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October 8, 2013

CPAP Conundrum

Congratulations! You made it through the sleep study. You’ve gone to your doctor, who has prescribed a CPAP machine. You’ve received a CPAP and fitted mask from a Medical Equipment provider, and now you’re on your way home with visions of finally getting a good night’s sleep. Everything is going according to plan.

Let’s fast forward a bit to this evening. You’re ready for bed, you put on the mask as instructed by the Respiratory Therapist, turn on the machine as instructed, and close your eyes with thoughts of a wonderful night’s sleep. Then it starts, your mask is very uncomfortable, it makes noises every time you move, or you suddenly become aware that you are claustrophobic. After a night of fighting through the issues you feel worse than you did before you received all this “help”. Unfortunately this scenario is a common experience, which leads to 90% of CPAP users failing to comply with their recommended usage.

If you have been prescribes a CPAP then it’s likely that you’re aware of the importance of using your CPAP, and the health risks associated with not using it. Here at Breath of Life it is our goal to help you overcome these obstacles and achieve a restful night’s sleep. To help this process along, we’ve compiled a list of a few tips and tricks to help this process a little easier.

  1. Research, Research, Research! Always do your homework. Finding the perfect CPAP mask is just like buying a car or a new TV. Go online and research the different CPAP masks available. Respironics, ResMed, and Fisher & Paykel are three of the leading CPAP mask manufacturers. Additionally, you’d be surprised to find that one of the best sources of information is in the waiting room at your doctor’s office. Ask other patients what mask they use, what have they discovered that has helped resolve their own CPAP issues?
  2. Contact your equipment provider. Explain your issue and see if they have any suggestions. If you’ve found a mask you’d like to try it is likely that they can obtain the model you’re interested in. If your provider doesn’t carry that specific brand ask if they can special order it. If your provider has to special order a mask for you, realize that there may be some cost associated with obtaining the specific mask you are wanting. Many insurance providers do not cover higher-end CPAP masks; the cost falls on the patient. Many patients find that having a mask that works well for them is worth the additional cost. Your health is priceless.
  3. Make sure that the respiratory therapist who fits you for your mask does so while it is hooked up to your CPAP machine. This is a very important procedure that allows for you to see how the mask will feel when you are sleeping. If the mask is fitted with adequate pressure the RT can check for leaks by pulling on the hose that is attached to the mask and CPAP. The RT should pull the hose to the left side of your face, then to the right in order to locate any leaks. This procedure is done in order to hear the audible noises made from air escaping from the mask, the RT will then adjust head gear accordingly to stop the leakage. You should NEVER have to pull the straps on your head gear so tight that it hurts in order to stop leakage! A seasoned RT will know this procedure and make a good mask fit in a short amount of time.
  4. Desensitize yourself! A common practice known as ‘desensitizing’ allows your face to become used to your CPAP mask. Wearing your mask without it being hooked up to your CPAP for at least 1 hour during the day allows you to become accustomed to the sensation of the CPAP mask. This can be done while watching TV, or during your other normal daily activities. Doing this for the first 30 days after receiving your mask will greatly increase your comfort level with your mask. This is especially helpful when it comes to patients with claustrophobic issues. Also, remember to clean your mask after every use. The oils from your skin will break down the mask seal. Using a product such as Lysol disinfecting wipes work great for quick mask cleanings.

Hopefully these tips will be of great help in your quest for a good night’s sleep. Know that Breath of Life wants you to have success in your CPAP therapy. We are always available to answer any further questions you may have.

This post was written by Mark Sanchez, a former member of Breath of Life’s Austin, TX branch. Mark has over seven years of medical equipment experience and holds a wealth of knowledge in sleep therapy.