Updated: January 9, 2019
For those brand new to CPAP therapy, or those just getting used to new equipment; sometimes problems can come up that make it tough to stick with your treatment. That’s where this article comes in.
We’ve looked at the most common CPAP questions asked by our readers, and answered them here. Did your issue make the list? Read on to find out!
CPAP Mask Problems
What are some tips for wearing a CPAP mask? How can I get used to wearing a CPAP?
Wearing a CPAP mask for the first time can feel completely unnatural, especially when you feel the pressure from the sleep apnea machine for the first time. You’ll feel the sensation of the pressurized air hit your face, and it can feel suffocating. The mask itself can feel tight and uncomfortable as you wear it, and it can be a lot. Here are some tips to help you get used to your CPAP mask:
All CPAP masks have a carbon dioxide venting system via vent holes built 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.
CPAP mask making you feel claustrophobic?
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. If you’re ok with using a chin strap to help keep your mouth closed, you can use a nasal pillow mask if you’re a mouth-breather.
Try using the ramp feature on your machine. The ramp feature will start the pressure out low, and gradually increase the pressure over a period of 45 minutes, reaching therapeutic pressure after you’re asleep. This will reduce the sensation of pressure you may feel from wearing your CPAP mask when the apnea machine is on.
We get it. Sleeping with a mask on your face can be a big adjustment, but your Sleep Apnea treatment is worth it. While this may sound a little silly, try wearing your mask while you’re awake. Perhaps when you’re catching up on your favorite show before bed! We know it’ll make it harder to get cozy on your couch, but it’s only temporary – until you’re better adjusted!
How to Sleep Comfortably with CPAP?
As a CPAP user myself, over the years of using a sleep apnea machine, I’ve figured out ways to sleep comfortably while wearing a CPAP mask. Here are some ideas:
- Stay positive! CPAP therapy is a life-changing treatment once you get over the hump!
- Make sure your mask isn’t too tight. If your mask is too tight, it can mean you’ll be uncomfortable. The fit should be firm, but not over-tight. If you find your mask fits too tightly, try loosening the straps a little bit.
- Make sure you have the right accessories to maximize your comfort while using your CPAP. Top accessories include:
I’m having headaches from my CPAP machine! What can I do?
Headaches and ear problems could both be signs caused by a few different things, so it’s important to understand why the headaches keep happening if you want to prevent them in the future.
- Is the pressure too high or too low? Sometimes issues with headaches and earaches can be caused by the pressure being too high or too low. If your pressure is incorrect there are two options:
- If you have a CPAP or BiPAP, only your doctor should adjust the pressure setting.
- If you have an APAP, the machine should automatically adjust to the correct pressure without needing to do anything, if it’s programmed to the correct pressure range. If it isn’t, you’ll have to have your doctor evaluate what’s going on and decide on next steps;
- Is it caused by the sinuses being blocked? If you’re sensitive to sinus headaches and you use a nasal pillow mask, you could be setting yourself up for more headaches. Nasal pillow masks can artificially clog the sinuses, and the resulting backup can cause headaches. Consider using a nasal mask or a full face mask as an alternative to the nasal pillow. You’d also want to check your heated humidifier settings to see if the heated water is warm enough to open up your sinuses and prevent the blockage.
- Is the problem caused by ill-fitting headgear straps? If your headgear straps are on too tight, the discomfort could be enough to cause a headache. Try loosening the straps on your headgear to see if that does the trick.
As you can see, headaches can be caused by quite a few different things, and it’s important to understand what’s causing them, so you know how to treat them. Ask yourself if you can remember a time in your life where you had sinus headaches or headaches from feeling a tight sensation.
If that doesn’t work, check with your doctor to see if your pressure is correct.
I’m getting a sore throat and I think my CPAP is causing me to cough.
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 provide comfort and solve any dehydration issues. It can be a life changer. Heated Humidification helps open up the nasal passages, and adds back moisture the pressure takes away.
If you are experiencing nasal dryness from your CPAP, using a nasal cream like NasoGel or NeliMed can help improve the dryness and make you feel better about your treatment.
My CPAP makes my mouth so dry!
