100+ CPAP Comfort Hacks
The Most Important Factor in CPAP Comfort
A proper mask fit is the most vital part of CPAP therapy. If there is anything to spend more money on, it is the mask.
Seriously. If you need to spend less on a machine to get a mask that fits best for you, do it. This isn’t saying to buy the most expensive mask. Buy the mask that you think is the most comfortable and leakfree. You might be surprised, and since every face is different, there is no one-size-fits-all.
To get mask fitting right, we have to recommend a visit to a sleep clinic where you can trial more than one type. It will contribute to your success. At least for the 1st mask you get.
PS: Make sure to buy your mask from the sleep clinic that fits you, their service is highly worth it. i.e. Don’t buy your first mask online.
The 100+ CPAP Comfort Hacks
1) In each mask, there is an intentional leak to allow you to exhale through, as the CPAP system only has one tube to inhale and exhale from. This is called an exhalation port. It is important to make sure that this is leaking at all times, although, the mask should not be leaking in your eyes or under your nose. Make sure you ask your clinician where the intentional leak from the mask is coming from, as each mask is different. This leak will prevent you from re-breathing exhaled air, which can be dangerous.
2) A properly fit mask will not leave marks on your face for more than an hour. Make sure your straps are not too tight as this can not only lead to pressure sores but further leaking. It will depend on age and skin elasticity, how fast it returns to normal. Below are solutions to specific facial mark and pressure sore issues.
3) For facial marks related to your headgear you can use CPAP Strap Covers. They are very soft and will disperse the pressure exerted on your face (therefore reducing the marks). You can also seek a mask that has wider headgear straps, as the wider the straps, the more pressure distribution, the lesser the strap
4) For facial marks related to your mask you can get CPAP Mask Liners. There are reusable and single-use versions. Mask liners protect your skin from the irritation. If you experience chaffing or acne from your mask, mask liners can help with that.
5) For Neck irritation, you can use a CPAP Neck Pad. They are soft to the touch and will disperse the pressure exerted on your neck.
6) For forehead marks related to your mask, there are CPAP gel pads for this problem.
7) For marks on the bridge of your nose, both Gel Pads or CPAP
Mask Liners that can disperse the pressure over your nose and help prevent pressure sores in this area.
8) For Pressure Sores, you must treat them fast, or they will only get worse. Sometimes it means you need to just leave them alone. If you can use another CPAP mask that doesn’t touch this area until it heals, that would be most optimal. A simple bandage over the affected area can work. A product used in the hospital for this purpose is called Duoderm. You may also switch from one style of mask to another for a night until heals.
9) Sometimes a simple waterproof bandage over the problem spot may help.
10) Duoderm is a really good “second skin” that we’ve used with patients in the hospital that had pressure sores from their CPAP masks. Use it to cover the sore when the CPAP mask is on, but make sure to not pull the mask on too tight on subsequent nights. You can get this product from a well-stocked drug store.
11) If you cannot solve the problem by simple adjustments of the mask and headgear, you may need to get a different mask that better fits you for the long term.
12) It is normal to have some marks in the morning (just as you would have if you slept on a crease of the sheets). At first sight after removing your mask the marks will be at their worst, but the majority of them will diminish fairly quickly, depending on your age and skin's elasticity.
13) Rub your skin with your fingers in circular movements to increase the blood flow and stretch the marked skin.
14) Use skin concealers and foundation, but choose powder-based ones, as liquid ones can get into the creases and make the marks look worse.
15) If you feel like you are not getting enough air, first be sure that you have turned on the machine. A small amount of air does come out while the machine is warming up, but you need to turn the pressure on to get enough air. If the machine is on, you may have a mask leak that is letting most of the air escape. If this is the case, you can adjust the mask as your clinician has recommended or replace it.
16) If your mask leaks in your eyes from time to time and you suffer from dry eyes, try wearing an eye mask to bed. Not only will it help you sleep by darkening your sight, but also will help with protection of your eyes. (if not an eye-mask, use a low-profile tanning bed mask)
17) Do not block the exhalation port between the mask and the
connecting tubing from the device as this leak is your exhalation port. Position the port away from your bed partner as this leaking has sometimes known to annoy bed partners.
