CPAP Problems and Solutions

CPAP problems are not unusual. Although the therapy is 100% effective for sleep apnea, it can also sometimes be challenging. This list of common CPAP problems and their solutions might help you get more out of your therapy.

The TotalCare Sleep Apnea disease management program is available free to any CPAP user and supported by qualified, professional, CPAP therapists. If you want help with your CPAP problems and help getting better sleep, click here to create your free account, complete an interactive CPAP therapy checkup, and to give us some details about your CPAP equipment.

CPAP Problem: Bloating, Burping & Gas

CPAP side effects bloating, burping and gas are some of the common side effects of CPAP therapy. The medical term for these side-effects is Aerophasia. Fortunately this CPAP problem can usually be managed with persistence and help from your CPAP therapist.

If your stomach feels bloated or you burp a lot after using your CPAP, you may be swallowing excess air during your sleep. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of getting accustomed to relaxed, regular breathing with your CPAP. This is especially true if you are new to CPAP therapy.

CPAP Problem: Vivid Dreaming During CPAP Use

Yes ‘CPAP Dreams’ are a normal and common ‘side effect’ of CPAP therapy. Quite often, untreated OSA disrupts sleep so severely that the dream stage is constantly interrupted or never reached at all. When the OSA is suddenly eliminated by CPAP, dreams will often be more intense , memorable, and frequent as sleep is restored.

Early in therapy, CPAP dreams may occupy much of your sleep time for the first week or so. After that, the dreams will taper off toward the levels seen in normal, healthy adults.

  • ‘CPAP dreams’ are a normal and common side effect
  • Untreated OSA disrupts sleep constantly interrupting the REM sleep stage
  • When OSA is eliminated by CPAP, dreams will become intense, memorable, and frequent
  • These dreams will eventually taper off and you will dream like a normal healthy adult

CPAP Problem: Claustrophobia

There is an adjustment period for most CPAP users as they get used to sleeping with any mask on the face. While your goal is to be able to sleep all night on CPAP, using it as long as you can tolerate it each night is better than nothing.

To reduce or eliminate feelings of claustrophobia, use your mask while you’re awake. Practice by first just holding the mask up to your face without any of the other parts attached. Once you’re comfortable with that, try wearing the mask with the straps and without the hose connected. Then attach the hose and turn your CPAP machine on at a low-pressure setting (with ramp feature turned on) and try holding the mask to your face and breathing without using the straps. And, finally, wear the mask with the straps and with the machine turned on.

CPAP Problem: Dry Mouth

If you wake with a dry mouth, chances are that you sleep with your mouth open – don’t worry, a lot of CPAP users do this. CPAP therapy can cause slight dry mouth on it’s own, but if you sleep with your mouth wide open, the problem can be seriously exacerbated. In this case, you might benefit from getting a chin strap if you use a nasal mask or nasal pillows mask. You can also use a full-face mask to accommodate mouth breathing.

CPAP Problem: Dry or Stuffy Nose

Having a dry or stuffy nose as a result of wearing a CPAP mask is never fun. Doctors recommend that you use the heated humidifier function on the CPAP machine to raise the humidity levels. If the humidity levels are too low, your mucous membranes react by becoming inflamed and swollen, which creates dryness and stuffiness. If using the heated humidifier doesn’t work, try using a saline spray right before you go to bed. If the dryness and stuffiness continues, you ask your doctor about using a steroid nasal spray.

CPAP Problem: Skin irritation, Sores and Bruises from Mask

No mask should cause pain nor discomfort if sized correctly and fitted properly. One of the most common mistakes CPAP users mask, is over tightening their CPAP mask, which leads to marks. Try loosening the straps and bit and let the mask form a seal when the air starts to flow. If you have to over tighten your mask to get a good seal, your mask cushion may be worn out and need replacing.

CPAP Problem: Bloody Nose

A bloody nose during CPAP use is a common problem, especially in the beginning of CPAP therapy. If you have a heated humidifier, try adjusting the level of humidity to make sure you are getting maximum humidity without creating condensation in your tubing or CPAP Mask. You might also try using a nasal saline spray or a ‘neti pot’ before bedtime to moisten your nasal airway. To maximize humidity in your airway without causing ‘rainout’ in your tube, upgrade to a heated tube. Talk to your doctor if you continue to experience a bloody nose during CPAP use.

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