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Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

Your doctor has prescribed continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy for you. A CPAP unit is a device that helps you breathe better at night. Using your CPAP device can be a key part of your treatment for sleep apnea and other problems. CPAP is safe and highly effective, but it can take time to get used to the mask. Your doctor or medical supplier will give you tips for wearing and caring for your CPAP device. Here’s what you need to know about using CPAP.

General Guidelines

  • Don’t give up! It takes time to get used to wearing the mask at night.

  • Practice wearing your CPAP device during the day, especially whenever you take a nap.

  • Remember, there are several different types of masks. If you can’t get used to your mask, ask your doctor about trying another style. One of them should work for you.

  • Take your medications exactly as directed. Your doctor may prescribe a nasal spray to help open your nasal passages while you are using your CPAP device.

  • Wear CPAP all night, every night, during all naps, and when you travel.

  • If you lose or gain weight, ask your doctor to adjust the air pressure level of your CPAP.

  • Keep your mask clean. Wash it often. Be sure to rinse the mask and tubing well with water to remove any soap. Let them air-dry thoroughly before using.

  • Make yourself comfortable when sleeping with CPAP. Try using extra pillows.

Setting Up

  • Place the CPAP device on a sturdy table near your bed.

  • Plug in the power cord.

  • Connect the tubing to the machine.

  • Arrange the headgear so that the longer straps are at the top.

  • With the Velcro facing out (away from your face), put the four tabs through the top and side slots of the mask. Pull the straps through and press the Velcro back against the strap.

Using CPAP

  • Put the mask over your nose and slide the headgear over your head.

  • Adjust the Velcro straps, slowly pulling them until the mask is secure against your face.

  • Connect the tubing to your mask and turn on the switch.

  • Lie down, relax, and breathe through your nose.


Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.

Getting Used to CPAP

CPAP takes some getting used to. If there’s anything about CPAP you don’t like, chances are there’s a solution. Below are a few examples of common problems and possible solutions.

If this happens:

Try this:

Air pressure is uncomfortable

  • Try the device’s ramp feature, which starts out at low pressure and slowly raises pressure to your prescribed level.

  • Try a bilevel or autoCPAP device.

Discomfort in your nose

  • Try a saline nasal spray. Ask your healthcare provider about trying an antihistamine, decongestant, or prescription nasal spray.

  • Ask for a prescription warm-air humidifier for your device. Adjust the humidification if you already use it.

  • Try a mask that sends air through the mouth instead of the nose.

  • Keep in mind that even if you do nothing, nasal stuffiness may go away within a month.

Discomfort in your mouth

  • Try a chin strap to keep the mouth closed while you sleep.

  • Try a mask that covers both nose and mouth.

  • Connect a prescription warm-air humidifier to your device. Adjust the humidification.

Discomfort in your eyes, or CPAP works less well than before

  • Adjust your headgear to stop air leaks from around the mask.

  • Replace your mask with one that fits better, is a different size, or fits inside your nostrils.

Mask is uncomfortable

  • Adjust fit and tightness of mask and headgear.

  • Put cushions at pressure points.

  • Try a mask of a different style or size.

  • Ask your provider about nasal pillows.

  • If the mask irritates your skin, try a mask of a different material.

Air pump is too loud

  • Use a longer hose so the device can go on the floor or under the bed.

  • Ask the device supplier for advice.

  • Try a different CPAP device. Keep in mind that any device’s sound is quieter and easier to tune out than snoring.


When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Ear pain that feels worse when you use the CPAP device

  • Ear infection

  • Chest pain

  • Trouble breathing


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