CPAP masks are like shoes - you may have to try on a few before you find your favorite. Try a number of different masks until you find one that is comfortable to use. A comfortable CPAP mask is the most important component of successful CPAP compliance.
Newer CPAP machines have settings that allow the patient to control not only the level of humidification but also the temperature of the humidification. Since winters are very dry in Alaska we suggested that everyone use some level of humidification during the winter. Using the humidification can cut down on dry mouth in the morning as well as make the CPAP pressure itself more tolerable. Heated humidification can also reduce and/or eliminate mouth breathing thru a nasal mask. This is in part due to the nose being a natural humidifier, but because of the increased amount of air going thru the nose without heated humidification, the turbinates in the nose can become irritated and inflamed. This causes a decreased laminar flow, thus the person begins to breathe thru their mouth. As they air escapes thru the mouth the machine tries to compensate for the leak increasing the flow thus causing more air to escape thru the mouth which in turn minimizes the effectiveness of the treatment. Heated humidification is probably second, only to a good mask, in improving adherence to CPAP.
2. Check your pressure
Like any machine a CPAP can lose calibration. Most sleep clinics will test your machine pressure for free. They use a pressure manometer to make sure that the pressure you have been prescribed is the pressure that you are getting from your machine. A slight change in your prescribed pressure can also make a world of difference for comfort. We had one patient who had a single point pressure change and he said that it make a world of difference in the level of comfort for him. At Alaska Sleep Clinic we can read your memory card to see if a slight change in pressure may eliminate more apneas.
3. CPAP Data
Have your memory card read periodically to see if your current prescribed pressure is working for you. A change in weight either up or down can change the pressure you need to keep your airway open. If you wake up and don’t feel as rested as you are used to or if you have a return of symptoms like snoring it may indicate that your sleep apnea has returned. Checking the memory card can give a sleep clinic a good idea if your machine pressure is still effective for you. The data on many of the newer CPAP devices also include leak, hours of usage, and the number of respiratory events still present. All of this data collectively, in the hands of a well trained sleep expert, can provide a great deal of information in troubleshooting many issues compromising a patient's success in CPAP compliance. Some CPAP providers also monitor patients on a daily basis thru a wireless module attached to the CPAP unit.
4. Humidifier Water
Your maintenance schedule should include changing the water in your humidifier daily. Think of how yucky the water in your dog’s bowl gets after a day. That should be motivation enough. Changing the water daily prevents residue build up and calcification. You can also purchase a new humidifier water tank every 6 months, which is typically covered by most insurances.
5. CPAP Filters
Change the machine filters monthly. More frequent changes of the filter might be in order if your air is especially polluted, such as during forest fire season or when it is especially dusty. You might also consider changing filters after you catch a cold or when you start to smell odors in your mask. Filters are generally at the back of the machine over the air intake. They are often gray or white in color. Typically CPAP filters are covered by insurances at a frequency of two disposable filters per month.