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By: Rita Brooks on July 6th, 2015

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Top 10 Most Common CPAP Mask Problems and Discomfort (& How to Solve Them)

Sleep Disorders

For patients with sleep apnea, CPAP therapy is a great treatment option to ease the most troubling symptoms of this disorder. In our previous blog post, we explained how CPAP therapy works. But what are some of the most common complaints associated with this form of treatment?

Current research estimates that the compliance rate for CPAP (how many people use CPAP more than a few months) is approximately 60 percent. One explanation for this may be that many users struggle to make treatment with a CPAP mask comfortable. But there are actually easy fixes to these problems that help boost compliance rates among your patients.

Here are the top 10 ways to solve common complaints you may hear from a CPAP patient and the most effective solutions for them.

1. How do I get used to wearing a CPAP mask?

You need to take small steps to get accustomed to wearing your CPAP Mask.

Try wearing the mask during the day when you're watching TV or reading a book. Sometimes simply wearing the mask while you're cooking or even surfing the Internet can help you get used to wearing it at night.

Once you become accustomed to how the mask feels on your face, start wearing the CPAP mask everytime you sleep at night, and even during naps.

The reality is that the less you wear the mask, the harder it will be to get used to wearing it. So use the device for several weeks or more to see if the mask and pressure settings you were prescribed still work for you.

 2. My CPAP mask is uncomfortable to wear at night!

When it comes to getting a new CPAP mask, it's important that you work closely with your doctor and CPAP supplier to make sure that the mask and device suit your needs and that it fits you properly.

Ask your doctor, sleep technologist, or CPAP supplier to show you how to adjust your mask to get the best fit and read manufacturer product instructions, which can also help you get a better idea about proper fit.

The good news is that many mask styles are available. Check out the different CPAP mask types and each mask's pros and cons to make sure you choose a mask that best suits your needs.

3. Am I allergic to my CPAP mask?

Is your CPAP mask causing you an allergic reaction, or does your CPAP mask not fit you well?

Here tips on how you can check whether you are allergic to your CPAP mask:

  • First, stop wearing the CPAP mask and immediately contact your physician. Usually an allergic reaction to a CPAP mask will occur the same night you wear it.
  • Ask yourself how frequently you clean your mask. Almost 9 out of 10 times, what appears to be an allergic reaction to a CPAP mask (such as a bruise on the face or a skin infection) is caused by infrequent cleaning of the mask.
  • Check whether your mask is an old version made with latex. The majority of the CPAP masks in the market today are made from silicone, and a few are made from some type of gel material. Almost all are latex free.

4. I can't tolerate the forced air from the CPAP Mask.

You may be able to overcome this issue by using the "ramp" feature on the CPAP machine.

The "ramp" feature allows you to start with low air pressure, which is then followed by an automatic, gradual increase that eventually sets itself to the pressure you were prescribed by your doctor. The rate of this "ramp" feature can be adjusted by your doctor as well.
If this doesn't help, ask your physician whether you can switch over to a BPAP machine. But make sure you check if this is something that would work better for your treatment needs by reading our side-by-side comparison of BPAP and CPAP machines.

5. My nose is running or stuffy after wearing the CPAP Mask!

First, check if your CPAP device comes with a heated humidifier. Usually these symptoms can be alleviated by the use of humidifier. If your CPAP machine does not have one, consider getting one that allows you to adjust the level of humidification.

Consider using a nasal saline spray at bedtime to prevent your nose from overdrying. And finally, make sure that your mask is actually fitting well; a leaky mask can dry out your nose.

6. I feel claustrophobic when I'm wearing the CPAP Mask.

Start off by having a positive attitude about your CPAP treatment.

You may not know it, but the CPAP machine and mask is there to improve the quality of your life; significantly in the long run.

Follow our advice on getting used to wearing your CPAP mask and above all, keep in mind that successful CPAP therapy sometimes requires patience as you adjust to therapy.  Talk to your doctor or sleep technologist if you need additional help to adjust to therapy.

  • Practice wearing your CPAP Mask while you're awake. Practice by first just holding the mask up to your face without any of the other parts attached. Once you're comfortable with that, try wearing the mask with the straps.
  • Take small steps to get used to the CPAP Mask. Try holding the mask with the hose connected to your face, without using the straps. Have the hose attached to the CPAP machine at a low-pressure setting (with ramp feature turned on). And, finally, wear the mask with the straps and with the air pressure machine turned on while awake. After you're comfortable with that, try sleeping with it on.
  • Try relaxation exercises. Certain exercises, such as progressive muscle relaxation, also may help reduce your anxiety about wearing your CPAP mask. It may help to get a different size mask or try a different style, such as one that uses nasal pillows.

If you're still feeling claustrophobic, talk to your doctor, sleep technologist or CPAP supplier.

7. I can't fall asleep easily with the CPAP mask on.

This is a normal, temporary problem that occurs most often with patients new to CPAP therapy. Follow our advice on getting used to your CPAP machine and try out the "ramp" feature of your machine.

Also make sure that you're practicing good sleep hygeine, which includes: exercising regularly and avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.

8. Why do I have dry mouth after wearing my CPAP mask?

If you breathe through your mouth at night or sleep with your mouth open, CPAP may worsen dry mouth.  A chin strap may help keep your mouth closed and reduce the air leak if you wear a nasal mask.

But once again, make sure that you're wearing the right kind of mask and try adjusting your CPAP machine's heated humidifier to see if that helps.

9. I keep on taking my CPAP mask off at night while sleeping.

It's normal to sometimes wake up to find that you've removed the mask in your sleep. If you move a lot in your sleep, you may find that a full face mask will stay on your face better.

You may be pulling off the mask because your nose is congested. If so, ensuring a good mask fit and adding a heated humidifier to your CPAP machine may help. A chin strap also may help you to keep the device on your face.

If this is a consistent problem, consider setting an alarm for sometime in the night, to check whether the device is still on. You could progressively set the alarm for later in the night if you find you're keeping the device on longer.

10. Why is the CPAP machine so loud?

The CPAP machine is most likely a lot quieter than your snoring, but if noise is a problem, you have several options.

Most new models of CPAP devices are almost silent. But if you find a device's noise is bothersome, first check to make sure the device air filter is clean and unblocked. Something in its way may be contributing to noise.
If this doesn't help, have your doctor, sleep technologist, or CPAP supplier check the device to ensure it's working properly. If the device is working correctly and the noise still bothers you, try wearing earplugs or getting a fan to turn on at night to make"white noise" that can also help to disguise the noise of the CPAP machine.