18) Mask Liners are great for anyone feeling uncomfortable where their mask rests on their face, providing an additional barrier for comfort too.
19) Mask liners protect your skin from the irritating silicone. If you experience chaffing or acne from your mask, mask liners can help.
20) Mask liners also reduce noisy air leaks and protect your skin from excessive moisture. The reduction in moisture reduces skin irritation and mask leaks.
21) The liner material also prevents the cushion from slipping and absorbing facial oils which tend to loosen the mask seal.
22) Mask Liners are available in Single-Use or Reusable, washable options.
23) In order to fit your mask, the same every time, take your headgear off by un-velcroing ONE side only.
24) Draw a line with a sharpie felt on your headgear to indicate where to pull the fabric through to. This will help prevent over tightening.
25) Always secure the lower straps before securing the upper straps, this will prevent over tightening the upper strap and causing pressure sores on the bridge of the nose (most common).
26) When putting on your headgear, make sure to pull the two sides of the headgear at the same time. This will help keep the mask centered on your face and prevent leaking.
27) If your headgear has narrow or irritating straps, invest in CPAP strap covers.
28) CPAP strap covers are usually wider than the headgear and more comfortable (made with fleece usually) and have been shown to help with red marks in the morning by distributing the pressure over a larger area.
29) Headgear becoming loose after repetitive use may cause a leak. Just run it under the tap with warm water for about 1 minute. Squeeze out water and leave to dry. This can return the headgear to its original form.
30) Most headgear options secure around the base of your neck. This can be irritating for patients as sometimes the material the headgear is made of will leave people itchy and irritates the skin.
Aerophagia or gas in stomach
31) Bloating can be a sign you are swallowing the CPAP air. There is no real medical solution, but we have found that your sleeping position may be a factor.
32) First, try sleeping as flat as possible, even without a pillow. If the bloating persists, try sleeping on your side or elevated.
33) Try to avoid swallowing air. If you’re new to CPAP, you may be swallowing air rather than breathing normally, which can cause bloating. When using your therapy device, breathe as normally as possible.
The biggest impact your facial hair has on your CPAP therapy is reducing the effectiveness of the seal for your CPAP treatment. Facial hair creates a barrier between your mask and your skin, which leads to increased mask leaks. This results in your CPAP therapy being less effective and your sleep apnea not being treated as effectively.
34) Consider shaving or trimming your facial hair. Completely shaving your facial hair will be most effective in improving your current mask seal but trimming down the thickness of your beard or mustache can help as well.
If You Have Tried Everything…
35) If your mask isn’t fitting right (leaking at night or causing skin irritation and pressure sores) first, try refitting the mask as your clinician has recommended.
36) Try a different size mask. If you can only get a good seal by
tightening the mask until it’s uncomfortable, then you may have the wrong size.
The reason that most CPAP machines come with a humidifier is because the pressurized air you are breathing is coming in a lot faster than room air. Our noses are our body’s mini “humidifier”. The nose has three jobs: to filter, heat and humidify the air we breathe. When the air passes so quickly from the CPAP machine to our lungs, the nose has to work overtime to do its job.
There are different types of humidifiers in CPAP machines. One is a pass-over humidifier. This works passively and is not heated. The air passes over water, picking up water droplets before it makes its way to your mask. The other is a heated humidifier, a heated water pot that adds heated water to the tubing, and therefore to you.
Using a Humidifier:
37) A CPAP heated humidifier can prevent a dry mouth and sinus problems caused by the stream of pressurized air.
38) A CPAP heated humidifier works by using a fine mist of warm or room-temperature distilled water to keep your nasal passages moist.
39) Ask your clinician to go over the operation of the humidifier with you in detail. Generally, the humidifiers range in scale from 1 to 5. The “lowest” setting is 1 and therefore, heats the water the least and results in less water output from the humidifier, leaving you feeling dry. The higher you place the humidifier setting on, the higher the humidity output, and therefore the more humidified the air you breathe. In our experience, most patients find a setting in the middle the most comfortable (3-4).
