As with any treatment of a disease or disorder, side effects are typical. The use of a CPAP machine to treat snoring or sleep apnea is no different. However, in the case of CPAP machines, it is far better to deal with the minimal side-effects than the potentially fatal alternatives.
Here are 10 side-effects to expect when using a CPAP machine and what you can do to help alleviate some of your un-comfort.
- Claustrophobia: Having to wear a mask on your face every night can be quite uncomfortable. Start off using it for as long as you can stand it, and gradually increase the length of time you wear it. Eventually you will be wearing it all night with no problems. Make sure that you’re not wearing it too tight, but it can’t be too loose either. Your doctor should fit your mask for you the first time. Use it while you’re watching TV or doing other busy work before bedtime for the first couple of days. This will help you get used to the feeling of not only the mask but also the sensation of the air pressure.
- Stuffy Nose or Irritation: The air that the CPAP machine pushes out is very dry. The first couple of nights you may be very uncomfortable the way you would if you went to a very dry climate. This can, in some cases, include nose bleeds and scabbing. Humidifiers are a great way to elevate some of this discomfort. Some machines have humidifiers built in. If your machine doesn’t you may want to look for one that does.
- No Breathe Nose: Sleep apnea and snoring are relieved by pressure to the throat behind the nose. If you can’t breathe through your nose or find it very difficult then the CPAP machine use may not be effective. Look for an over the counter allergy medication to relieve your breathing. If this does not work you may want to consult an allergy specialist for additional treatments.
- Hair: Patients with facial hair, beards and mustaches, and patients with dirty, oily skin may prevent the mask from sealing properly. There are many shapes and sizes of masks; you may need to try a different kind to help improve this problem.
- Headaches and Head Pressure: When using a CPAP machine, you must allow the pressure from the machine to escape you body cavities. Normally air will go through the ear, however if you have a cold or flu the blockage may prevent this from happening. You may to suspend the use of your machine until the symptoms clear.
- Machine Noise: Some older machines will have a humming or vibratory sound to them. Keep the machine as far away from you as possible if this is disturbing. If you are still having trouble sleeping due to the noise you may want to upgrade to a newer model or try noise cancelling headphones.
- Belly Bloating: You shouldn’t experience any stomach bloating from using a CPAP machine. However, if you find that you are feeling some bloating you should try using only one pillow, setting your machine pressure lower, or flattening your sleeping position.
- Tangled in Tubes: Getting tangled in your machine’s tubes while you’re sleeping can be a problem. The more you use the machine, the better you will get at sleeping with it. However, you can try using pillows or blankets to keep obstructions away from you and you can position the machine so that the tubes don’t fall on your chest or arms while you’re asleep.
- Bathroom Breaks: At night if you have to get up to use the restroom, do not remove your mask; only disconnect it from the machine. If you leave the mask on you will be more likely to resume use when you return to bed.
- No Improvements: If you are not seeing any improvements with your CPAP use, consider keeping a sleep diary, and always try to remember the positives about using the machine. Keep track of headaches and when you feel tired in the morning, or if you’re consistently waking up at night (remember to track the hour). If you sleep apnea is not improving after a month or so you should return to your doctor (and remember to take your diary with you).
Bio: Chris Vasta operates TheCPAPShop.com, a leading retailer of CPAP equipment, located in New Jersey. He understands the importance of education about CPAP equipment so that CPAP users will make knowledgeable decisions regarding their treatment.