Relaxation Techniques for CPAP Therapy

Relaxation Techniques for CPAP Therapy

November 9, 2023 | |

There are countless reasons why individuals experience stress.   However, for most, a good night’s sleep can help stress melt away. It can also leave us feeling revitalized to take on the day’s challenges. For patients who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, additional stress may be added due to uncertainty over the quality of their sleep.

When sleeping can already be a challenge, OSA patients truly need to be in the right mindset when it’s bedtime. Whether you’re stressed about in your life or about getting a good night’s sleep, there are relaxation techniques to help calm your body for bedtime.

What Is CPAP Therapy?

CPAP or, continuous positive airway pressure therapy, is a treatment method for patients who have sleep apnea. CPAP machines use mild air pressure to keep the airways open and are typically used by patients who have breathing problems during sleep. More specifically, what CPAP therapy helps accomplish is making sure that your airway doesn't collapse when you breathe while asleep.

CPAP therapy includes a mask that covers your nose and mouth, a mask that covers your nose only, or even prongs that fit into your nose. A tube connects the mask to a CPAP machine. The CPAP machine blows pressurized air through the tube and into the mask to keep your airway open while you sleep.

Benefits of CPAP Therapy

CPAP therapy helps reduce or eliminate the common symptoms of sleep  apnea. Most patients who choose CPAP therapy find that they have better and healthier sleep and feel more refreshed and awake in the morning. CPAP therapy can reduce the loud snoring associated with sleep apnea. CPAP therapy will also help reduce other symptoms of sleep apnea such as morning headaches and dry mouth. Most importantly, because CPAP therapy improve sleep, it can help improve overall health. Poor health may be directly related to sleep deprivation. By improving sleep, health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes and depression may also improve.

Start Your Bedtime Routine an Hour Before 

Start your bedtime routine an hour or so before it’s actually time to go to sleep by doing a relaxing activity. A favorite suggestion is to curl up with a good book. Watching television can also be a relaxing activity, but some find that staring at a screen stimulates your mind.  If so, turning off the TV an hour before bedtime should prove to be helpful. Also, avoiding foods or drinks that include sugar or caffeine is a must. That’s because they can ramp your body up rather than calm it down. 

As the desired bedtime approaches, it may be beneficial for you to take a nice hot shower or bath. The warm water eases any tension you might be feeling. Additionally, the rise and fall in body temperature can help you unwind. Using lavender-scented soap has been known to be a calming and relaxing scent. 

Do Relaxation Exercises to Improve Therapy

Relaxation exercises such as yoga or breathing exercises can decrease anxiety and improve your chances of getting a restful night of sleep. With the right stretches, you can open up your breathing passages while simultaneously decreasing your heart rate and blood pressure. If you are new to yoga, start out by performing a cat pose (marjaryasana). You can do this by getting on your hands and knees, and then curving your back upwards towards the ceiling. This pose is most efficient when your hands are directly under your shoulders and your knees are directly under your hips. 

After holding the cat pose for a few seconds, switch to the child’s pose (balasana) by staying on your knees, and then lowering your bottom so that you’re sitting on your feet. Then, lean forward so that your forehead is resting on the ground. Breathe deeply and allow your body to continue to calm down. Finally, try the corpse pose (savasana) to achieve maximum relaxation.

Simply lie on your back with your arms slightly off to the side and your palms facing upwards. Allow your ankles to fall outwards. For the best results, stay in this position while breathing deeply for five minutes.

While performing these poses, you may also want to practice doing the hissing breath (ujjayi pranayama) to stimulate oxygen flow to your brain, open your lungs, and potentially improve the symptoms of your sleep apnea. Inhale calmly, but sharply, through your mouth so that you can feel the air rushing across your windpipe.

Then, exhale through your mouth as though you were trying to use your breath to fog a window. By including these tips in your bedtime routine, you’re more inclined to have a restful, stress-free sleep. 

Benefit Of Relaxation Exercises 

Relaxation exercises help prepare your body and mind for a restful sleep. Often anxiety or urgent thoughts from events that happened during the day can keep us awake. Relaxation exercises help us let those urgent thoughts go and focus on relaxation and rest.

Relaxation exercises also have a physical benefit. When you relax your mind, your body relaxes also. Tight muscles from anxiety can make sleep difficult. Urgent thoughts can keep our heart pounding at a rapid pace. By relaxing the mind, muscles relax, and the heart rate slows. Our breathing rate slows, and we ease more comfortably into a restful sleep.

Stretching And Cardio 

Stretching and cardio exercises help release pent up energy that can keep you awake and help your body prepare for rest. These types of relaxation exercises can be performed daily and intermittently throughout the week in the morning or early evening. Stretching helps flex and relax the muscles and relieves tension. When you finish any cardio routine, you feel relaxed as energy is dispelled. A combination of both stretching and cardio exercises can help improve sleep.

Meditation And Sleep Apnea 

Meditation is a natural way to help manage your sleep apnea. Doing meditation exercises before bedtime calm the mind of racing thoughts and help reduce the patter of a racing heart. It helps you focus on relaxing thoughts and imagery and assists in removing anxious preoccupations from your mind before bedtime.

You can follow any series of meditation exercises. Most involve breathing practices through the nose and mouth and focusing exercises to dispel anxious mental energy.

