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Getting Started with CPAP

Starting CPAP

Did you know that over 20 million Americans have been prescribed CPAP?  That is a lot of people and of that 20 million, unfortunately 15%-30% are unsuccessful and deemed non-compliant with CPAP. In this article I will outline the common pitfalls and ways you can overcome them, so that you do not become one of the 15%-30%!

A part of being successful is understanding the strain untreated sleep apnea puts on your body & brain. Did you know the risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure all increase if you need CPAP and do not use it? There is also a lot of research tying untreated sleep apnea to an increase in car accidents and a decrease in memory function.

I was prescribed sleep therapy, now what? 

The first step on your CPAP journey is accepting that your Doctor prescribed sleep therapy to treat a dangerous medical condition. The realization that this machine keeps you breathing all night and decreases a lot of health risks makes it easier to tolerate during the tough times. Just like starting a healthier diet or exercising, it may be tough when you start but it gets easier as you go on and your body functions better.

So let’s get into some areas that you can start to focus on today that will help you be successful.

 How to Get Used to Your CPAP Mask

Practice makes perfect sleep! Some people need to build on their therapy, meaning that they at least fall asleep with it on every night, and over time they gradually are able to work up to a full night of wearing it. Some people wake up early in the morning and take it off to sleep without it for a few hours, and it is pretty common for people to take their mask off in the middle of the night and not even remember doing it. It takes constant use and practice to stop removing your mask during the night, and your body will thank you for it. Even though it might temporarily feel good to sleep without the mask on, you'll feel the negative effects in the morning.

You can practice by wearing the machine when you are sitting on the couch watching TV. This will help to desensitize your brain and body to the sensation of a mask being on your face and the sensation of the pressure coming from the CPAP machine. For people who are new to CPAP, it feels pretty weird to have a mask on your face while you sleep. It will take time for your body to adjust to that, and everyone is different!  If you are having issues just sitting there watching tv with the machine on, check out my last article Choosing The Right CPAP Mask; you may have started out on the wrong mask. More often than not, this is an issue when a mouth breather starts with a nasal mask.

Get Support For Using Your CPAP

If you want to succeed with CPAP (or anything for that matter), it will require effort and time. Make sure you are giving your body the best chance to get what it needs – CPAP therapy! Most people hit bumps in the road between the time they get their machine and the time until they are able to fall asleep with it on every night, and leave it on until they get out of bed in the morning. You need to put the time in to adapt to it, and you need to develop the discipline to make sure that every time you fall asleep, your mask and machine are on. Hopefully, you have a great spouse like me that will wake you up if you fall asleep without it on!

If you have a cheerleader on your side helping you through this journey, you will have a much easier time integrating CPAP therapy into your life. This can be a friend, a significant other, a sibling; anyone who can remind you of the positives to following through with your prescribed treatment.

Bottom line, you are embarking on this journey for you, for your benefit, for your body to be healthy. I have seen many patients give up because they chose to ignore this advice, so I hope that after reading this you will save yourself from being in the 15% -30% club!


Leigh Foley, RT

*This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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