Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) remains the firstline treatment for OSA in most cases. CPAP is a small machine with an internal motor and air filter that sits next to your bed. It keeps your airway open during the night by gently providing a constant stream of room air under a low pressure through a tube and into a mask that you wear while you sleep. The air pressure for your CPAP device is determined by an overnight sleep study and specifically set at a level which eliminates snoring and breathing pauses from sleep apnea so that you are able to sleep through the night without your body waking up from lack of oxygen. The CPAP mask may cover just your nose, your nose and mouth, or fit in your nostrils. Regardless of the chosen mask, it should be comfortable and provide a nice seal without air leak. Most patients treated with CPAP feel more alert during the daytime. Many also note improve mood and cognitive performance. CPAP helps prevent serious health problems from sleep apnea, such as heart disease and stroke.
Most patients take a least a couple of weeks to start to adjust to nightly CPAP therapy. The following tips may be helpful:
- Try using your CPAP for short periods of time while awake reading or watching TV in the evening to help you get used to the pressure and the mask.
- Make small adjustments to your mask, tubing, and headgear for proper fit and comfort; be sure to ask your equipment provider for assistance if needed.
- The “ramp” mode can help you fall asleep if the pressure feels too high when you first turn on the CPAP; this feature starts your device on a low pressure that will gradually increase over time.
- Take advantage of the heated humidifier that comes along with the device, particularly if you have a dry mouth/throat or nasal congestion; breathing warm, moist air often makes the therapy more comfortable.Use a nasal saline spray or decongestant if nasal congestion remains problematic.
- Schedule a regular time on your calendar for weekly cleaning of your equipment.