This is likely because your mouth is dropping open while you sleep, channeling air through your throat instead of your nose. There are a few ways to tackle this common CPAP problem. The first would be trying a chinstrap to help support your chin so your nose can do all of the breathing.
Though they may not look comfortable, many chins straps are made of soft, stretchy material so you get all of the support without any of the discomfort.
If a chinstrap just isn’t your style, opt for a full face mask. A full face CPAP mask covers both your nose and mouth, so you can still get all of the benefits of your Sleep Apnea therapy while still breathing through your mouth.
Should I use CPAP when I have a sinus or respiratory infection?
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.
- 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 device 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 help make your CPAP therapy more comfortable– even when you don’t have a cold.
- Consider using 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.
- Make sure you clean your CPAP mask regularly when you’re sick. Cleaning can help you get better in less time, and it can help avoid reinfection when you’re better.
I can’t get a good CPAP mask seal. My mask leaks!
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, helping increasing CPAP comfort, and can improve the seal.
- Laying on your pillow may be breaking your seal. Try adjusting your sleeping position or consider investing in a CPAP Pillow that is designed to accommodate the shape of your CPAP mask.
If the solutions above are not working, we recommend you try a different size of the same mask or a whole new mask altogether. Many nasal and full face masks have sizing guides available to better help you determine the appropriate size you need.
To find this sizing guide, simply look up your brand of CPAP mask, and first look underneath the price. If the sizing guide is not there, you may need to check the Specifications tab, or the Important Tips tab. You would then print out the sizing guide, and use a mirror to help you make the proper adjustments and ensure the mask is fit correctly on your face.
For accuracy, make sure to print your sizing guide as a PDF formatted at 100% scale, or “Fit to Page”. Double check these in your printer settings to make sure it prints just right. Also, if you commonly sleep in a particular position, you may want to choose a CPAP mask that is designed for your sleeping position.
My teeth hurt when I use my CPAP. Any Suggestions?
Certain types of nasal masks can put pressure on the upper lip, and cause your teeth to hurt the next day. Sore teeth can also be a sign that your nasal mask might be too tight. Try loosening the mask, and see if it doesn’t put pressure on your teeth.
What to do if a CPAP mask hurts my nose?
Sores on the nose or nostrils are a common problem with a nasal pillow or nasal masks, as these can irritate the bridge of the nose or hurt the nostrils. For nasal pillows, try twisting the barrel of the pillows into a more comfortable position.
If switching positions doesn’t work well, or the pillows aren’t sealing correctly, it may be a sign that a different size is needed. It could also mean that your headgear is losing elasticity. This would only be a cause if your mask is old and you haven’t changed your mask headgear.
If it’s the bridge of the nose that’s causing the problem, you can try a mask liner or nasal cushion as a possible solution. There are other products out there that can help a person reduce irritation, so you may want to shop around.
Mask liners provide additional comfort to a CPAP mask and help make a better seal overall, reducing the sores on the nose, making it more comfortable too.
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.
When I wake up, I have marks on my skin! Sometimes my skin can also get irritated.
Your CPAP machine should work to treat your Sleep Apnea and not cause any other problems, so we understand this can be frustrating. If you find your CPAP mask leaves you with marks on your face or irritates your skin, try using a mask liner.
There are several mask liner options available – of different sizes, materials, and padding. You’re bound to find the perfect liner! You can also try using our CPAP Moisture Therapy Cream, which helps ease skin irritation caused by silicone with Aloe Vera, Emu Oil, and Vitamins A and E.
My sinusitis makes it hard to sleep at night. Does CPAP cause sinusitis?
Sinusitis is the inflammation of the nasal tissues and passages. It doesn’t have to be caused by bacteria or a virus, though these illnesses can lead to it developing. Some people get it every night and wonder if CPAP is the cause. CPAP treatment can, in some people, lead to a person developing sinusitis.
For others, regularly getting sinusitis can be the result of genetics. Especially if someone suffers with a deviated septum, CPAP therapy can be difficult, and any congestion can make it very hard to breathe. Treating sinusitis can help, but if nasal breathing is hard for you, you may want to try switching to mouth breathing instead.
The best mask for mouth-breathing is a full face mask, which covers both the nose and mouth, allowing you to breathe through the mouth if your airway is blocked.
