Millions of Americans struggle with sleep apnea every night, and that is one of the reasons why CPAP machines have become so popular. If you have recently gotten a CPAP machine, then you might want to take a closer look at some of the most common mistakes that new users make.
Using the Wrong CPAP Mask
There are many different types of CPAP masks to choose from, and each option has its own pros and cons. Well before you use your machine for the first time, you should spend a little bit of time researching each type of mask. You should also speak with your doctor about the ideal mask for your situation.
Full-face masks are often what people picture when they think of CPAP masks. This is the mask that will cover both your nose and your mouth. It’s good for people who breathe through their mouth while they sleep. It’s also good for people who have congestion, so even if this isn’t your usual mask, you might try it out if you have a cold and are struggling to breathe with a nasal mask.
A nasal mask covers just your nose. People who toss and turn in their sleep often choose this type of mas. Your doctor may also recommend this type of mask if they have you on a high-pressure setting for your machine.
Nasal pillow masks are similar to nasal masks, but they cover less area on your face. They’re good for people who don’t plan on going to sleep immediately and want a wider range of vision. They’re also helpful for those who feel claustrophobic when wearing the other masks or who have facial hair that is irritated by larger masks.
No matter what type of mask you choose, you’ll need to ensure that you get the right size. Remember that, much like clothing, sizes are not standard in all brands, so you may have to try out a few masks to find the right size for you.
Not Properly Adjusting the Mask
Once you have found a mask that is the perfect size and shape, you will then need to spend some time adjusting the straps. Properly adjusting the straps is going to improve the efficiency of the machine and make you much more comfortable while you are sleeping.
If you don’t properly adjust the straps, you may experience mask leak, which is when air escapes from around your mask. There’s usually a little bit of planned leakage, which allows you to breathe out, but if more air escapes than planned, you can face some negative consequences. First, you won’t be getting the air pressure you need, which means you’ll likely face the same airway issues you had before you got your CPAP machine. Additionally, you may notice your eyes, nose, or mouth getting dry, which can be uncomfortable. Sometimes, the leaking air may make a whistling or hissing sound, which can keep both you and your partner awake through the night.
When you are adjusting your mask, you should move your head around in different positions to ensure that the fit remains tight and comfortable. It may take some time to find the right fit, so work on adjusting it every night so that it’s comfortable. It shouldn’t get loose at night, and it shouldn’t be so tight that you wake up with red marks in the morning.
Not Cleaning the CPAP Machine Regularly
Many new users are surprised to hear that CPAP machines must be cleaned regularly or they will build up bacteria and break down prematurely. A dirty machine could also make you sick or give you allergy symptoms. Finally, it can become an expensive mistake, too. If you haven’t cleaned it and it breaks down early, your warranty may be void.
As a general rule, CPAP users should plan on cleaning all of the tubes and fittings at least every week, though many sources recommend cleaning more often, sometimes as often as every day. You usually only need gentle soap and distilled water, though some people will also add a little vinegar to the solution. Using distilled water helps prevent mineral build up in the machine, and avoiding harsh chemicals helps to protect your lungs when you use the machine. In general, avoid washing your machine in the dishwasher.
You’ll disassemble the machine, removing any tubing, headgear, and other parts that can be easily removed. Soak these parts in your solution of water and soap. While they’re soaking, wipe down the exterior and clean out the humidifier and water chamber, if your machine has one. Depending on the type of machine you have, the water chamber may be removable, and if it is, you can remove it and wash it with the other removable parts. Then let everything air dry before reassembling the machine.
If your machine has a filter, you will need to replace it every so often. Your users manual will tell you how often to replace the filter.
In addition to washing the mask itself, you should also wash your face every night before you put the mask on. Keeping your face as clean as possible will limit the number of germs that you transfer to the mask and tubes.
Overusing an Old Mask
No matter what steps you take to maintain your mask, it will need to be replaced entirely at some point. The lifespan of your mask will depend on a wide variety of factors, and that includes its shape, your cleaning schedule, and how often it is used. If your CPAP machine is covered by your insurance provider, then you should check your policy to see how often they will pay for a new mask. In most cases, you should plan on replacing your mask at least once every three to six months.
Properly using your CPAP machine is going to have a big impact on your sleep and overall health. If you ever feel as if your CPAP machine isn’t working, then you should immediately schedule an appointment with your doctor so that you can discuss what problems you are experiencing.