If you’re new to Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy to treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), it’s important to keep in mind that it may take some time to feel comfortable. During the adjustment period, common challenges some people experience are difficulty breathing out, feeling bloated or gassy, or a claustrophobic response. However, fret not! With a little practice and some modifications, you’ll be well on your way to a better sleep and gain the benefits of CPAP therapy.
How does CPAP therapy work?
A CPAP machine sends a constant flow of airway pressure to your throat to ensure that your airway stays open during sleep, effectively treating the spontaneous pauses in breath associated with sleep apnea.
Motivation to be consistent with your CPAP
Some of the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea are excessive tiredness during the day, irritability, memory loss, and depression. It has also been associated with a number of other significant medical conditions including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. By using CPAP therapy consistently, it can improve your quality of life and reduce your risk of serious associated conditions.
When can I start feeling the benefits of CPAP
There are a number of different factors that may affect the outcome of your treatment. Generally speaking, you should start feeling benefits within two to four weeks if you are using your CPAP every night.
Its hard to breathe out (exhale) while using CPAP
This experience is normal and to be expected when you begin using CPAP. Inhaling this air stream usually feels more natural than exhaling.
The air stream from the CPAP machine is pressurized and directed down your airway to keep it open. By relaxing, keeping the mouth closed and concentrating on a slow, regular breathing pattern, most people get accustomed to the different sensations of inhaling and exhaling.
My mouth keeps opening during sleep with my CPAP
If your mouth is open when using a nasal mask, the pressurized air stream from the CPAP unit will leak out, rather than reach your airway. This is not only ineffective; it is often uncomfortable and can cause awakening.
Many people using a nasal mask adjust naturally to keeping the mouth closed during sleep, others learn it with a bit of practice. If the problem persists, try incorporating a chip strap until you get used to breathing effectively out of your nose.
I feel anxious or claustrophobic wearing my CPAP mask
Increase your comfort level by wearing your CPAP mask while awake, such as when you wind down for the evening with an activity like reading. This practice will help you learn how to regulate your breathing without being hyper-focused on trying to sleep with the mask. Another solution would be talking to your clinician about mask options and seeing if one with a more minimal design would be appropriate.
I feel gassy or bloated after using CPAP therapy
A condition called Aerophagia can occur when air from a CPAP enters the esophagus and goes into the belly, rather than the airway and into the lungs. This can cause gas pains and distension of the stomach. As you get more comfortable with CPAP therapy and can regulate your breathing more regularly, this condition will likely dissipate. Additional solutions that may help include changing sleeping positions, trying a chip strap, and reducing pressure settings.
The important thing to remember is you must not give up. Sleep is essential for your overall health and treatment for obstructive sleep apnea will positively impact other aspects of your well-being. CPAP therapy will get easier with time and many of the challenges discussed in this article will be resolved once you establish a natural breathing rhythm. You can do it!
Aveiro Sleep provides Home Sleep Apnea Testing, CPAP therapy and support services catered to obstructive sleep apnea. Our local clinics allow us to test, treat, and support thousands of Albertans close to their homes.