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5 Ways to Live With Your CPAP Machine

Adjusting to CPAP can help people with sleep apnea sleep better. Here's how to do it.

Learn All You Can About the CPAP

It's not enough for you to be handed a mask, machine, and instruction book, Kryger says. Ideally, a representative from the company providing the device should deliver it and demonstrate it.

Numerous manufacturers offer CPAP machines, so it's a consumer's market. Ask your doctor to request a representative and a demonstration when he writes the order for the machine. You can also take advantage of the manufacturers’ 800 numbers.

When the CPAP device is delivered, you and the representative can double-check that the machine and the mask are exactly what were ordered. With so many models and varieties, Kryger says, it's crucial to be sure you got what the doctor ordered.

You should learn what pressure is recommended for you and other basic facts about the machine. The representative should also be able to answer any questions you have or to get answers for you. 

Customize the System for You

CPAP machines are not one-size-fits-all. These tips can help you ensure your device is the right one for you:

  • Talk to your doctor about the best CPAP model for you. The premise of CPAP machines hasn't changed since they were introduced more than 25 years ago, Collop tells WebMD. "What's changed are the size of the machines and the loudness," she says. "The new machines are smaller than a shoe box. They are much quieter. Almost all the machines now have the capability of humidifying the air." Depending on the climate where you live, this may be an important feature for you. Ask your doctor about the different features that are available.
  • Get a CPAP mask that fits well. People often say they’ve given up on their device because it’s uncomfortable. However, that can typically be remedied by getting a different mask or other measures, according to sleep specialists. There are a wide variety of masks available. Kryger tells patients, "Make sure you have a comfortable mask."
  • If your CPAP machine seems outdated, try to upgrade. Typically, the devices are covered by insurance, Kryger says.
  • Tell your doctor about any symptoms you experience. If symptoms -- such as snoring -- that initially went away on CPAP start reappearing while using the device, get reevaluated, Kryger says. In about half of CPAP users, other side effects can occur -- such as nasal congestion, dry mouth, or skin irritation. Talk to your doctor to remedy these problems and make sure the machine is working as you need it to.

Stick With It

"It's not a cure," Collop tells her patients. "It's just a treatment. It only works if you wear it."

What's the harm if people miss a night or two -- say, if they’re on the road? "Whenever you sleep without it, you still have sleep apnea," she says. "If they miss a night or two, life will go on, but they will notice a difference."

If you make the effort to adjust to the CPAP device and wear it regularly, however, the payoff is big: "CPAP works for almost everybody," Collop says.

Not everyone with obstructive sleep apnea needs CPAP. If the condition is mild, other treatments may help. But if your apnea has progressed beyond a mild condition, CPAP can help give you back your sleep and improve the quality of your life.

Reviewed on January 07, 2011

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