CPAP Compliance for Women Sleep Apnea Patients

CPAP Compliance for Women Sleep Apnea Patients

Although men are more likely to have sleep apnea than women, the gap has closed significantly over time. What is also unfortunate is that the gap between those diagnosed and undiagnosed, as well as the gap between patients who are complying with their CPAP therapy and those who are not, are wide and closing far too slowly.

As more studies are done targeting women and sleep apnea, researchers are finding that women with the condition have a more diminished autonomic response than men. With CPAP therapy still the most effective treatment of sleep apnea, its positive effects on restoring autonomic functionality in women are being explored and verified.

There has been significant research showing the body’s autonomic response. It is responsible for controlling blood pressure and heart rate. Sweating is weaker in people with sleep apnea. A UCLA School of Nursing study discovered that this weakened autonomic response is even more diminished in women. The study, which appeared recently in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE, utilized three recognized physical and breathing tests with a study group of men and women with and without sleep apnea.



The heart-rate results for these tests show that the impact of sleep apnea on autonomic functions, while significant in men, is more severe in women. This may mean that women are more likely to develop symptoms of heart disease. The good news is that CPAP therapy is widely believed to help improve this condition in women. The low CPAP therapy compliance due to feelings of restricted movement and discomfort with some masks is one of several non-compliance determining factors.

Leading manufacturers have responded with several CPAP masks for women that take into account smaller features. They also provide greater freedom of movement, lightness of the apparatus, field of vision, and most of all, comfort. Preferred masks are the nasal and pillow masks by a significant number of women with sleep apnea. So, manufacturers have taken the best aspects of each while eliminating many of the detractors to comfort, simplicity, and freedom of movement.

These manufacturers have incorporated minimalist designs and superior seals. They're also soft, breathable, and pliable materials, and an open field of vision for reading, watching TV, or wearing glasses. Very quiet functionality is also paramount as well as hassle-free movement in every direction. Even accommodation for varying facial sizes and features has been taken into account.

Incorporated into this new breed of CPAP masks for women are the simplicity of assembly, disassembly, and cleaning. The goal is to encourage CPAP users to easily adapt and continue CPAP therapy so they receive the maximum benefit from their treatment.

Among a plethora of CPAP masks for women is the ResMed Swift FX Nano for Her. It combines the comfort of their popular Swift FX nasal pillow with the stability of a soft nasal cushion. Another CPAP mask designed with women in mind is Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Pilairo™ Q nasal pillows mask. This one integrates a new self-inflating AirPillow™ Seal into its minimalist design.

Although a hybrid mask, the Philips Respironics Wisp Nasal CPAP mask has become popular. It merges the performance and comfort of a nasal mask with the preferred minimalist design of a pillow mask. Finally, the Aloha Nasal Pillow CPAP Mask from Devilbiss with Headgear is also extremely lightweight. They have an exclusive system that allows the end-user to adjust the angle and depth of the nasal pillows. This provides greater comfort and seal. These are only a few of the increasing number of CPAP masks for women.

Sleep apnea affects more than 20 million adults in the U.S. It also brings higher risks of several severe health issues. With the acknowledgment through research and sleep health experts that the needs, symptoms, and diagnosis disparities for women are unique to them in many ways, manufacturers and the healthcare continuum are working to address these issues collectively and separately.

How To Check CPAP Compliance For Women Sleep Apnea Patients

Is the User Comfortable with The Design?

For most patients just starting with CPAP therapy, including women, getting accustomed to sleeping and breathing pressurized air and wearing a mask while they sleep can be uncomfortable. During this initial time is when most people stop using CPAP. To stay CPAP compliant, patients should explore all options for their CPAP therapy including the design of the equipment they use. Look at different CPAP machines including APAP and BiPAP as options, which can help first-time users get used to CPAP therapy. Try different mask types to find one that is most comfortable and consider humidification if you experience side effects from CPAP therapy.

CPAP Treatment and Sleep Study

Getting a proper diagnosis and seeking out proper treatment can help women sleep apnea patients stay compliant. Make sure you are following the prescribed CPAP settings provided by your doctor. Do not choose settings for comfort only as you may not be CPAP compliant with that choice. Understand the results of your sleep study. Know the severity of your sleep apnea and why specific treatment options such as CPAP machine settings are critical for staying compliant.

The more educated a patient becomes about sleep health and sleep apnea the more they can focus on staying CPAP compliant. Not understanding can lead to reduced use of their CPAP machine and possibly increased severity of symptoms.

Acquiring Health Reports

Staying tuned into your sleep health is one of the best ways you can know if your CPAP therapy is working effectively. Look at health reports to see if there are improvements in your sleep. Many CPAP machines include options for recording and maintaining archives of your sleep pattern data. You can review the data nightly to see where you are losing sleep. In many instances, you can submit this data directly to your doctor for review. Work closely with your doctor to see what improvements or adjustments to your CPAP therapy can be done to help you have the best CPAP compliance.

Follow Up

Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor questions. Know when you need to make adjustments to your CPAP therapy and always be ready to inform your doctor about discomfort during CPAP therapy. Your doctor can help you find better equipment if you are experiencing any comfort issues during therapy. They can recommend different masks, machines, and other alternatives that can help make CPAP therapy more comfortable. The doctor knows that when you are not comfortable with CPAP, you will most likely not use it.

So, it is important to always keep a good line of communication with your doctor on all things related to your CPAP therapy. You don’t have to handle it all by yourself.

End Points

CPAP therapy is not the only way you can stay CPAP compliant. You can also choose to make lifestyle changes that can help enhance your sleep health and improve compliance. For better sleep you can:

Avoid alcohol close to bedtime - Alcohol does not help sleep. It can disrupt normal sleep patterns.

Quit smoking - Smoking irritates and inflames the airway which can aggravate sleep apnea symptoms.

Keep a consistent sleep schedule - Maintaining a regular bedtime every night helps your body prepare for sleep. Avoid erratic sleep schedules.

Relax your mind before bedtime - A racing mind can be disruptive to sleep. Try meditation or even yoga to help relax your mind a few hours before it is time to go to bed so you can sleep peacefully.

Key Takeaways

Taking control of your sleep apnea management can ensure you achieve CPAP compliance. The importance of compliance is related to your sleep health and your overall health. Just like anyone would focus on diet and exercise to help health issues, so to women must focus in on the best ways to attain and maintain good sleep health. Speak to your doctor and stay aware of changes in your sleep patterns to better understand how to keep sleep apnea symptoms under your control.

For additional information on various topics concerning sleep apnea and CPAP products, please refer to our blog. It has updates constantly and offers free advice and information.  If you’d like to learn more about the quality sleep apnea products we carry, call us at (866) 414-9700. 

Chris Vasta

Chris Vasta is the president of The CPAP Shop and an expert in sleep and respiratory therapy. He often provides insights on product design and functionality on various manufacturers’ prototypes and is frequently tapped to provide reviews on new releases.