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By: Rita Brooks on December 27th, 2017

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6 FAQs About a CPAP Machine

Sleep Technologist Advice

CPAP or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure is the most common obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) therapy. As you know, with this sleep apnea therapy, your patients wear a nasal or facial mask while they sleep. Their mask connects to a CPAP machine that delivers positive air flow to maintain an open airway during sleep.

Most patients using CPAP get almost instant relief of their symptoms and are very happy with the mental sharpness and increased energy they experience when using CPAP therapy. CPAP therapy may prevent or even reverse serious OSA consequences.

If your patients don't use CPAP or another therapy for OSA, it can cause some significant problems. With OSA, the patient's blood oxygen levels become low and the carbon dioxide levels in their blood elevate. These factors may result in memory loss, headaches, and excessive sleepiness.  Not only this, but when your patients don't use their CPAP machine, it can result in even more severe health conditions.

Chances are your patients will have many questions about their use of CPAP therapy, therefore, as a sleep technologist, you should know how to respond.

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FAQ #1: How do I get a CPAP machine?

Your patients will need a sleep apnea diagnosis first before they are prescribed a CPAP machine. This may require them to stay overnight for a sleep study in a sleep center or undergo a home sleep apnea test.

After an initial diagnostic sleep study that is positive for OSA, you'll perform a CPAP titration study to determine the appropriate PAP pressure level to eliminate their OSA.  Once the appropriate therapeutic pressure is determined, the physician will provide a prescription for home CPAP therapy. The following should be included:

  • The type of device (CPAP,  APAP or BPAP), for instance.
  • The mask/interface type and size.
  • The pressure setting(s). These pressure levels are pre-set based on the physician's prescription and can only be changed on the order of a physician.

FAQ #2: Which parts/supplies for the CPAP machine do I need to replace, and how often?

Even if the equipment looks to be in good shape, it still has parts that need to be replaced regularly so the device stays clean and functioning properly for your patient. Your patients should have parts replaced as often as their insurance will cover the new replacements.

For CPAP the typical replacement schedule is:

  • The mask - every 3 months
  • Chinstrap - every 6 months
  • Headgear - every 6 months
  • Filters (disposable or reusable) - with most machines, it's 2 weeks for disposalbe filters and 6 months for reusable filters
  • Tubing (heated or standard) - every 3 months
  • Humidifier water chamber - every 6 months
  • CPAP device - every 5 years

FAQ #3: Can I travel with my CPAP machine? If so, how?

Traveling is often considered a hassle for your patients with OSA. They may have trouble carrying their CPAP machine everywhere they go when they are traveling. You should know the appropriate steps for your patients to take when they travel so you can prepare yourself to answer all questions they may have for you.

Knowing these tips will help you increase their therapy adherence while relieving their anxiety about traveling with their CPAP device.

Some tips to give your patients include:

  • They should consider placing their CPAP device in their check-in bag.
  • If they want to carry their CPAP machine in their carry-on bag, they should wrap it in a clear plastic bag so it is easily viewed by TSA officials.
  • CPAP machines are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act as medical devices, and are not counted as carry-on items.
  • They should consider a CPAP device that's travel-friendly if they travel often - there are many new small travel friendly devices now available.

By preparing your patients ahead of time, you can make it easier for them to travel with their CPAP device.

FAQ #4: Will I ever be able to stop using my CPAP machine?

Some of your patients may lose weight and will therefore no longer have OSA. Those who have surgery may no longer have OSA and those who do well with positional therapy or oral appliance may be able to substitute one of them for CPAP therapy.

FAQ #5: If I am uncomfortable using my CPAP machine, do I have other options?

You first should encourage your patient to make a real effort to use their CPAP therapy successfully. If they seem to be having problems complying or are uncomfortable, they have other options such as:

A Different Type of CPAP Interface

For those patients who aren't comfortable with their mask, see if a different type of mask or another type of interface will help first. If not, you can then tsuggest they discuss alternative OSA treatment options with their physician.

A Dental Device

OSA treatment devices that hold the tongue or slide your patient's jaw forward to prevent their airway from collapsing are an option for some patients.


Surgery can sometimes eliminate or reduce extra tissue from your patient's throat that's blocking their airway while they sleep.

Weight Management Program

If your patients lose weight, it may help eliminate or at least improve their OSA. Patients who are overweight often have necks that are thick with extra tissue in their throat that blocks their airway.

Positional Therapy

This is a behavioral strategy that may work for your patients with positional sleep apnea. Many patients sleep on their back which triggers their sleep apnea ; when they sleep on their side, their breathing may be normal.  Positional therapy uses devices to keep them on their side while they sleep.

Changing Daily Habits

You can suggest various lifestyle changes to your patients that will help improve their OSA and reduce their snoring. Behavioral changes such as avoiding alcohol or quitting smoking could improve their OSA.

FAQ #6: How do I know which mask is best for me?

There are multiple reasons why your patients won't use their mask. Often, it's due to them being uncomfortable when wearing it. So, it's essential they get a mask that they're comfortable with.

A few types of CPAP masks you could suggest for your patients include:

1. Nasal CPAP Mask

A nasal CPAP mask will cover your patient's nose from their upper lip area to the bridge of their nose. It provides their airway with indirect airflow through the mask and is ideal if your patient needs a higher pressure setting.

2. Nasal Pillows

Nasal pillows are lightweight and compact options for your patients and have certain designs that give your patients minimal face contact. They are ideal for patients who require pressure settings that are low to moderate since high pressure could be uncomfortable when using this interface.

3. Full Face CPAP Mask

Unlike nasal pillows and nasal masks that seal to your patients nose exclusively, a full face mask will cover your patient’s nose and mouth. It covers a bigger area of your patient's face, creating a complete seal over both their airways. These are a good solution for patients who breathe through their mouth or require a higher pressure setting.


It's important your patient is compliant with their CPAP therapy.  By staying compliant, they gain many health benefits associated with their OSA treatment. In most cases, they will experience an overall improved quality of life with daily continuous CPAP therapy.

If you would like to learn how to improve your patient's CPAP therapy compliance, you can download this important "Increasing PAP Adherence" guide.

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