10 Common CPAP Issues & How to Solve Them

Solve Your CPAP Problems

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is the most common treatment for people with sleep apnea. It requires using a machine that supplies constant air pressure, a hose attachment, and a nose piece or mask. Some people experience issues like a poorly fitted or leaky mask, difficulty falling asleep, dry mouth, CPAP nose sores, and more. Luckily, for all of the common CPAP problems and discomfort you might run into, there are solutions, getting you on your way to breathing more comfortably through the night. 

According to the American Association of Sleep Technologists (AAST), these are the ten most commonly reported CPAP issues or discomforts along with some easy fixes CPAP patients can try out:

  1. Difficulty AdjustingIt can be a challenge getting used to wearing a CPAP mask. Try wearing it on and off during the day, while watching TV, reading a book, cooking dinner, or surfing the web, as well as during daytime naps to help you grow accustomed to how it feels on your face.
  2. General Discomfort - This problem is often due to poorly fitted or the wrong size mask. Ask your doctor or sleep specialist to show you how to adjust your mask properly and familiarize yourself with the manufacturer’s instructions. You can also look into other mask styles that might be a better fit.
  3. Allergic ReactionThe best thing you can do in this situation is to stop wearing your CPAP mask immediately and contact your doctor. Often, what might appear as an allergic reaction will be related to the infrequent cleaning of your machine, your mask, or the materials it’s made from.
  4. Uncomfortable PressureThe “ramp” features provide you with control over the air pressure, starting low, and then gradually ramping up to the pressure suggested by your physician. Luckily, you can adjust the “ramp” rate, but if your CPAP problems persist, consult your doctor about possible alternatives like a BIPAP machine.
  5. Stuffy or Runny NoseConsider using a saline nasal spray or rinse at bedtime to avoid overdrying and decrease your chance of developing an annoying CPAP nose sore. Leaky or poorly fitted masks can also cause nasal congestion and sores. 
  6. Feeling ClaustrophobicTry relaxation exercises and practice wearing your CPAP mask while awake during every day at-home tasks. Take small steps toward getting used to the mask like just holding it to your face, then strap it on, test out the pressure, and so on.
  7. Trouble Falling Asleep - Along with practicing wearing the mask while awake, following good general sleep and hygiene habits will be helpful. Avoid caffeine or alcohol before bedtime, try meditation or relaxation exercises, or take a warm bath. Avoid going to bed until you’re tired. 
  8. Dry MouthIf you are a mouth breather, you’re likely to experience this CPAP issue. Follow our mouth breathers guide to discover the best masks and methods to avoid dry mouth. 
  9. Removing During SleepRemoving your mask overnight might be involuntary, or it may be due to discomfort or congestion. Sometimes adding a chin strap or humidifier can help. Try setting an alarm for some time in the night to check that your device is still in place. 
  10. Too NoisyMost of the new CPAP models are nearly silent, but it’s not uncommon to find the noise bothersome. Check that there’s no blockage or buildup in the air filter, try wearing earplugs or creating “white noise” to disguise the sound, or look into updating your device to a newer, quieter model.

While some of these CPAP problems can be frustrating, there are tremendous long-term benefits to CPAP therapy. By tackling these issues early on and taking the steps toward relieving your discomfort, you guarantee yourself a healthier and more breathable future.