Those struggling with obstructive sleep apnea need a cure.
The most common treatment prescribed in the U.S. today is the CPAP machine and masks. This involves the use of a small mask that goes over your mouth and nose. This mask delivers a continuous stream of air into your airways via your nose and mouth. This keeps your airways open and a steady flow of oxygen while you sleep.
Sounds great, right? Not necessarily.
While the CPAP machine is considered the gold standard of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, it doesn’t come without its problems. A meta-analysis of 27 studies found that 50% of CPAP users stop using it, for a variety of reasons that we will cover in this article. For example, in a 2008 study, 56% of CPAP users complained of nasal discomfort and airway dryness.
Common Problems and Solutions For CPAP Machine Users
It’s estimated that one in 15 adults in the U.S. today has obstructive sleep apnea while 80 percent of whom are undiagnosed. For those who are diagnosed, the most common treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). But unfortunately, this treatment isn’t a one and done solution.
In other words, CPAP machines have various issues associated with their use. As per some CPAP users, it can affect other components of your health and wellbeing; from sexual intimacy to face wrinkles for instance.
In this article, we’re going to cover some of the most common problems associated with CPAP machines to let you know that you are not alone in your journey to better sleep. We are here to help you.
CPAP machine and sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition characterized by blocked airways, which prevents continuous breathing. Those with this condition struggle to sleep soundly, some waking up 30 times every hour. This is due to interrupted breathing, which causes choking or gasping for air, forcing you awake. Studies have shown that this can happen up to 400 times in one night.
Common complaints of CPAP and what you can do about them
CPAP machine and dry mouth
Around 40% of CPAP users report dry mouth. This is caused by the dry air going into your airways and possible mask leaks. Mask leaks happen if your mask doesn’t fit properly, or if your mouth drops open while sleeping. A dry mouth can be uncomfortable, which is why it’s a common reason for quitting CPAP.
Here are some solutions:
- Get a humidifier attachment – this is particularly effective if you live in a dry climate
- Check the mask fits properly – no gaps!
- Try a chin strap – this prevents your mouth dropping open
CPAP machine and face changes
There is some limited evidence that suggests long term CPAP use can cause visible lines, wrinkles and changes to the face structure. Due to the pressure of the mask, indents can form on the skin, which overtime lead to permanent wrinkles.
But interestingly, other research has contradicted this evidence. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that in a group of participants, CPAP therapy can help to improve physical appearance.
After two months of monitored treatment, the participants’ faces were less puffy and red, and more alert and attractive. This is likely due to having better nights of sleep.
The CPAP cushion of the mask can build up dirt and oil from your skin. If this isn’t cleaned properly, it can cause friction and breakouts. To prevent breakouts, make sure to wash the mask daily.
CPAP machine and sex
One of the more common complaints of CPAP pertains to sexual intimacy. Check out this article we wrote about sleep apnea and relationships.
CPAP machines may affect your sex life because they are, by design, creating a physical block between you and your partner. In addittion, users of CPAP may feel embarrassed by their condition, particularly in new relationships. There are some solutions to this, with the most effective being open communication.
Research shows that open communication is one of the key predictors of successful relationships. This can be your opportunity! Explaining to your partner how you feel will open up a line of communication to discuss ways around the problem. For instance, getting close before going to the bedroom, or only using the CPAP mask after spending time together.
That being said, research has found that statistically those who use CPAP machines report increased sexual function and satisfaction. This is likely because sleep deprivation decreases levels of sex hormones and thus, libido.
CPAP machine and alcohol
When you’ve had a few drinks, you want to hit the sack without fiddling around with your CPAP machine. However, this can be a major error! Studies show that drinking alcohol exacerbates sleep apnea, and not using your CPAP mask while intoxicated can be dangerous.
If you do enjoy to drink and don’t want it to impact your CPAP adherence, here are a few useful tips:
- Drink a glass of water with every alcoholic beverage – this counteracts the dehydrating effect of alcohol
- Stop drinking alcohol two hours before bed as this will allow your body to metabolize some of the alcohol to lessen its effect on breathing
- Try an auto CPAP machine – according to CPAP.com, if you intend on drinking frequently, using an auto CPAP machine may be better suited to you. For instance, it can detect and increase pressure to make sure you get the necessary pressure throughout the night.
In conclusion, it can be difficult to get used to wearing a CPAP mask. A Wesper user quoted
“I struggle with my mask, only sleeping with it like 3 hours a night. I’m not good at sticking to it.”
Other issues could include:
- Increased risk for respiratory infections
- Inability to change positions during sleep, which can lead to stiffness.
- Irritation from the mask on the face.
But hang in there – it’s estimated to take longer than four weeks to get acclimated.
So if you are finding it uncomfortable, claustrophobic or embarrassing, know that you are not alone.
In other words, the good news is that it gets better, and it will be worth it.
A CPAP machine is linked to better energy levels, mood, sex drive, blood pressure, work productivity, and general health.
Keep going, we believe in you 🙂