💡 Key Takeaways
- Choose the Right Mask: Opt for a CPAP mask that suits your breathing style and sleeping position to minimize discomfort. This choice can significantly impact your therapy’s effectiveness and your overall therapy comfort.
- Practice Desensitization: Before fully implementing CPAP therapy, spend time getting accustomed to the mask and machine. Start by wearing the mask around the house during the day and gradually build up to using the machine while sleeping.
- Adjust Settings for Comfort: Fine-tune your mask and machine settings to avoid side effects like dry mouth, air leaks, and noise. Consider increasing humidity levels and using comfort settings like EPR and Ramp, or try an APAP machine.
- Utilize CPAP Pillows: A specialized CPAP pillow can alleviate mask discomfort and improve sleep quality, especially for side and stomach sleepers.
- Explore Additional Aids: If you’re still struggling, consider using devices like V-Com for easier breathing or natural remedies like magnesium and aromatherapy for better sleep.
We are often told that CPAP therapy will help you sleep better. Some lucky people wake up after their first night feeling totally refreshed and energized. Most report that it takes a few weeks to notice these life-changing improvements. And sadly, others say the struggles of sleeping with CPAP are worse than having sleep apnea itself.
If you feel like you can’t sleep with CPAP, you aren’t alone. Poor sleep is one of the most common reasons so many people quit CPAP treatment early on. If you are struggling to get the rest you need, we’re here to help by providing practical tips for sleeping with a CPAP.
1. Choose a Comfortable CPAP Mask that You Can Sleep With
The style of mask you choose can impact the types of CPAP side effects you experience. For example, if you are kept awake due to mask anxiety or claustrophobia, you may need a mask that covers as little of your face as possible, such as a nasal cradle, nasal pillow, or under-the-nose full face mask like the AirFit F30i or Philips’ Amara View.
Another factor to consider is your sleeping position. Many people say they have difficulty finding a comfortable position to sleep in when wearing their CPAP headgear. So, when selecting your mask, consider how it will work with your preferred sleeping position. Many back sleepers can comfortably use just about any type of mask. However, if you are a stomach sleeper or side sleeper, you may find it easier to fall asleep with a nasal CPAP mask.
2. Practice CPAP Desensitization to Get Used to CPAP Therapy
CPAP desensitization teaches you how to sleep with CPAP using steps that focus on reducing CPAP anxiety and discomfort. The idea is to slowly introduce CPAP therapy into your life, helping you adjust to using your CPAP machine and mask until you become a pro!
This process starts with getting used to your CPAP mask by itself without connecting it to your machine. Start by wearing it around the house for short periods as you go about your daily routine. When doing this, it can be helpful to occupy yourself with a good book or TV show. During this time, you can even try sleeping with your mask on without actually connecting it to your machine (every mask is required to have anti-asphyxiation valves, so this practice is perfectly safe).
Once you teach your body how to sleep with a CPAP mask, it’s time to learn how to sleep with a CPAP machine. Start by using your CPAP machine for an hour or so while awake, either during the day or even before bed. After a couple of days, you can try using it for a couple of hours during naps or for the first part of the night. And eventually, you will build up to sleeping with your machine full-time!
3. Adjust Your Mask to Avoid Uncomfortable Side Effects
Correctly adjusting your CPAP mask helps you avoid all sorts of side effects that can make sleeping with CPAP harder. The benefits include:
- Less Mask Rubbing
- Prevents Painful Pressure Points
- Avoids Skin Irritation
- Fewer Mask Leaks
- Lower Risk for Dry Eyes
- Lower Risk for Dry Mouth
- Less Noise
After you put on your mask, lie down in your normal sleeping position. Then, take a few minutes to focus on how your mask fits and feels. Doing this will help you identify potential problems early on so they don’t wake you up in the middle of the night.
Do you notice any pressure points or air leaks? Does your mask move when you move? If so, make small adjustments to your mask straps until these issues are resolved. Some people get a better mask fit with the help of a mask liner or gel pad.
4. Increase Humidity Levels to Ease Mouth, Nose, and Throat Discomfort
If you use a CPAP machine, it is almost guaranteed that, at some point, you will wake up with a dry mouth, dry nose, or sore throat. This feeling is usually just unpleasant, but it can sometimes be so severe that it causes pain in the affected area, making it hard to breathe or even go back to sleep. Usually, this is a sign that you need to increase the humidity in your CPAP air.
Here are some things you can do to boost your CPAP humidity!
- Increase the humidity setting on your CPAP machine.
- Purchase a heated CPAP hose that will increase your humidity levels.
- Insulate your CPAP tubing with a blanket, towel, or hose cover.
- Check your CPAP hose for cracks that may cause it to leak humid CPAP air.
- Take steps to prevent mask leaks that cause you to lose humidity.
5. Sleep With a CPAP Pillow to Reduce Mask Discomfort
One of our best tips for sleeping with CPAP is to use a CPAP pillow! This is a quick and easy way to get better sleep with your CPAP mask, especially if you are a stomach or side sleeper. Unlike a regular pillow, CPAP pillows are designed to take the pressure off your mask while still providing head and neck support.
CPAP pillows offer several benefits that make sleeping with a CPAP mask easier, including:
- More Comfortable Sleep
- Less Mask Movement
- Stronger Mask Seal
- Fewer Pressure Points
- Lower Chance of Air Leaks
- Reduced Risk of Dry Mouth
- Reduced Risk of Dry Eyes
There are all types of products out there, but the best CPAP pillows feature side cut-outs and hose tethers, which allow you to sleep comfortably in any position while wearing any style of CPAP mask. If you’re interested in trying out a CPAP pillow, we highly suggest the CPAPMax 2.0 because of its versatility and many great features.