40) Remember that the temperature of the room can affect the
humidity output and the amount of condensation in the tubing as well. The colder the room, generally the more rain-out.
Using Distilled Water
41) Use distilled water only to fill your humidifier as it helps prevent mold and mineral deposit build up in your humidifier base.
42) Distilled water is the purest water and is recommended for the CPAP humidifier use to keep your machine hygienic and operating properly.
Heated Tubing Tips
43) Heated tubing can help prevent “rain-out” or condensation in the tubing caused by air cooling from the humidifier to the mask. Sometimes, condensation can get really bad and cause pooling of water in the tubing and your mask, leading to night time wake-ups.
44) Heated tubing helps with this as it heats the pressurized air all the way from the humidifier to the mask, preventing the process of condensation.
CPAP Hose Covers
45) CPAP hose covers in conjunction with heated tubing can greatly reduce the amount of condensation in your tubing, and therefore your mask.
46) Pick a CPAP hose cover that feels good on your skin as you will most likely contact this material in the night.
47) For a soft and super comfortable, washable, fleece CPAP hose cover, you can find various options of CPAP Hose Covers from our product line.
The Location of Your CPAP Machine is Important!
48) Place your CPAP machine 2 feet under the height of your
mattress. Gravity will prevent condensation from your CPAP machine entering your mask.
49) A neat trick to help with better rain out drainage is to use an old tie over the bed post. Thread the CPAP tube through the tie and down to the mattress. This results in no more drag on the mask and better rain out drainage. A CPAP hose clip can also help you with this.
50) A practical tip is to keep a bottle of water by your bed or a cup with a lid but only drink just enough water to wet your mouth, as drinking can cause you to inhale any liquid (or food) if taken too close to your sleep time and can aggravate acid reflux.
51) Use a straw to drink from as it will be easier with the mask on your face.
52) Increase your level of comfort by using a saline spray as a nasal moisturizer.
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize…
53) Another common problem a CPAP user experiences is skin irritation, such as dryness, cracking, and chafing, from the use of their CPAP mask. Use a CPAP moisture therapy cream and apply it to affected areas as often as needed.
54) Petroleum-based products should not be used with CPAP masks since most are made of silicone. Petroleum may break down the silicone on CPAP masks causing damage and therefore, shorten the lifespan of the mask. Petroleum-based products (like vaseline) are unsafe with the use of CPAP machines, especially those with oxygen tee’d into them.
55) CPAPhero's CPAP lotion, CPAP Balm, was made for patients on CPAP to help prevent and soothe skin irritation from CPAP use. It is petroleum-free, completely safe for CPAP users. Plus, it is packed with vitamin E which restores moisture and blocks free radicals and vitamin A & Aloe Vera to heal damaged skin and reduce inflammation. You can get it on our website.
56) The biggest thing about CPAP is to learn to accept its presence and be patient to stick with it. The reality is that the less you wear the mask, the harder it will be to get used to wearing it. It will take some time before you are fully accustomed to the feeling of wearing the mask in bed. CPAP is not a quick fix for your problem. It involves commitment to improve your sleep and health.
57) Give yourself time to get used to therapy. Acknowledge the effort that you made and commit to having a better night the next evening. Give yourself at least 6 weeks’ time to trial the CPAP machine. If you give yourself this time, you can work out any kinks. There will be kinks along the way.
Wearing the Mask When Awake:
58) Hold the mask to your face without it strapped on. Turn on your CPAP machine for 10 minutes and hold the mask in place while awake and watching TV.
59) If you have a RAMP option, your CPAP pressure will start lower and then ramp up until the prescribed pressure is reached. For example, if you are prescribed a CPAP pressure of 10 cmH20, and you choose the RAMP option, the machine will take some time to build pressure and may start as low as 4 cmH20. Press the RAMP button and allow yourself some time to breathe with the lower pressure to get used to the feeling. Over the course of 10-30 minutes, the CPAP machine will ramp up the pressure to the prescribed level. Most new CPAP users find the feeling of the pressurized air on their face very uncomfortable. It can feel like holding your head out of a car
window. In order to be able to fall asleep with the CPAP machine on, this is where the RAMP options can really help.