If you’re sick, observing a strict CPAP cleaning regimen will help you get better and avoid re-infection. Using a heated humidifier can help to open up the nasal passages, so it’s good to have one handy when you’re sick. It may also be necessary to switch to a full face mask, as breathing through the nose can be impossible.
CPAP Machine Problems
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, humidified air can sometimes cool as it travels from the humidifier to the mask and causes the water to reliquify 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.
My CPAP Air Pressure Wakes Me Up!
If you’re struggling with your CPAP because the pressure is waking you up, there are a few things you can do.
- Make sure your machine has exhalation relief. Exhalation relief softens the pressure when you exhale, so you don’t feel like you’re choking on air.
- Try using the ramp feature of your machine. The ramp feature starts the pressure out at the lowest setting, and gradually increases the pressure over the course of 45 minutes or an hour so you’ll notice the pressure less.
- Practice makes perfect! The more you use your machine, the less you’ll notice higher pressures.
- Consider using an APAP machine. An APAP machine automatically sets the correct pressure, so there’s less of a chance for a person to experience a situation where the pressure is too high for your needs.
When I first became a CPAP user, I felt the pressure was too high. It felt like I was “choking on air”. My doctor recommended using ramp as a way to make my therapy easier to tolerate. I tried it, and I felt like it made it easier to fall asleep.
Eventually, I got to the point where I didn’t even need the ramp feature anymore, and I can easily tolerate pressures of 15 or higher, and the machine no longer bothers me in the same way. In my experience, practice really did make perfect when it came to my CPAP therapy.
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.
My CPAP machine is SO LOUD!
Of all the CPAP issues we’ve heard, this is a top problem! A quiet CPAP machine is essential, especially for the sake of your bed partner. Luckily, CPAP machines are getting quieter every day! If yours is keeping you up at night, you may want to check out a newer model. This issue is so common, we have updated our search capabilities on our website so you can specifically browse and compare quiet models.
Another thing to keep an eye on is your mask, which could be making more noise than the machine. Here’s some tips to help quiet the mask you have:
- Check to make sure you have a good seal. Sometimes a bad seal can be the source of the noise. You may want to tighten your mask slightly to see if it stops the leaks.
- Reposition the mask to try changing how the air vents. Sometimes the source of the noise is the venting. Positioning the mask slightly differently on the face or nose can help change the direction of the vented airflow, guiding it away from the face (or your partner) and may reduce the noise.
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 snoring. If you are hearing snoring while using your PAP 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 system isn’t providing adequate therapy.
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.
My hose keeps getting tangled! What can I do?
If this is a common problem for you, try a hose management system. These are designed to keep your hose away out of arm’s reach, so you won’t find yourself waking up in a tangled web of hose. A suspension system for your hose may be just what you’re missing! If you are a wild sleeper and need a little more mobility in your hose, try a hose elbow to give you some swivel as you toss and turn.
Other CPAP Issues
Some places don’t take my insurance!
This isn’t as bad as it sounds. CPAP.com is a cash-only medical distributor that does not accept insurance assignment. However, purchasing your CPAP machine through CPAP.com may be cheaper than your copay and deductible through insurance. And, we offer a pre-populated insurance form for you to submit to your insurance company for reimbursement. To access this document, simply login to your CPAP.com account.
I want to connect with other people that have Sleep Apnea.
Have you heard of CPAPtalk.com? CPAPtalk.com is a forum where people with Sleep Apnea connect to get tips on how to improve their therapy, as well as solve common problems. The community is very active, and many of the members are very knowledgeable and have helpful tips that can help out anyone looking for additional information. If you haven’t visited yet, you should check it out!
We hoped to provide some helpful information to use as you try to navigate successful CPAP treatment. For more help and resources, please check in with our newsletter! Our newsletter provides the latest CPAP news, sales, and deals for CPAP consumers worldwide! Sign up today!
Daniela has researched and published over 60 articles covering topics that aim to inform and empower people living with Sleep Apnea. As an avid reader and researcher, Daniela continues to grow her knowledge about Sleep Apnea and CPAP therapy everyday with the help of coworkers, CPAP.com customers, and members of other CPAP communities online.