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By: Brendan Duffy on April 27th, 2015

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4 Things Sleep Technologists Shouldn't Say to CPAP Patients

Sleep Disorders | Events


There are certain words, phrases, and abbreviations that we sleep technologists try and avoid using as they can confuse a patient, or cause "mental discomfort."

The more comfortable, relaxed, and confident that we can make our patients feel, the better the CPAP results will be.Here are things we shouldn't say...And why not...

1. "You will be wearing a mask."

vader_in_bedUnless it is Halloween, most folks do not like the idea of wearing a mask. Add to this the fact that a stranger is telling them that they will be wearing a mask to bed nightly and they could become a little anxious. This can also immediately produce visual angst about what a bed partner will say.

In many cases they have no idea what this "mask" looks like. A mask doesn't sound like a medical solution to anything – It sounds like a party item!

Rather that stating to a patient that they will be wearing a mask, and having them visualize incorrectly that they will be going to bed looking like Spiderman or Batman, we inform them that when they return we will be "fitting them with a  CPAP interface device to alleviate their breathing difficulties and restore refreshing sleep!"

Now doesn't that sound a lot more tolerable than a vision of a large cumbersome Darth Vader mask?

2. "We will be increasing your pressure."

shutterstock_236896747-412472-editedA patient will sit there and think, "What? That doesn't sound good! I don't like pressure. Pressure is a negative word to me. I am trying to sleep and you are increasing my pressure? I am already feeling pressure about not sleeping. I am not sure I can do this..."

So rather than pressure, we inform them that "while you are sleeping, we will be increasing the therapeutic level during the night until we find the optimal setting that allows you to sleep without any breathing difficulties. This will result in a great night's sleep each night."

Ahhh....just writing that line almost helped me drift off to a peaceful slumber.

3. "DME"

As in, "We will be sending your order to the DME and you will hear from them as to delivery."

Huh? That sounds like a government agency. What exactly is a DME? Is it the Department of Mask Exporting?

We need to remember not to slip into the abbreviations of sleep. I have seen some of the blank stares of patients who have been informed by staff via a host of sleep soup information. "Mr. Jones, your AHI is 43 and your RDI is even worse, and we sent your order to the DME who will send you an S9 shortly with perhaps a nasal pillow to use."

The response is a blank stare from a sleepy patient as he tries to fathom what all of that meant.

4. "For the rest of your life."

cpaptilldeath200As in "you will be using this for the rest of your life." Wow! That is a long time! Are they ready to commit to you forever?

Since compliance on CPAP is quite a difficult task for some patients, we are really scaring folks that are already hesitant and anxious about even doing this at home for the next two weeks – much less "for the rest of their life!"

That sounds like a long and impossible commintment for a new and anxious CPAP user. We prefer to inform patients that "using CPAP nightly will result in better health, refreshing sleep, better cognition, and help reduce the possibility of accidents. It may take awhile to get used to using CPAP nightly, but that is absolutely normal."

Patients can see using the therapy nightly as a starting point. Stating the usage as a "nightly" task makes it a task they can accomplish and a is a bit less threatening. they may not worry as much about failing for one particular night.


As you can see, if we spend time thinking about how we deliver the message, then the message we deliver will often result in time well spent. Perhaps as you listen around your sleep center, you will find other spoken messages that we can "cure" for the betterment of our sleep guests.


Good luck out there,


Brendan Duffy

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If you enjoyed this article by Brendan Duffy check out more articles he's written below:

6 Things Sleep Centers Should Discuss with Patients Prior to a Study

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