60) You can wear the mask while watching television or reading. The activity will distract you, while you get more accustomed to the feeling and any weight of the mask. NEVER attach yourself to the machine without turning the flow of gas ON as this can lead to rebreathing exhaled gas.
61) The use of a sleep log may help you focus on which of the insomnia triggers are most critical to address and solve, and those which can wait. It may also help you see subtle, but positive changes in how you are feeling with the use of CPAP. Keeping a sleep log is not all that difficult. You can use a notebook or a spreadsheet to do it.
Every MORNING after you get up write down the following information:
• What time you actually went to bed
• Estimate of how long it took you to fall asleep
• Estimate of how many times you woke up during the night
• Time you got up for the morning
• Estimate of total time you slept during the night
• Comments on how you feel upon waking up for the day
• Additional comments on any wakes that you feel were disruptive or problems you had getting to sleep
There are apps now that make this easier.
Don't Fight It
Lying in bed for hours while awake and fighting with the mask is counterproductive. It's teaching your body how to stay awake and resist the mask instead of sleeping with the mask
62) Allow yourself to spend about 30 minutes fighting the leaks or the mask straps or the feeling that you cannot stand to have the mask on your face. But at the end of 30 minutes, if you are not sleepy and still actively fighting with the mask, get out of bed, go into a different room and do something that will help you get your mind off the mask.
Sleep Hygiene Tips
Make sure that you're practicing good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene consists of practices, rituals, and choices that help you get to sleep on time, stay asleep longer, and have restorative sleep every night. If you develop healthy sleep habits and good sleep hygiene, you will take to CPAP easier and faster than those who don’t.
63) Exercise regularly and avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.
64) Eliminate non-essential electronics (cell phones, TVs) from the bedroom.
65) Decide on a nightly bedtime routine to get your mind and body ready for sleep.
66) Keep a consistent schedule for going to bed and waking up.
67) Perform relaxation exercises to assist with sleep. Learn more here: https://bit.ly/2K1V917
68) Improve your sleeping environment by purchasing a good mattress and pillow and making sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and the right temperature. It is recommended that your bedroom’s temperature is between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius. If you can’t control the noise or light of you room, invest in ear plugs and eye masks.
69) If you like your room darkened (most people do), Use black-out blinds.
70) Don’t go to bed until you feel tired. 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.
71) 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 alertness.
Breathing your way to sleep
72) You can breathe your way to sleep through your CPAP machine. Find a comfortable position in bed. Let yourself relax and start to notice your body and any sensations you feel. Feel the connection between your body and the surface you're lying on. Relax any tension and soften your muscles. Start to notice your breath and where you feel it in your body. You might feel it in your abdomen, your chest, or in your nostrils. Focus your attention on the full breath, from start to finish. If your mind is wandering, just notice that it has wandered and gently redirect it back to your breath.
73) Take a deep breath into your lower belly (not your chest) and feel your abdomen expand with air. Hold this for a few seconds and then release. Notice your belly rising and falling, and the air coming in and out a few times. Imagine the air filling up your abdomen, and then traveling out your airways, over and over. Continue to do this for a few minutes, focusing your mind back to your body and the breath coming in and out. Any time a thought crosses your mind, release that thought and refocus on the breath.
74) Minimizing noise will help you sleep at night. Most modern CPAP machines and masks are designed to be more and more silent. If your device is too noisy, check that is it set up correctly, the filter is clean, and the machine air-intake is unobstructed. If these things are all checked and working well, try wearing earplugs or masking the sound of the machine with relaxing ambient noise. You can also always use the CPAP hose cover to diminish the sound amplification in your CPAP tubing.
75) Essential oils can be enjoyed right from a CPAP machine. Enjoy the fragrance of lavender, or the sweet scent of cherry or oranges. These may help in calming your anxiety while using CPAP during night time. Pleasant smells induce strong feelings of calm, comfort, and relaxation. The sense of smell is part of the brain's emotional centers and cognitive distraction (the ability to exclude other distracting stimuli).
