What Does Ramp Time Mean?
The ramp time feature is a great feature for new users, helping users adapt to CPAP therapy by making it more comfortable to use your CPAP machine. It works by starting at a setting lower than the full therapy setting (which is often the most comfortable for new users), and then gradually increasing it throughout 45 minutes or longer.
As the pressure slowly ramps up, you’re better able to fall asleep. By the time the pressure reaches the target, you’re sound asleep, and you won’t notice the higher pressure. This can improve user comfort by making the sensation feel less intense. It’s a great feature that can help make it easier to get used to a CPAP machine, helping you stick with your therapy.
What’s it Like to Use Ramp?
Take it from someone that’s been there. When I first started with CPAP therapy, I wasn’t happy with it. I felt like I was choking on air, and it was tough to fall asleep. I brought my concerns to my doctor, and he recommended using the CPAP ramp-up feature on my machine. So that night, I started using ramp, and it took away the intense sensation of choking on air.
My CPAP ramp function gave me the confidence to stick with my therapy, and it made things more comfortable for me in the fragile early stages of CPAP therapy where many people wind up getting stuck. After years of using CPAP therapy, I’ve finally gotten to a place where I no longer need the ramp feature of my machine. While I don’t need it anymore, there’s no denying that it was critical in helping me stick with my treatment in the beginning, and it’s a large part of the reason CPAP therapy has been successful for me.
Is Ramp a Feature Found on Every Machine?
When getting your first machine, it’s important to check the features of the device you’re thinking of purchasing. The CPAP ramp function is require feature found on most machines, but not all devices have it. The website should tell you if your device has the ramp feature or not. That’s why it’s important to review the features of the machine before purchasing.
CPAP Machines with a Ramp Function
Almost all CPAP machines have the ramp feature. Here are some of our favorite machines that have the ramp feature:
- ResMed AirMini™ AutoSet™ Portable CPAP Machine
- Philips Respironics DreamStation Auto
- ResMed AirSense 10 AutoSet CPAP Machine
- Apex iCH 2 Auto CPAP Machine
- DeVilbiss IntelliPAP Auto CPAP Machine
- DeVilbiss IntelliPAP 2 Auto CPAP Machine
- HDM Z1 Auto Travel CPAP Machine
How to Set Up the Ramp Function
Setting up the ramp feature on a CPAP machine is a little different for each one, but it generally covers these points:
- Starting Pressure: There should be a setting to choose what the CPAP ramp start pressure will be. In most cases, the default is the lowest pressure setting for the machine (usually a setting of 4).
- Duration of Ramp: On some machines, you can choose how long the CPAP ramp feature runs. On my home CPAP device, the default is 45 minutes, but it varies from machine to machine, but the standard for most ramp settings is between 0-45 minutes which can be set in 5-minute increments.
Once you’ve set the selections to your preferences, you should be ready to use your machine.
On my machine, ramp worked out of the box, and I didn’t have to do anything to set it up. The default settings started me at a pressure setting of 4, and the default 45 minute run time was good enough for me to fall asleep. Activating the CPAP ramp function can be done by pressing one button, and the process begins. Overall, it’s straightforward to set up and use, and you may find the default settings are acceptable.
Choosing an APAP Device Can Mean You Don’t Need Ramp
“APAP” stands for “Automatic Positive Airway Pressure” and an APAP machine can choose the right pressure for you automatically. Before you fall asleep, the pressure from your APAP machine is naturally very low. By the time therapy gets into high gear, you’ll already be asleep, and you won’t need the ramp feature.
Ramp is most advantageous to CPAP users. A CPAP machine is set at one specific pressure and would need the CPAP ramp feature to allow for the gradual increase of pressure during the 45-minute window. So for CPAP users ramp is necessary, while it’s not as crucial for an Auto CPAP machine.
Potential Issues With the CPAP Ramp Up Function
Here are some common problems that you can run into when using ramp:
Potential Issue: Waking Up When the Pressure Reaches the Target
If you find you’re waking up when the ramp pressure reaches your target pressure, you may need to stop using ramp. You’re waking up because you’re not getting used to the higher pressures, and it’s uncomfortable for you. You may need to practice getting used to the pressure that’s right for you, and the only way to do that is to keep practicing. You can practice wearing the mask and starting the machine.
I find sometimes it’s best to try to breathe normally, to get used to the higher pressures. Since I have difficulty breathing through my nose, when the pressure comes, I instinctively begin breathing through the mouth. At first, the sensation is intense, but after a few breaths, I get used to it fairly quickly. Over time, you may find that you adjust quickly as well, but it will take practice.
Potential Issue: How to Restart Ramp in the Middle of the Night
If you wake up in the middle of the night, and need to restart the ramp setting on CPAP; in many cases, it’s as simple as powering off your machine, giving it a chance to shut down, and then starting it again by activating ramp. The ramp process will begin again, and you can get back to sleep. There is an issue that could come up if you wake up several times during the night. We’ll cover this potential issue in the next paragraph.
Potential Issue: Overusing Ramp
For your therapy to work, you need to be at a therapeutic pressure, which can be as high as 16. Because ramp starts slowly and eventually gets you up to that pressure, you’re effectively robbing yourself of quality sleep while the ramp runs its course. If you don’t wake up during the night, it’s acceptable. But if you’re waking up 2 – 3 times a night or more, you’d be robbing yourself of almost 2 hours of quality sleep!
If you only sleep for a total of 6 hours, you’ve lost a 3rd of your therapy because of the ramp! Losing that much sleep can make your treatment largely ineffective, and it means that the Sleep Apnea symptoms you’re trying to get rid of won’t go away. That’s why even though ramp is helpful, it’s important to try to get used to your normal therapy pressure because your therapy will be more effective overall if you don’t use ramp.
Ramp Feature: What’s on the Horizon?
Technology is advancing with the ramp feature. Both the AirSense machines and DreamStation machines have models (the higher end versions) which feature improved ramp types. These high-end models can either detect when the person has fallen asleep (if earlier than ramp conclusion) or recognize if an event is occurring and needs a higher pressure, both of which take the machine automatically out of ramp mode and into regular therapy mode.
The ramp feature is getting smarter and more advanced as time goes on, and the future looks very bright for people that make use of this feature.
Ramp is a great way to get used to CPAP therapy. In the beginning, it’s important to make therapy as comfortable as possible, because it will be a big adjustment to get used to CPAP treatment. There’s a mask to try, a machine to use, and it will be difficult and unusual in the beginning. Ramp is a great way to get started, but once you reach a point where you don’t need it, it’s helpful to stop using it because it will help make your CPAP therapy more effective.
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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.