7 Tips For Proper Use of Your CPAP Machine

CPAP machineMore than 28 million Americans have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is usually treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. That means there are a lot of CPAP machines out there. As with any machine, there can be problems. Here are a few tips to make sure that you and your CPAP machine get along well.

  1. Leaking mask

If the CPAP mask begins to leak during the night, pull the mask gently forward to allow the mask cushion to reset, and then allow the mask to settle on your face.

  1. Dry, stuffy nose

If you are experiencing a stuffy nose:

  • Increase the heat setting on your CPAP heated humidifier.
  • Use saline nasal spray or mist before going to bed to help moisten nasal passages.
  • Contact your physician if nasal dryness or stuffiness persists.

  1. Dry mouth

  • Use a chinstrap, full-face mask or CPAP machine with a heated humidifier.
  1. Airflow sensitivity

Two features on nearly every CPAP device can help reduce your sensitivity to airflow or air pressure:

  • The Ramp feature programs the CPAP device to start at a lower pressure and slowly build up over a set time, usually from 5 minutes to 45 minutes. The idea is that you will be long asleep before the CPAP device reaches the prescribed pressure.
  • The C-FLEX (Respironics Pressure Relief Technology) or EPR (Resmed Expiratory Pressure Relief Technology) feature reduces the CPAP pressure every time the CPAP unit senses that the individual is exhaling. The goal is to provide the person with the capacity to exhale more deeply to help relieve the air pressure sensation. The feature ranges in settings from 1 (lowest) to 3 (highest), which generally correspond to pressure settings below the prescribed pressure.
  1. Removing the CPAP mask during sleep

New CPAP users often wake up during the night to discover that their CPAP mask is on the floor. Many new CPAP users have a pre-existing nasal congestion condition and, when they become more congested during the night, remove the mask.

  • Ensuring a good mask fit and adding an attached heated humidifier may help.
  • Try a chinstrap.
  • If this is a consistent problem, you may want to consider using the Mask Alert feature available on most CPAP devices. This problem seems to go away over time for most CPAP users.
  1. Your first week

Many new users become frustrated during the first week of CPAP use when they are unable to use the CPAP all night. Here are a couple of tips:

  • Focus on falling asleep comfortably while on the CPAP.
  • In the beginning, use the CPAP for 45 minutes to an hour before bed to help condition yourself to the machine pressure; you can read or watch television during use.
  1. Time and patience are the key to CPAP success

The best way to benefit from the CPAP machine is to use it every night. Contact your physician or durable medical equipment (DME) provider if you can’t resolve these problems.


Take the next step


Gary Jeromin, MA, RRT, LRT, is a Senior Supervisor, Respiratory Care, for MedEQUIP, the University of Michigan Health System’s full-range home medical equipment and respiratory provider.




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