76) Some people tend to feel claustrophobic when using their CPAP. Having relaxing scents delivered through the machine can reduce the anxiety levels to reach a higher comfort level. Use your favorite essential oils applied to a diffuser pad and placed in front of the machine's air intake port. (Not on the actual filter inside the air-intake). However, a CPAP filter can easily be used as a diffuser pad, but it must not be used again as a CPAP air filter
NOTE on Oils:
77) You should NOT apply essential oils directly to the machine filter, because it could not only break down the machine filter, but it will also add air resistance to the machine making it work much harder than needed.
78) You should also NOT add the essential oil to the humidifier
chamber water, it can then potentially reach deep into your lungs when you are only supposed to use it as a scent for the receptors of smell.
Cleaning Your CPAP
79) Keeping your CPAP mask, tubing and humidifier clean are essential to your comfort on CPAP. If you are negligent and do not properly clean and wipe down your mask, tubing and humidifier you will open yourself up to infection risks.
80) Cleaning your CPAP mask is really easy! Use mask wipes daily in combination with soap and water every 1 to 1.5 weeks. For soap, use a mild dish detergent with warm water. Be very careful to not use disinfectants. They may damage your mask and gradually break down the soft silicone, a lot faster. CPAP mask wipes are designed to clean your mask daily and are a safe option for your mask.
CPAP Hose Cleaning
81) Cleaning your CPAP hose is a bit tougher and can sometimes be cumbersome using different buckets etc. Clinicians will usually recommend soaking the tubing in warm soapy water and then sterilizing it with a ⅓ white vinegar to water solution.
82) Many users are not sure if they have cleaned their tubing enough and are worried about what can be accumulating, and hopefully not “growing” inside. Use a CPAP Brush that is designed to clean the inside of the tubing.
83) Hang your hose to air dry for 12 hours. A good place to hang your CPAP tubing is over a shower rail.
84) Your humidifier should also be cleaned in a warm soapy water solution and then sterilized with a ⅓ white vinegar to water solution. You can also use a CPAP hose cleaning brush kit to brush the humidifier chamber clean as well.
85) Always change your filters as per recommended by your clinician, and more often as needed. It is recommended to inspect your filters daily for signs of discoloration. Sometimes, the slightest change in air pollution can change the filters dramatically. Dirty filters can not only open you up to infection but can actually cause your CPAP machine to malfunction!
86) Pollution adversely effects CPAP filters. We recently had forest fires in our area, and many patients had to go from changing their filters bi-weekly to daily!
CPAP Cleaning Machines
87) There are many different CPAP cleaning devices on the market. A SoClean machine can sanitize and clean all CPAP equipment (mask, hose, reservoir) in an automated fashion. Using the SoClean device will save you time and energy. The company claims that the machine destroys 99.9% of all germs and bacteria. You need to wipe down the mask and parts prior to use of a SoClean sanitizer. There are other cleaners now like the Soclean that use ozone, about half the size of a standard brick. You can place cpap tubing directly onto one end of it. However, there is question about the amount of ozone each produce and are the levels safe for the items that are being cleaned. I learned about this first hand when a company was presenting one of these devices (They look the exact same from multiple companies).
Travelling with CPAP
Once you’ve started using your CPAP every night, you will want to take it everywhere with you. Many patients on CPAP fear travelling as they think they will be unable to take their machines. The truth is, it can be very easy to travel with CPAP!
Here are some tips for you:
88) If your CPAP comes with a marine battery, make sure to ask the clinician how long it will last for. Many of the CPAP batteries are expensive. Try going to a local store that sells electronics or homeware supplies. You can get a battery which you can run your CPAP machine for much less. Make sure it is compatible with the voltage of your CPAP machine.
89) If you take a flight to your destination, you will need to take your CPAP machine in your carry-on luggage. To identify your CPAP machine, use a medical device luggage tag.
