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CPAP Questions Answered

Learn More About Sleep Apnea and How a CPAP Can Benefit You

Whether you or a loved on has recently been diagnosed with sleep apnea or you're a longtime CPAP user, it's important for you to have as much information as possible about sleep apnea and CPAP treatment. At 1st America Home Medical Equipment, our top priority is making sure all our customers have the resources then need to understand sleep apnea and CPAP equipment. Below, you'll find the most frequently asked questions we receive from our customers about diagnosing and treating sleep apnea. If you have any additional questions, please contact our staff and we'd be happy to help.

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When should I see my doctor to ask about sleep apnea?  

Symptoms you might simply consider to be part of a bad night’s sleep could be an indication of a larger problem like sleep apnea. Some sleep apnea symptoms to watch for include: 

  • Interrupted breathing while you sleep

  • Loud snoring

  • Daytime sleepiness  

  • Insomnia

  • Morning headaches

Because many of these symptoms occur while you sleep, you may be unaware of them. If you have a sleeping partner, ask them if you’re displaying any of these symptoms. If you are experiencing these symptoms regularly, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. 


What are the top risk factors for developing sleep apnea?

There are a variety of risk factors for sleep apnea. If you fall into any of these categories, please consider seeing your doctor. The following characteristics increase your risk factor for developing obstructive sleep apnea:  

  • Obesity  

  • Being male  

  • Old age  

  • Family history of sleep apnea  

  • Heavy alcohol use  

  • Smoking


How do I know if I need a CPAP machine?

The best way to know if a CPAP machine is right for you is to consult with your primary care physician, a sleep specialist, an ENT (ear, nose and throat doctor), a cardiologist (heart doctor), or a pulmonologist (lung doctor). They can help you determine if your sleep is affected by breathing problems and if a CPAP machine would benefit you.  

Here are a few warning signs that you may need a CPAP machine:  

  1. You snore loudly and frequently.
  2. You have pauses in your breathing during sleep.
  3. You wake up exhausted, even after a full night's sleep.
  4. You have difficulty concentrating during the day.
  5. You have a headache when you wake up in the morning.  


How can a CPAP machine help if you have sleep apnea?

If you have sleep apnea, you know how frustrating it can be to not get a good night's sleep. Also, you know how difficult it can be to get the rest you need. A CPAP machine can help.  

Sleep apnea is when one stops breathing for brief periods during sleep. This can happen several times throughout the night, making it hard to get a good night's rest.  

A CPAP machine is a type of medical device that helps you breathe while you sleep. It delivers air through a mask worn over your nose and mouth. CPAP can be an effective treatment for sleep apnea. It can help you sleep better and reduce your risk of health problems.  

If you have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about whether CPAP therapy might be right for you.  


Why is it important to address sleep apnea?

Because sleep apnea can be a serious medical condition that could significantly impact your health, it should not be left untreated. It can result in high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and even death. That's why it's crucial to get treatment for sleep apnea as soon as possible.  

Sleep apnea can occur in people of any age, but it is more common in middle-aged adults and those who are overweight. This problem is also more prevalent in men than women.  

If you think you might have sleep apnea, you must see a doctor for a diagnosis. A sleep study can help confirm whether you have sleep apnea and how severe it is. Treatment for sleep apnea can include changes in one's lifestyle, such as losing weight and quitting smoking and using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.  


What can happen if sleep apnea is left untreated?

Sleep apnea can have an effect on your quality of sleep, your physical health, and your mental health. Leaving sleep apnea untreated can lead to a plethora of health problems. Here are a few things that could potentially happen if sleep apnea is not treated: 

  • Low Energy  

  • Reduced Productivity At School or Work  

  • Increased Anxiety  

  • Diabetes 

  • Hypertension 

  • Increased Risk of Hearth Attack


How can I be diagnosed with sleep apnea?

In most cases, sleep apnea needs to be diagnosed via a sleep test. This can be done in two ways: 

  • Sleep lab test: This is called polysomnography and requires you to stay overnight at a sleep lab facility. You will be hooked up to equipment that measures your heartbeat, breathing rate and brain activity while you sleep. 

  • At-home sleep test: As the name suggests, this sleep test is performed at home. At-home tests are usually simplified versions of the sleep lab test. The test usually measures your heart rate, breathing patters and oxygen saturation. 

