As an active CPAP user since 2017, I know when you’re first starting with CPAP therapy, there’s a lot of new routines to get used to, and it can be frustrating as you try to adjust.
When I first started, I felt like my mask was bulky and uncomfortable, and it was hard to sleep in my favorite position. If you’re like me and starting with CPAP has you struggling; you may be tempted to quit. There’s a significant adjustment period when it comes to using a CPAP, and it’s a lot to get used to. It took me about six months to get used to my new routine, and for some people, it may take longer.
Just remember, you’ve got this! Even though it may seem hard in the beginning, you’ll gain so much if you can stick with it. You’ll have more energy and better overall health. I’ll be sharing tips in the coming paragraphs, along with a few products that will be a lifesaver down the road— and just may help you overcome your frustrations!
Machine or Mask Making Too Much Noise
CPAP equipment can sometimes make it difficult to sleep by making too much noise. Some machines check-in at over 30 decibels (conversation level), which can be too much for anyone who would consider themselves a light sleeper. For best results, consider a machine or mask that’s under 26 decibels (whisper-quiet).
Solution: Try a quieter machine like the DreamStation Auto (25.8 decibels) or a quiet mask like the ResMed AirFit P10 (21 decibels). If you’re concerned about dampening the mask noise, consider the Q-Tube CPAP Muffler, which provides an additional buffer between the hose and the mask and reduces the amount of noise that reaches the mask.
How to use it: My DreamStation at home is so simple to operate. All I have to do is press the button, and it works without needing any input from me. The AirFit P10 is designed to be easy to put on and take off: simply position the cushions in place at the base of each nostril and loop the headgear over the head. The AirFit P10 is quieter because it has fewer moving parts and does an excellent job of diffusing vented air, and at 21 decibels, it’s easy to see why so many people like this mask.
The Q-Tube Muffler is designed, so you connect it to the end of the hose, and then connect your mask to the muffler. After that, all you’ll have to do is start the machine, and it will work, removing much of the excess noise that flows through the hose.
Recommendation: I use the DreamStation as my machine at home, and truthfully I can’t hear it during the night, even when running the humidifier. Many CPAP users have reported they like the AirFit P10, and while I don’t personally use it, I’ve found that ResMed masks, in general, are very quiet to use.
The Q-Tube Muffler is also popular with many CPAP users, and if you’re looking for a lower cost and simple solution to unwanted hose noise, I would highly recommend it.
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Red Marks and Indentations on the Face
Almost every CPAP user will, at some point, get red marks on their face or find they wake up with indentations from their headgear.
In most cases, this is caused by overtightening the mask to the point that it can be uncomfortable. If it’s happening to you, I have good news! It can be preventable! By merely changing your mask cushion, you can improve the mask seal, and eliminate the need to keep the mask so tight.
If changing the cushion doesn’t solve your problem, there are a few other things you can try, which I’ll go over in the next section.
Solution: You may need to add softness to your mask straps. Several different manufacturers make products known as “soft wraps,” which can be used to cover the silicone parts of your mask, making it more comfortable.
If you’re tired of messy hair and having so many pressure points on your face, consider ditching the mask altogether! How? By using the Bleep! What’s a Bleep? It’s a mask that uses adhesive pads that create an airtight seal around each nostril, and it doesn’t use headgear, so it won’t mark up your face one bit.
How to use it: Soft Wraps are fabric wraps that cover around the outside of your mask straps and silicone. There are many different kinds, and many are engineered for a specific mask, so if you had a Swift FX Bella, you’d want to get the SnuggleCover Set for Swift FX Bella Headgear; if you had at Quattro FX, you’d want to get SnuggleMini for Quattro™ FX Full Face CPAP Mask. There are also generic mask strap pads that can work with several models of masks.
The Bleep could be your answer if you hate headgear and can breathe through your nose. The Bleep uses similar adhesive to Provent, and completely covers the nostrils, using a short tube design to connect to the hose.
The adhesive keeps the Bleep in place, so it doesn’t need headgear. In the morning, you’d remove the adhesive pads and dispose of them. The adhesive is strong enough to seal around the nostril and keeps the seal in place no matter how you move about in the night.