90) The above luggage tag can help identify your equipment for easy check in at security points. TSA guidelines state that Respiratory Equipment (CPAP or BiPAP machines) are allowable as carry-on luggage and should NOT be counted towards your carry-on allowance because they are medical necessities.
91) You can bring individually wrapped CPAP travel wipes on your trip to make sure your CPAP equipment is clean, on the go. You may not have access to buckets and sinks like you do at home, so CPAP travel wipes will allow you to keep your equipment germ free!
92) Most modern CPAP machines are lightweight, portable, and come with a specific carrying case. There are specific lightweight travel CPAP machines that are even more convenient to bring. Check with your provider for the best ones on the market. If you travel a lot, it may be worth it to purchase a specific travel machine.
93) Make sure you have all the proper adaptors and plugs for foreign countries.
94) Bring extra supplies (just in case your CPAP hose becomes
compromised with a hole or your mask cushion rips).
95) Remember to make sure your CPAP machine humidifier is
EMPTY. You do not want to destroy your CPAP machine with water spillage throughout the internal parts.
96) If you are flying overnight, make sure to look into the airline you are flying with and inquire about power outlets at your seat. Some CPAP machines come with car charger ports. The plane may have these type of power outlets as well.
97) A CPAP Pillow can aide in the comfort of wearing a CPAP machine at night. The pillows are designed to position your neck, so your airway is more likely to remain open during sleep. These pillows have contoured cut outs for side sleeping and allow room for the mask and hose apparatus of a CPAP machine. Studies have shown that these pillows may help with mild sleep apnea symptoms and increase the comfort of those using CPAP machines. A CPAP pillow allows you to sleep in different positions, where standard pillows do not adapt to the mask. A standard pillow cannot only cause leaking from your mask it also allows your head to tilt back and be unsupported while sleeping. This can result in pain in the joints of your jaw that feels like an earache when you wake up. By using a pillow specifically designed to contour and support your CPAP hose and mask it will keep your head and neck in the proper position and help to alleviate this pain
CPAP Hose Holders
98) CPAP hose clips can hook to a bed sheet, pillow case, nightstand, headboard, blanket and almost any other contraption at your bedside. This helps keep your CPAP tube from tangling into a knot or pulling away from your mask and causing accidental disconnections in the middle of the night. Get them here.
4 More CPAP DIY Tips
99) You can use a Ladies fabric headband for a chinstrap. Just make sure that the material is comfortable for you and the headband is large enough to fit under your chin and over your head.
100) Use the Hat-trick for CPAP. A baseball cap helps both the top and back straps of the CPAP mask stay on, particularly for people who are bald, (or going that way like myself). The hat adds space, helping to reduce facial strap marks. The bill of the cap can help “lock” the position of the CPAP mask-tubing, making the whole system more secure and lessening the likelihood of leaks AND if the cap is worn backwards, it will keep people off of their back, the worst sleeping position for those with sleep apnea.
101) Use hair-clips to support the mask in place by securing the headgear in your hair with hair clips.
102) If you are unable to curb dry eyes with an eye mask, try a narrow swim or tanning goggles.
If you start using your CPAP machine every time you take a nap or go to sleep at night, you will find it becomes easier and easier to sleep with the CPAP mask on. Keep in mind the benefits that await you; better sleep leads to improved concentration, mood and energy, in turn improving your overall health and well-being.
Tracking your CPAP use is important for your success with CPAP. You can track your CPAP use on your computer or phone – just like you would track your steps on a fitness tracker. Challenge yourself to use your CPAP a little more each night and track your progress online. The apps for the different CPAP machines will even help you set goals and provide words of encouragement.
There are likely CPAP support groups in your area, and even on
Facebook. If not, you can even start a CPAP support group in your community. Creating a community of CPAP users that understand the difficulty faced in treating their disorder can work wonders on helping uplift others that are struggling with similar issues. New patients can attend and get the extra help, guidance, and assurances they need to get motivated to continue therapy. Seasoned patients can help those
struggling by offering advice, tips and tricks, and share their own stories about their struggles wearing CPAP.