6. Learn How to Breathe With a CPAP Using a V-Com Device
Learning how to breathe with a CPAP machine can be difficult. Up until recently, there haven’t been many products to make this process easier, until now. The V-Com by SleepRes is a revolutionary device that some experts call “training wheels for CPAP.”
This device works by slightly altering the flow of air from your CPAP machine, making it easier for you to breathe without meaningfully affecting the actual pressure delivered to your airway. While the science behind this device is complicated, the glowing reports are not. In a 2022 survey of sleep health professionals who tried V-Com for themselves, 96% stated they would recommend it to patients who were struggling with CPAP.
Clinical data shows that 98% of participants new to CPAP therapy said that V-Com made their sleep apnea treatment more comfortable. Additionally, 77% of long-term CPAP owners preferred to use V-Com with their CPAP machines.
According to this same clinical data, V-Com provides the following benefits:
- Easier Breathing With CPAP
- Reduced Shortness of Breath
- Lower Risk of Swallowing Air
- Improved Claustrophobia
- Fewer Air Leaks
- Quieter Airflow
7. Address CPAP Noise Before It Wakes You Up
Newer CPAP machines and masks are built to run efficiently and quietly, but that doesn’t mean you won’t notice the addition of new sounds when you first bring CPAP into your bedroom. If you’re a light sleeper who keeps waking up to CPAP noise, here are a few tips!
- Move your CPAP machine as far away from your ears as possible.
- Use ear plugs to block out CPAP sounds.
- Check your entire CPAP system to make sure you aren’t experiencing air leaks.
- Use a sound machine to drown out the noise.
- Let your CPAP run for a few minutes before going to sleep so you can troubleshoot any new CPAP noises.
- A cloth mat or towel placed under your machine can also help absorb sounds caused by vibration and hollow cavities within the machine.
- Use a tubing wrap to dampen the sound of air rushing through the hose.
8. Take Advantage of Your CPAP Machine’s Comfort Settings
In recent years, CPAP manufacturers have introduced new features to prevent discomfort from CPAP. Many brands have their own names for these comfort settings, but the features are largely the same.
Here are some types of comfort settings that you may see on your CPAP machine.
- Ramp Function: Gradually increases air pressure at the start of each therapy session.
- Expiratory Pressure Relief (EPR): Temporarily lowers air pressure each time you exhale, making breathing easier. Also known as FLEX, IPR, EZEX, Reslex, SensAwake, Z-Breathe, or PVA, depending on your machine’s manufacturer.
- Automatic Pressure Adjustment (Auto-CPAP): Sometimes referred to as APAP, this feature adjusts air pressure based on your breathing patterns.
- Quiet Technology: Used in many new-generation CPAP machines, this type of feature reduces CPAP noise. Typically this means the blower is quieter than previous generations or the device has built-in sound and vibration dampening materials.
When you get your CPAP machine, learn the settings and how to use each feature. Doing this will maximize your benefits from CPAP therapy while preventing many issues that make sleeping with CPAP difficult.
9. Try Natural Health Solutions
Sleeping with CPAP is a lot harder when you’re stressed about not getting the rest you need. So if you feel like you can’t sleep with CPAP, you may need a little help. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean using medication, although some doctors may suggest going that route.
There are plenty of over-the-counter solutions that you can use to fall asleep faster and stay asleep. One option is medication-based sleep aids (with your doctor’s guidance). However, if you’re looking for a more natural remedy, your healthcare provider may suggest trying:
- Valerian Root
10. Find Resources to Support Your Journey
Trustworthy information and personal support is one of the most important aspects of any new CPAP journey. The right resources can mean the difference between quitting CPAP therapy and succeeding in your sleep apnea treatment.
Below are some resources that can help as you adjust to CPAP!
- A Guide for CPAP Trouble Shooting
- How to Address Uncomfortable CPAP Side Effects
- A Survival Guide for the First 90 Days of CPAP
- A Peer-to-Peer CPAP Discussion Board
- A CPAP Support Team You Can Rely On
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Best Position to Sleep With a CPAP Machine?
Experts say that the best sleeping position for CPAP is side sleeping. However, if you can’t get comfortable with your CPAP mask while lying on your side, sleeping at an incline on your back is a good alternative.
What If I Can’t Get Used to CPAP?
There are many CPAP alternatives that your doctor may suggest if you can’t get used to CPAP, including surgery, Oral Appliance Therapy, and EPAP therapy. Your doctor may combine these treatments with other supportive methods, including lifestyle changes, Positional Therapy, and sleep apnea exercises.
How Long Does It Take to Get Used to CPAP?
Most people are able to adjust to sleeping with CPAP full time within the 2-4 weeks of therapy. However, for some people, it can take up to 3 months. If it takes you longer to get used to sleeping with a CPAP machine, that’s okay. Health insurance companies require you to prove that you can use your CPAP equipment for a minimum of 4 hours per night, 21 nights per month, during the first 3 months of treatment.
Sleeping with CPAP can take some getting used to. If you’re new to CPAP and are struggling to adapt, you aren’t alone. This process takes time, and if you can’t sleep with CPAP, you may even need some extra guidance. We hope that our tips for sleeping with CPAP will make will help you get the rest you deserve, but if not, we encourage you to reach out to our customer support team or your healthcare provider.