Recommendation: Many people have tried the Bleep and like it. I’ve been tempted myself, but I can’t breathe through my nose at night, and I don’t want to wear a chinstrap. I tend to wear my masks somewhat tight, and I think my next purchase is going to be strap pads to help cut down on the number of red marks on my face. They’re well-liked by many people, and I know they’d work for me.
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Mask leaks are pesky, and many people struggle with them. If a mask leaks, you’re not going to be able to sleep, much less get the full benefit out of your therapy. I to get mask leaks around the nose, and my go-to solution is usually to simply tighten my mask. But that’s not always the best answer. A mask can get so tight it becomes painful, or it can hurt you.
There’s a product that can help, and I’ll go over it in the next section.
Solution: Have you ever heard of a mask liner? Mask liners are designed to cover the silicone of a full face or nasal CPAP mask, making it more comfortable to wear and absorbing sweat and human oils, helping you keep the seal.
Mask liners are available for many different kinds of CPAP masks, with different models of mask liners being designed for different masks.
How to use it: Mask liners are made of a special kind of cloth and wrap around the outside of the cushion. Once you put one on, you can continue to use it until it gets dirty and then you’d need to replace it. It fits nicely over the outside of a cushion, using stretchy but comfortable materials.
Recommendation: I get it. Many people don’t like the feeling of silicone, and while I’m not in that camp, I can see why people would want to cover it up. It’s cool to the touch, and it can be uncomfortable, especially in colder climates. For those who have that irritation, mask liners would be a welcome improvement, and I’d highly recommend it for those that want to improve on mask irritation.
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Dry Mouth, Nasal Passages, Cracked Sinuses
Dry mouth is a condition that can strike any CPAP user, especially someone who breathes through their mouth. People who breathe through their nose may experience dry nasal passages or cracked sinuses. It’s a big problem, one that has an easy fix.
Solution: Almost every CPAP machine either includes a humidifier or has one you can purchase separately. Humidifiers take liquid water and add it to the air you breathe so that it doesn’t dry you out during the night.
For those that have a compatible machine, you could always try using a Heat Moisture Exchange Unit, similar to the HumidX for the AirMini. These devices take the moisture from your exhaled breath and recycle it in a way that keeps your nasal passages moist and keeps your throat from drying out.
How to use it: Humidifiers start when your machine starts and will stop when you turn it off. The Heat Moisture Exchange Unit clips onto your hose. Each unit will be good for about a week of use, and then you’ll need to get a new one.
Recommendation: There’s no need to suffer from dried out sinuses while you’re using CPAP therapy. I can personally attest that the humidifier for my DreamStation is something I rely on to make my treatment successful. Without it, I don’t know if I could use my CPAP machine long-term. For me, a humidifier isn’t a “luxury.” I have to have it, and if you’re struggling like I was, you should get one too.
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Water in Tube
Condensation forming in the tube is a big problem, one that has an easy solution and can be handled in one of two ways. Water in the hose happens when the air from your heated humidifier cools and is no longer able to hold as much moisture. Droplets form, and you can wind up getting splashed.
Solution: You can use the SnuggleHose, Tender Tubing, or a Heated Hose to keep your air at a constant temperature as it moves from your humidifier to your mask. SnuggleHose and Tender Tubing are very similar products, while a heated hose uses heating coils in the hose to keep the air at a constant temperature, actively warming the air as it moves through the tube.
All of these methods help prevent “rainout” or tube condensation and make it more comfortable to use your CPAP machine.
How to use it: The SnuggleHose and Tender Tubing use zippers and cloth wraps that surround the hose and lock into place. People also like that these devices make your CPAP equipment look less “medical.” Heated Hoses are mostly brand-specific and integrate with your machine in a way optimized for that machine.
Recommendation: My first CPAP machine came with a heated hose, so I’ve never known life without one. I’ve never experienced the extra noise or discomfort that occurs when there’s condensation that forms in the tube. If you’re struggling with it now, you’ll feel a lot more comfortable when you add hose comfort items like the Snugglehose, Tender Tubing, or a Heated Hose.
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If you’ve been struggling with these problems, you should know there’s hope. Many of the products can help you as you work towards living a comfortable life with sleep apnea. It may be rough now, but you can do it!
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.