Regardless of where your sleep test is done, your results will be analyzed by your doctor to determine a diagnosis. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, your results will also help determine how you will be treated. 


Do I need a sleep lab test or an at-home sleep test?

While there are certain criteria to assist in determining whether you will receive a sleep lab or at-home sleep test, your doctor will make the final decision. Your doctor will take all your symptoms into consideration and recommend what is best for you. In general, patients that are considered to be a high risk for sleep apnea, as the home sleep test will often confirm the diagnosis. Patients with potential health complications, including heart and lung disease, will often be tested in a sleep lab, which offers a more controlled environment.  


What happens during a sleep lab test?

Sleep lab tests give you the chance to gather in-depth data to potentially diagnose you with sleep apnea. During your sleep study, you’ll be hooked up to different types of equipment as you sleep, including: 

  • Electrodes and sensors on your head to measure brain activity  

  • Belts around your chest and stomach to measure your breathing rate  

  • A sensor placed on your finger or earlobe to measure oxygen concentration

You’ll wear all this equipment throughout your sleep study to gather as much information as possible about the quality of your sleep. You may also be asked to wear a breathing mask and use a PAP device if it is suspected you have obstructive sleep apnea. Once completed, your doctor will review the data collected during your sleep study to determine the best course of treatment. 


What is RDI?

One of the key metrics of any sleep study is the respiratory disturbance index (RDI). Your RDI measures how many times your breathing is disrupted per hour while you’re asleep. RDI index benchmarks include:  

  • Normal sleep study: RDI < 5 events/hour  

  • Mild apnea: RDI between 5-15 events/hour

  • Moderate apnea: RDI between 15-30 events/hour

  • Severe apnea: RDI > 30 events/hour

RDI is measured during your sleep test. A respiratory disturbance can be measured via an at-home sleep test or a sleep lab test. 


What are the two types of sleep apnea?

There are two types of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Both can affect your sleep but there are a few differences.  

Obstructive Sleep Apnea – Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea and occurs when your throat muscles relax, causing blockages in your airway, making it difficult to breathe while you sleep.

Central Sleep Apnea – Central sleep apnea is a neurological disorder that happens when your brain sends incorrect signals to the muscles that control your breathing. 


What is CPAP therapy?

CPAP stands for “continuous positive airway pressure” and is the most recommended method of treatment for patients with sleep apnea. A CPAP machine uses consistent air pressure delivered through a tube and CPAP mask to keep the airways open. A CPAP machine will help make sure that your airway doesn’t collapse while breathing when you are asleep. CPAP therapy involves a CPAP machine, a CPAP mask with different options to cover the nose and mouth, a tube that connects the mask and machine, and a motor in the machine that blows air into the tube.  


What are the benefits of CPAP therapy?

  • Increased energy  

  • Improved concentration 

  • Improved emotional stability

  • Better heart health

  • Stronger immune system

  • Improved performance at work or school

  • Better sleep


How do CPAP machines work?

CPAP machines work by providing a constant stream of air to your lungs. The air pressure is set at a level that is just enough to keep your airways open.  

The CPAP machine has a mask that fits over your nose and mouth. The mask is connected to a hose connected to the CPAP machine. The CPAP machine has a motor that pulls air from the room and pumps it through the hose to the mask. The air pressure is set at a level that is just enough to keep your airways open.

If you have been told that you need airway pressure while you sleep but that continuous pressure isn't right for you, a BiPAP may be recommended instead to help you inhale and exhale while you sleep.


What are the common side effects for using a CPAP machine?

  • Nasal Congestion: Nasal congestion can be avoided by using a nasal saline spray or using a CPAP humidifier.  

  • Dry Mouth: Try a CPAP humidifier or using a chinstrap to keep your mouth closed while sleeping. 

  • Dry Eyes: A properly fitting mask can reduce eye dryness.

  • Skin Irritation: Keep your CPAP or BiPAP machine clean to avoid buildup of oils that can irritate your skin. 

Read more about the side effects of using a CPAP or BiPAP machine


What is a BiPAP machine?

A BiPAP, which stands for bi-level positive airway pressure, is a type of PAP machine and non-invasive ventilator. BiPAP machines are positive airway pressure devices that deliver two levels of air pressure. The first level is higher than the surrounding atmospheric pressure and is delivered during inhalation. The second level is lower than atmospheric pressure and is delivered during exhalation. This two-level pressure system helps to keep the airways open and allows the patient to breathe more easily.  

