, you’re more likely to get the rest you need.
If you can stick with it, you’ll have more energy, feel less tired during the day, and be more productive.
1. Virk, Jagdeep S., and Bhik Kotecha. When Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Fails Published in the medical journal, Journal of Thoracic Disease in 2016. Accessed on September 23, 2018.
2. Brooks, Rita. Top 10 Most Common CPAP Mask Problems and Discomfort (& How to Solve Them) Published by the American Association of Sleep Technologists, on their official website July 6, 2015. Accessed on September 23, 2018.
3. Edmonds, Janalyn Cantey et al. Claustrophobic Tendencies and Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Therapy Non-Adherence in Adults with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Published in the medical journal: Heart & Lung : the Journal of Critical Care in 2015. Accessed on September 23, 2018.
4. American Thoracic Society. Two head scratchers: What’s causing the leak? Published on its official website. Accessed on September 23, 2018.
5. Lung disease linked to the use of contaminated well water in a CPAP machine Published by Medical & Life Sciences News on December 3, 2009. Accessed on September 23, 2018.
6. American Sleep Apnea Association On the Cutting Edge: Ideas on Surgery and OSA from Anesthesiologists. Publshed on the American Sleep Apnea Association’s official website. Accessed on September 23, 2018
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.