Getting Started with Your CPAP Therapy: A Beginner’s Guide

Getting Started with Your CPAP Therapy: A Beginner’s Guide

If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor has most likely prescribed CPAP therapy as a treatment. The more you know about CPAP, the more effective your therapy will be. Our beginner’s guide answers the most important questions about CPAP therapy, from equipment to best practices. 

What is CPAP? 

CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure therapy. It is most commonly used to treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and helps prevent daytime symptoms of this sleep disorder. These symptoms include mood swings, excessive fatigue, lack of concentration and more. By combining CPAP therapy with other lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet, exercise, or cessation of smoking and drinking, patients can decrease the number of negative side effects associated with sleep apnea.

How Does CPAP Work?

A CPAP machine sends pressurized air to a patient’s airway to keep it from closing while sleeping. The air from the machine travels to the patient via a tube and CPAP mask interface. Some models of CPAP only provide one fixed air pressure throughout the night, while other auto-adjusting machines change air pressure depending on the minimum amount required to keep the user from having an apnea event.

The Nightly CPAP Routine: Four Key Tips for New Patients

1.   Get used to your CPAP mask

One of the greatest obstacles to CPAP compliance is your CPAP mask. There are a few different mask types to choose from: full face, nasal, and nasal pillow. Each has its own benefits, and not everyone will like every mask. Get used to wearing your CPAP mask before you go to bed. 

Give the mask a chance. You may have a few sleepless nights at first. Consistency is key and using the CPAP each and every night should be a goal for new CPAP users as symptoms of OSA improve significantly after the first few weeks of continuous use.

Once new CPAP users get used to sleeping with the machine, they all report significant improvements. If, however, you are still having difficulty with your CPAP mask, The CPAP Shop offers a free 30-day money-back guarantee on all masks. This then allows you to try different styles to get the most comfort out of your CPAP therapy.

2. Stay compliant with your therapy

Don’t miss nights of CPAP, even though it may be difficult. If you skip, you’ll only prolong your adjustment period. By staying compliant with your therapy, you are:

  • Improving your overall physical health and mental health
  • Improving your sleep at night and your well-being during the day

Some CPAP users, both new and veteran, choose not to take their equipment with them on trips or when traveling. This can also be detrimental to your CPAP success. There are a number of travel CPAP machines to choose from that allow you to take therapy on the road and continue to treat your sleep disorder.

3. Keep your CPAP equipment clean

Dirty hoses, water chambers and masks can give you infections, which can hinder your PAP therapy. Follow the manufacturer recommendations for cleaning and replacing equipment regularly to ensure healthy PAP therapy. You can also use CPAP cleaning and sanitizing machines for faster, easier sanitation and disinfection. 

4. Make adjustments and changes to your equipment as needed

Feel free to customize your CPAP equipment to fit your comfort. Try different CPAP masks to find one that suits you. Let your doctor know about any discomfort, so adjustments can be made to your CPAP machine. If you experience dry throat or mouth from CPAP consider adding a heated humidifier to moisturize the air during therapy. 

Your needs and comfort settings will change throughout therapy. Don’t be afraid to speak up if something does not feel like it is working. Your doctor, as well as the team at The CPAP Shop, is here to help you with any questions or concerns you have about your therapy.

Selecting the Perfect CPAP Mask

CPAP masks are the trickiest part of the entire CPAP equation for the new CPAP user. Obviously, not all faces have the same structure, shape or size. Finding a CPAP mask that complements your facial features will be key to becoming compliant.

A mask should not be overtightened and should merely sit on the face, allowing the machine pressure to create a seal. There are many different types and styles of CPAP masks. If one is not comfortable or working appropriately for you, don’t suffer through it. Change the type or style so you do not compromise your therapy.

A comfortable and well-adjusted mask will allow you to easily transition to nightly CPAP therapy.

Types of CPAP Masks

Nasal CPAP masks cover the nose and have traditionally been the most common. There are a few different styles including ones with gel or silicon cushions available.

Man sleeping with CPAP mask.