The machine has two masks: one that covers your nose and one that covers your mouth. The mask is connected to the tubing, which is connected to the machine. The machine delivers air through the tubing and into the mask.  


Is a BiPAP machine effective for COPD?

There is a growing body of evidence that supports the use of BiPAP in the treatment of COPD. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials found that BiPAP was associated with a significant improvement in lung function and quality of life, as well as a reduction in hospitalizations, compared to standard medical therapy. Another study found that BiPAP was associated with a significant improvement in survival in patients with COPD and respiratory failure.  

Simply put, BiPAP is a safe and effective treatment for COPD and can improve quality of life and reduce hospitalizations. If you or a loved one has COPD, talk to your doctor about whether BiPAP may be right for you.  


Can I travel with my CPAP?

Yes. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allows and encourages air travel with CPAP machines. It is recommended that you don’t put your CPAP machine in your checked bag in case of misplaced luggage, you want to make sure that your CPAP machine stays with you. Because it is considered medical equipment, your CPAP or BiPAP doesn't have to fit inside your carry-on bag. You can pack your equipment in its own bag to save room in your carry-on for other items. Here are some other tips for traveling comfortably with your CPAP equipment.

  • Be sure to pack extra supplies and a second battery pack.  

  • Make sure all your equipment is dry before packing it to prevent mold.

  • Don't forget an outlet adapter if traveling out of the country.

  • Always keep a copy of your prescription with you.


What are CPAP filters and how often do I need to replace them?

A CPAP filter helps purify the air before it is pressurized and then delivered through the CPAP into your airway. The CPAP filter works to protect your lungs and your CPAP machine.  

  • Disposable CPAP Filter: Disposable filters should be replaced at least every 2 weeks.  

  • Reusable CPAP Filter: Reusable filters should be cleaned at least once every two weeks with warm water and soap.  


How often does my CPAP equipment need to be replaced?

It is important to replace certain pieces of CPAP equipment regularly to keep your CPAP machine clean and working properly. Here are the recommendations for replacing CPAP equipment:  

  • CPAP Masks – every 3 months  

  • Headgear & Chinstraps – every 6 months  

  • Filters – every 2 weeks or twice per month

  • Tubing - every 3 months

  • CPAP Machines - every 3-7 years (depending on changes in technology and wear and tear on the machine)


What is a CPAP humidifier and do I need it?

A CPAP humidifier isn’t necessary for your CPAP machine to work, but it may be recommended to make sleep more comfortable. There are two ways that humidifiers can add moisture to your pressurized air. Heated humidifiers use a heating element to deliver evaporated water, or passover humidifiers move air over the water to carry the moisture through your tubing. CPAP humidifiers are designed to replace the lost moisture in the nasal airways. Humidifiers can also help prevent dry mouth, dry nose, and chapped lips. Humidification in CPAP machines can reduce irritation and help you wake up feeling refreshed.  


What is the best humidity level for CPAP machines?

The right humidity level for your CPAP machine will depend on a few factors, including the climate you live in and your personal preferences. In general, the ideal humidity level for a CPAP machine is between 30% and 50%.  

If the humidity level in your CPAP machine is too low, you may experience some uncomfortable side effects. These can include a dry or sore throat, a stuffy nose, and dry, itchy skin. If the humidity level in your CPAP machine is too high, you may experience congestion, a runny nose, or watery eyes.  

You can adjust your CPAP machine's humidity level by using the humidifier's controls. If you’re not sure what the best humidity level is for you, talk to your doctor or CPAP provider. They can help you find the most comfortable levels for you.  


What is CPAP rainout and how do I prevent it?

If you use a CPAP machine to treat your sleep apnea, you may have experienced a “rainout.” This occurs when the humidifier chamber in your CPAP machine gets too cold, causing condensation to form on the tubing. Water from the humidifier condenses inside the CPAP hose, causing it to rain out onto the user. This can be an unpleasant experience, as it can cause the mask to leak and the user to wake up feeling wet.  

