Updated February 19, 2019
Waking up with a dry mouth, scratchy throat and irritated nostrils from your CPAP can be unpleasant and discouraging. CPAP therapy by itself, at times, can be dry and irritating especially in climates with low humidity or during the winter months. Adding humidification to your therapy is the number one way to increase therapy efficiency and comfort. CPAP humidifiers work by adding a water chamber between your machine and your mask, adding moisture to the air you breathe.
Types of CPAP Humidifiers
CPAP humidifiers can be broken into two categories, heated and non-heated (passover), but the majority of humidifiers are heated. The way that the humidification device connects to your CPAP machine will vary depending on the machine being used. Some machines have built-in humidifiers, in which case you’re ready to go. The AirSense™ 10 and the Icon Premo are two examples of machines with built-in humidifiers.
Some machines are designed to directly connect to a specific humidifier, these are referred to as integrated humidifiers. Examples include S9 Series, PR System One 60 Series, and the Intellipap. Integrated humidifiers are great options for people who may not want to use humidification all the time, or who travel frequently and may want to leave their CPAP humidifier home to lighten their travel bag or luggage. If your machine does not have a built-in humidifier or does not support an integrated humidifier don’t fret! There are universal humidifiers that will work with any machine like the REMstar and Fisher & Paykel passover humidifiers. Keep in mind the benefits of humidification are diminished with passover humidifiers as they generally do not add as much moisture to the air as heated humidifiers.
Benefits of Using a CPAP Humidifier
Humidification will increase the comfort of your CPAP therapy by adding moisture to your therapy air, but what are some other benefits? A big problem CPAP users face is congestion. Sometimes allergies or colds can cause your nasal passages to become blocked making it difficult to breathe, especially in allergy seasons. For those that use a nasal mask or nasal pillow mask, nasal congestion is a big problem. Dry air can worsen this by further irritating the passages, causing them to swell and become inflamed. By using a heated humidifier you send warm, moist air into your nasal passages promoting congestion relief. In some cases, it may still be beneficial to keep a full face mask handy if nasal congestion cannot be overcome.
Cons of CPAP Humidifiers
Humidification comes with great benefits but it does have a downside. A common issue for CPAP users is ‘rainout’ or the formation of condensation in the CPAP tube. As humid air cools in the CPAP tube, condensation can form, and using humidified air can encourage this effect. Sometimes simply adjusting the level of humidification on your machine will help mitigate rainout but you may need to use a hose cover to help keep the hose warm. If you experience rainout try the following:
- Heated hoses reduce rainout by keeping humidified air warm all the way to the CPAP mask. Keeping the hose warm will help keep moisture suspended in the air and help prevent rainout.
- The SnuggleHose, a fabric covering for your CPAP hose, is another great way to insulate your CPAP hose.
- You can keep your CPAP machine and humidifier at a lower position than you and your mask. Positioning your machine this way will cause the hose and air within to travel uphill and any condensation that may form will run downward away from you and your CPAP mask.
Adding humidification to your CPAP therapy is one of the most popular additions CPAP users make. If you’d like to learn more about CPAP humidifiers you can check out our article “CPAP Machine Heated Humidifier: Reasons, Indications, and Uses“.
Aaron McCann has been working in the CPAP industry for nearly five years researching and learning about the latest and greatest in CPAP therapy and equipment. Aaron is committed to helping the CPAP community achieve better sleep and a better quality of life!