8 Tips for Falling Asleep on CPAP

Can’t get to sleep with your CPAP?

Getting used to CPAP is different for everyone. Some people take to their therapy right away while others need more time to get comfortable.

Here are some important tips for adjusting to a CPAP mask and machine when you are trying to get to sleep: 

1. Ease yourself into your sleep therapy

Remember the goal is to make your therapy a key part of your health that you use every night. CPAP is the best treatment option for you at this point in time but it will only be of benefit to you when it is being used.

It is important to become familiar with your mask and feel comfortable wearing it. Try using your sleep therapy equipment for a few short periods during the day while you are awake. A good place to start is to wear your mask while you are watching TV or reading.1

2. Make sure your CPAP mask is comfortable 

The most common problems with therapy occur when your mask does not fit properly. If your mask is not fitting properly you may not be able to go to sleep as easily as you should.

Your ResMed Authorised Dealer will have set up all of your equipment’s settings to suit your sleep apnea needs, but you may need to make some subtle adjustments to your mask.

Adjustments to your mask, to improve seal and comfort, can be made during the day. In the first instance, stand or sit in front of a mirror with your mask on and make necessary adjustments to improve comfort. Once you have made adjustments for comfort connect your mask to the CPAP tubing, lie down and turn your machine on. Your face contour changes when you are lying down so this is a very important step in checking for seal and comfort. Some sleep apnea machines have a ‘Mask Testing’ mode that you can use to test seal and comfort. If not, a CPAP pressure of 10cmH2O is a good pressure to test for seal and comfort.1

If after making subtle adjustments to your mask you are still having trouble finding a mask seal that is comfortable you may need to contact or visit your ResMed Authorised Dealer to see if your mask’s fitting is right.

3. Maintain good sleep hygiene 

Improving your sleep hygiene is an important step to making your sleep therapy as successful as possible. So, before starting out on sleep therapy, make sure you are doing your best to maintain good sleep hygiene. What does this mean? This means making sure your lifestyle, habits and practices are all conducive to helping you sleep well on a regular basis.2

You can improve your sleep hygiene by making a few minor adjustments to your lifestyle and attitude.3

The following tips may help improve your sleep hygiene:

Listen to your body

  • Your body’s internal clock can provide accurate signals for when it’s ready to go to sleep. Make sure you listen to it!

For example:

  • Go to bed when your body signals to you that it’s tired.
  • And likewise, don’t go to bed unless you are tired. (See the next section for more detail)

Improve your sleeping environment

  • Have a good mattress and pillow.
  • If you are a side sleeper, there are specially designed pillows you can purchase that will help you to use your CPAP mask.
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and the right temperature.
  • It is recommended that your bedroom’s temperature is between 16 and 20°C.
  • If you can’t control the noise or light in you room, invest in some ear plugs and eye masks.

Avoid social vices like alcohol, coffee and mobile phones before bed. These can all affect your ability to have a good night’s sleep.5

4. Don't go to bed until you feel tired6

As mentioned in the previous section, it is important to only go to bed when you are tired. This is also true when starting out on sleep therapy.

If you head off to bed when you aren’t feeling tired, you may not be able to switch off. Add in the addition of something new and unfamiliar like a CPAP machine, and you might find it unusually hard to fall asleep. Your mind may keep you awake by thinking too much about your mask and machine.

5. Be relaxed when you go to bed

A busy, racing or worried mind will find it hard to go to sleep straight away. Throw in your therapy machine and mask, and you might start thinking it’s just impossible to go to sleep.

Do a few things that you find relaxing 1-2 hours before bed. We are all different, so do whatever works for you!

For example:

  • Take a bath (the rise, then fall in body temperature promotes drowsiness)5
  • Read a book
  • Watch television
  • Practice relaxation exercises

Avoid stressful, stimulating activities like doing work or discussing emotional issues. These kinds of activities can cause the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which is associated with increasing alertness6. If you tend to take your problems to bed, try writing them down and putting them aside. Also, don’t exercise just before bedtime.7

6. Use the Ramp setting on your CPAP Machine

Our machines have a ‘Ramp’ setting. When you have made your way to bed and fitted your mask, start up your machine. If the air pressure from your machine feels too high as you are trying to fall asleep, use the “ramp” mode.

The ramp mode will start your device on a low pressure and gradually increase the air pressure over time. This should help you fall asleep before the air pressure reaches its prescribed level.

So check what machine you have and if you are having trouble falling asleep before the air pressure increases, speak to your ResMed Authorised Dealer about increasing the ramp time. Find your closest Dealer here.

7. Breathe your way to sleep

Hopefully you are relaxed and tired once you have settled into bed. One of the last things to try now are some breathing techniques. The Sleep Foundation offers a simple breathing exercise that is designed to help you relax and sleep.

8. Switch it off before bed

Using technology such as texting, checking e-mail, scrolling through social media at night directly before bed can keep you lying awake for longer at night. Even watching television can stimulate the mind and promote alertness, just the opposite of what you need to go to sleep.

It’s important to switch off any devices one hour before bed. This will help your mind and body prepare for restful sleep.

Remember, it takes a while for most people to get comfortable using a CPAP device and mask every night. Be patient with yourself. Doing all of the above steps will give you a good chance of being successful on sleep therapy.

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References