Sleep Apnea Treatment Device Takes Patience

Armen Hareyan's picture

Treatment of Sleep Apnea

Millions of Americans deal with sleep apnea - a condition where breathing stops and starts when throat muscles relax during sleep.

Left without treatment, sleep apnea may increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, cardiovascular disease and even sudden death. But using the most commonly prescribed treatment for sleep apnea, a continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) device, can be frustrating at first. The small portable device includes a mask that's worn while sleeping to help keep your airway from collapsing. About two-thirds of people who use CPAP experience problems.

The July issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter offers tips to overcome common adjustment problems that can include:

Difficulty tolerating forced air - Use a feature on the machine that allows for a gradual increase in air pressure to your prescribed setting as you go to sleep. Adding heated humidification to the air from the device may help.


Dry, stuffy nose - A CPAP device that features a heated humidifier can help. So can using a nasal saline spray before bed or taking an antihistamine. Your doctor may prescribe a nasal steroid spray if your dryness doesn't respond to heated humidity.

Feeling claustrophobic - Practice wearing the mask alone during a few daytime hours. Sometimes it helps to resize the mask or use a different style.

Leaky mask - Try adjusting forehead pads and straps to get a better fit. Washing the mask daily with warm, soapy water and washing your face at night can help. You may need to have your supplier resize your mask, particularly if your weight changes a lot.

Difficulty getting to sleep - This is a normal, temporary problem. Wearing the mask alone for some time during the day may get you accustomed to how it feels.

Persistence pays off. Nightly use is necessary to adapt to the machine. Although optimal results aren't a given when you first use a CPAP device, proper adjustment and settings can positively affect your quality of life and your health.