Common sleep apnea treatment complaint: Getting used to a CPAP machine

Getting started on sleep apnea treatment isn’t always easy. Despite the positive life changes it can bring, nearly 1 in 5 quit using a CPAP machine within five years.1 Sleeping with a mask, tubing and constant air pressure can take time to adjust to. Thankfully, there are some tips that can help make getting used to CPAP therapy easier.

Wear your CPAP mask during the day

It can be hard to fall asleep wearing a CPAP mask, especially if you’re not used to wearing it. To help make it easier to fall asleep, try wearing your mask before bedtime so you can get used to the mask by itself. Try these tips to help you get used to wearing your CPAP mask during the day:

  1. Hold the mask in front of your face without the headgear and tubing. Breathe normally for 1 minute.
  2. Then connect the mask to your CPAP machine, turn the air on and hold it in front of your face for 1–2 minutes (still with no headgear). Focus on breathing normally. If the air pressure is uncomfortable, remove the mask from your face and try again after a few minutes.
  3. Now put your headgear on, sit and practice breathing through the mask and air pressure for 2 minutes at a time.
  4. Try building up to wearing your mask for longer periods of time. You can read or watch TV with your mask, headgear and air pressure on, aiming to have it on for 30 minutes at a time.

Sleep with your CPAP mask in stages

Once you’re comfortable wearing your mask before bed, you can try to use CPAP for sleeping. Remember, it’s ok to start slow. Try these steps below to help ease into using your CPAP therapy to sleep.

  1. Start by trying to sleep with your CPAP machine during a daytime nap.
  2. You don’t need to wear your mask for the entire duration of your nap initially. It’s ok to use it for just 30–60 minutes on your first attempt. Try to add 30 minutes of use each time you use it. You can even make a game out of it to help you stay motivated. You can use the ResMed myAir™ app to help you track your progress.
  3. Keep a diary of your efforts and challenges. This can help you see how far you’ve come, notice when issues become trends that need addressing and embrace the idea that CPAP therapy is a process.
  4. Involve your friends and family and ask them for support. Research shows that people are more likely to stay on treatment if their families are supportive2 and if they continue sleeping with their bed partners at night.3

Set up your CPAP machine and equipment before bedtime

When you’re tired at the end of the day and are ready to go to sleep, adding an extra step to your routine can be a hassle. Instead of waiting until you’re ready for bed to get your CPAP equipment ready, have everything set up and ready to go:

  1. Set up your mask, tubing and machine at your bedside during the day. If you have a humidifier, have distilled water ready as well.
  2. Buy your cleaning supplies before you start sleeping with CPAP and set them up where you’ll clean your mask and humidifier.
  3. Clean your CPAP mask and other equipment in the morning when you get up so it’s clean, dry and ready to use when you get ready for bed.

Give yourself time to get used to a CPAP

Remember that it’s ok to give yourself time to get used to therapy. Adapting often takes patience and perseverance. Your body needs time to adjust to the therapy and may not feel better right away, but it’s important to not give up. If you ever feel discomfort or that something’s not right, talk to your doctor or home medical equipment (HME) provider right away.

This blog post contains general information about medical conditions and potential treatments. It is not medical advice. If you have any medical questions, please consult your doctor.

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