The most successful mask in the last year has been the Philips Respironics DreamWisp as people find it incredibly comfortable and effective. Our customers also have had success with ResMed AirFit N30 nasal mask styles.

Philips Respironics DreamWisp Nasal Mask

• Versatile design and innovative engineering create a superior CPAP therapy experience for consistent compliance

Purchase Now

Nasal Pillow CPAP masks are increasingly becoming the most popular masks available today. They have minimal facial contact, no forehead support and fit right under the nasal cavity making them very light and comfortable. 

Nasal pillow masks also allow for a clear field of vision and a minimal number of parts to clean and replace. The most popular styles include ResMed AirFit P10 and Swift FX.

ResMed AirFit P10 Nasal Pillow CPAP Mask

• Offers users 40 more minutes of sleep every night because of its quiet operation and comfortable fit

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Full Face CPAP masks cover both the nose and mouth. They are typically used by people who breathe through their mouth but don’t want to use a combination of chinstrap and nasal mask. 

The full-face mask is also very useful when nasal congestion occurs or if a person has difficulty breathing only through their nose. The most popular styles are the Philips Respironics DreamWear Full Face Mask, and the Fisher & Paykel Simplus.

Fisher & Paykel Simplus Full Face CPAP Mask

• Consists of only 3 parts for ease of use, ultra-quiet operation, and easy cleaning and replacing parts

Shop Now

Get answers to all your CPAP equipment questions from our knowledgeable customer care team at The CPAP Shop. Call us at 866-414-9700 or email

Chris Vasta


Chris Vasta

Over a 10+ year career at PHH Mortgage managing a $100 million portfolio, Chris Vasta learned the ins and outs of the business world. He learned how to establish business relationships, lead a multi-prong team, and implement strategies for long-term growth. In 2007, Vasta used that experience to transition his role into president of The CPAP Shop. Over his tenure, Vasta has been involved in everything from website design to warehouse layout. His hands-on approach with customers has evolved into an in-depth understanding of the challenges of beginning and adhering to sleep therapy. He often provides his insights on product…

8 Comments Leave new

  • Stanislav Zinovyev


    As a new CPAP user what I find I am struggling with two things one is that I have trouble falling asleep and sometimes even 45-minute timer isn’t enough. Also one of the main problems is that I have nose pillows and breath through my mouth, this causes to have extremely uncomfortable sensations which just waking me up even more. What would be the best mask for sleeping which will allow me to breathe through my mouth?

    Thank you.

  • Janice Peterson

    Does c-pap machine function better if lower than mattress of the user?

    • Chris Vasta

      Hi Janice, yes the humidifier specifically will operate more efficiently if it is placed at level with you or slightly below your mattress.

  • Janet

    I think the two things I have found hardest about using CPAP is falling to sleep with it, and finding a comfortable pillow so that my neck doesn’t get sore. I solved the first problem by going to sleep without CPAP and then putting it on when I get up to go to the toilet after an hour or two, by then I’m so drowsy it doesn’t bother me. I may not get the full 8 hours benefit but I figure it’s better than nothing. I still haven’t found the right pillow – even bought an expensive one for CPAP side sleepers but it’s too hard. Will keep trying!

    • Chris Vasta

      Hi Janet,
      Have you tried the ramp feature on your CPAP machine? This gives you a period of 45 minutes to fall asleep without the blast of the full air pressure you need at first. It ramps up over the time period. As for a pillow, if the side sleeper pillow has not worked out for you, maybe one of our other users may have some insight for you. Please feel free to comment about the best pillows to use with a CPAP mask! We may even make it a survey question for our users!

  • Fran Aird

    I have had a CPAP machine for almost 15 years – use the mask (not full face) and I have found that taking the hose and draping it over the head board so that the hose is up above your head and comes down instead of at the side, allows me to toss and turn without disrupting my sleep and I never get tangled up or have the hose interfere in any way. If your head board doesn’t allow for this getting a stand with a hook accessory should work just as well. My Friend has a swing lamp over her bed and uses it to accommodate her hose and it works great for her. Just thought I’d share with you.

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