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Get to Know Your Gear continued...

Remember, too, that your doctor and sleep specialist can help you make sure everything works and fits as it should.

“It’s like wearing shoes. You buy a new pair of shoes, they’re initially going to chafe or hurt you. Or a new pair of glasses -- you become very conscious of them,” says Sairam Parthasarathy, MD, medical director of the Center for Sleep Disorders at the University of Arizona. “But after a while, it becomes second nature. You put it on without thinking.”

Noise: In the old days, CPAP machines were clunky and loud. Instead of a whoosh, it was more of a WHOOSH. Some made metallic, clicking sounds.

But that was then. Machines today are smaller, quieter, and much less noticeable. Many brands are near-silent. That’s a bonus not only to CPAP users, but their bed partners, too.

Pressure: Machines have different air pressure settings. Some of them vary it depending on whether you’re inhaling or exhaling. Your doctor will help you figure out the level that’s comfortable for you and helps you the most.

Dryness: Some CPAP users say all that forced air dries out the nose and mouth. Many machines have humidifiers to fix that. Some even heat the moist air.

Trouble breathing through your nose: If you feel stuffed up from allergies, sinus problems, or a physical issue with your nose, you may have trouble using a CPAP machine. But the problem usually goes away when you treat your congestion, whether with medicine, allergy treatments, or sometimes surgery.

“A lot of people have nasal obstruction or congestion and they don’t even know it.” Parthasarathy says. Treatment for those problems makes CPAP work much better for them.

Learning to Love CPAP

For most people, these devices are the best way to treat obstructive sleep apnea. The challenge for doctors and sleep specialists is to convince the wary that they’re better off with one than without it.

Aside from poor Zzz’s, though, people who don’t get treatment for the problem face a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, and other health problems.