Oropharyngeal Exercises 

Oropharyngeal exercises help reduce snoring. Eight minutes of oropharyngeal exercises performed three times a day significantly reduced snoring for sleep apnea patients. Use the following exercises nightly:

  • Push tip of tongue against hard palate and slide tongue backward (20 times).
  • Suck entire tongue up against palate (20 times).
  • Force back of tongue against floor of mouth while touching tip of tongue to bottom incisors (20 times).
  • Elevation soft palate and uvula while intermittently saying “A” (20 times).
  • Place finger in mouth while pressing buccinator muscle outward (10 times per side).
  • Chew and deglutinate on both sides of mouth whenever eating. Avoid perioral contraction.

Maintain Good Sleep Hygiene

Maintaining good sleep hygiene simply means following consistent sleep best practices. They include:

Following a consistent bedtime schedule. Erratic schedules can lead to sleep deprivation.

Avoid daytime napping. Naps impact your normal sleep schedule and can leave you wide awake at night.

Don’t stay awake in bed more than 5-10 minutes. When you go to bed you should be ready to go to sleep. Lying awake can lead to urgent thoughts that may keep you awake.

Avoiding watching TV, using your computer or phone or reading in bed. While these are common habits, they can keep you awake and are not helpful to good sleep.

Avoid caffeinated beverages near bedtime. Coffee, tea and caffeinated soft drinks are stimulants that can keep you awake.

Make sure your bedroom is comfortable. Set room temperature to a cooler setting to promote good sleep. Make sure you are using a comfortable mattress and pillows.

Relax Before You Go to Bed

Your goal should be to relax before bedtime. That means do not perform any activities that might keep you awake. TV and computers use blue light which can trick your brain into thinking it’s time to be awake. So avoid these electronic devices near bedtime. Stretch or meditate before going to bed. Perform breathing exercises to relax. Follow your bedtime ritual so that your body understands it is time for sleep.

Activates such as conversations or arguments can upset you and should be avoided near bedtime. Leave topics of conversation for the morning. Unresolved arguments can leave urgent thoughts spinning in your head and lead to poor sleep.

Do Not Go to Bed Until You Are Exhausted 

While it is good to keep a consistent sleep schedule, there may be times when you are not yet tired enough to go to sleep. Do not force sleep if you are not ready. Keep a sleep schedule that works for you and never go to bed earlier than you are comfortable.

Perform other activities that might help you relax. Try not to exercise before bed as that can be too stimulating. Reading is good but should not be done in bed. Some moderate stretching exercises or even yoga can help dispel any energy and help you feel more tired and ready for sleep.

Make Your CPAP Mask Comfortable 

The CPAP mask is one of the most important parts of your CPAP therapy. CPAP masks should always be comfortable and fit well when you start therapy. Make sure that you are using a CPAP mask that works for you. Many sleep apnea patients try out different types of masks from full-face masks to nasal masks to nasal pillow masks before they find the right one.

Make sure that you have made all the necessary adjustments so that the mask fits securely. Use the fitting guides provided with the CPAP mask. A poor-fitting mask can lead to leaks and make CPAP therapy less effective.  Never overtighten a mask. If you have to overtighten to ensure a good seal, then the mask may not be fitted properly or may be too old. An old mask should be replaced. Follow your mask manufacture guidelines for when to replace an old or worn out CPAP mask.

Start Getting Used to CPAP Therapy 

The hardest part of CPAP therapy is getting used to it for the first time. It is unnatural to wear a mask while you sleep and to breath pressurized air. Many new patients will give up on CPAP therapy because of the discomfort.

But the benefits of CPAP therapy outweigh the discomfort, which can eventually become normal with time. To get adjusted to CPAP therapy you can use auto CPAP machines. Often the high pressure setting prescribed by a doctor can be difficult to get used to. Auto CPAP machines start at a very low pressure setting while you are trying to fall asleep. As you fall asleep, the auto CPAP machine will adjust to the prescribed pressure setting you need.

Some patients use a BiPAP machine, which adjusts the pressure setting on both your inhalation and exhalation. Often this simple adjustment is more comfortable for new patients and helps them breathe easier at the beginning of CPAP therapy.

Make Slight Changes to Your CPAP For Your Comfort

CPAP therapy is always an on-going learning experience for you and your doctor. If your prescribed pressure setting is too high for comfort you can talk to your doctor about adjusting the setting until you get used to that pressure. You can also try out different types of CPAP masks. Everyone is different and there is a variety of types and brands of CPAP masks available for patients to try to see what fits most comfortably.

Try changing your sleep schedule to see if that helps make CPAP therapy more comfortable.  Also changes in your bedtime ritual can often make CPAP therapy easier and less of a burden.

Where Can I Buy CPAP Equipment for A Relaxing CPAP Therapy?

You can find most reliable CPAP equipment from CPAP machines of all types along with hoses and CPAP masks at most medical supply stores. For more convenience, you can also shop online. At The CPAP Shop our knowledgeable staff can help you select the CPAP machine that best fits your therapy needs. You can discuss relaxation issues, your prescription and all the essential accessories so that they can help you select the best equipment for your CPAP therapy.

This post was originally published on May 24, 2018, and updated on November 9, 2023.

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.