How to Prevent CPAP Rainout  

To prevent rainouts while using your CPAP machine, try these steps. First, make sure that the humidifier chamber is not placed in a cold environment. You will generally want to keep your humidifier at least 5 to 10 degrees above room temperature. You might also consider using a shorter length of tubing. This will help to keep the air warmer as it travels from the machine to your mask.  

If you are still experiencing rainouts, you may want to try using a humidifier with a higher humidity setting. This adds moisture to the air, which can help prevent condensation from forming. You should also make sure that you clean your CPAP equipment regularly. A build-up of bacteria can cause a rainout. Keeping your CPAP equipment clean lowers those risks. 


What CPAP mask is best for different sleeping positions?

CPAP Masks for Side Sleepers  

If you sleep on your side, you may want to consider a mask that covers less of your face. Some masks are designed to fit snugly around your nose, while others will cover your mouth and nose. If you're a side sleeper, you may find that a nasal pillow mask is the most comfortable option. This type of mask has two small pillows that fit into your nostrils. This type of mask doesn't cover your mouth.  

CPAP Masks for Stomach Sleepers  

If you sleep on your stomach, you may want to choose a mask that covers your mouth and nose. Some masks have a chin strap that can help keep the mask in place, and others have a full-face design. If you sleep face-down, you may find that a full-face mask is the most comfortable option.  

CPAP Masks for Back Sleepers  

If you sleep on your back, you may want to choose a mask that covers your mouth and nose. Some masks have a chin strap that can help keep the mask in place, and others have a full-face design. If you sleep facing upward, you may find that a full-face mask is the most comfortable option.  


How do I clean my CPAP machine?

Cleaning your CPAP machine is extremely important in maintaining the quality of the machine and will prevent you from becoming sick from your CPAP machine. Over time, germs, bacteria, and viruses can build up, which could affect your health and the way your CPAP machine works.  

Use warm water and soap to clean these parts of your machine daily: 

  • Mask & Mask Cushion

  • Head Gear

  • Tubing

  • Water Chamber

Make sure to not use harsh chemicals, wash and replace filters regularly, and replace parts when needed to increase the longevity of your CPAP machine.  


What parts of my CPAP machine should I clean daily?

There are some parts of your CPAP equipment that should be cleaned daily. There are also some simple steps you can take to keep your equipment from getting as dirty.  

Before you put on your mask, wash your face with soap and water. Wipe the mask down, especially the areas that have come into contact with your skin, with a damp towel. You can also use mild soap and water. However, you should avoid using scented oils or soaps to clean your supplies, as they can irritate your skin. A small amount of dish soap will also work. This will alleviate irritation and help remove oils and dead skin cells. In place of soap, you can also use unscented baby wipes or CPAP cleaning cloths, disposable wipes made for this purpose. Do not use disinfecting wipes, as they can damage the equipment and cause irritation.  

If your unit contains a humidifier, empty leftover water each day, and refill the unit with clean, distilled water before you sleep.  


What parts of my CPAP machine should I clean weekly?

For your CPAP's weekly cleaning, here's what you can do.  

For your mask and tubing, you need to bathe them at least once a week fully. To do that, fill your bathroom sink with warm water along with mild, ammonia-free dish detergent. Avoid stronger products as they can damage your supplies and even leave a dangerous residue.  

Once the mixture has been made, place the CPAP tubing, headgear, and nasal mask in them and swirl them around for five minutes or more. After that, rinse them thoroughly and let them air dry. You can also use a dry, clean towel to wipe away any excess water.  

As for the filter, remove it and simply run tap water over it. After that, squeeze it to remove water and excess dust, after which you can blot it down with a towel to absorb more water.  

If your machine has a humidifier, empty the water and wash the water chamber with warm, soapy water. After that, rinse it well and let it fully dry before placing it back in the CPAP machine.  


How loud is a CPAP machine?

CPAP machines are generally very quiet, and most people find that they do not disturb their sleep. Still, there are differences in noise levels among machines. If you are likely to be disturbed by machine noise, look for a model that is designed for quieter performance. Some CPAP users may find that the little bit of noise that even quieter machines make is loud enough to be disruptive. If you find this to be the case, there are tricks to help you deal with the machine noise.  

You may find that a sound machine covers up noise from your CPAP machine. Calming sounds or music provide steady underlying noise while you sleep which can make noise from your machine more manageable.

Be aware though, apart from the usual sound your machine makes, it may also be making an annoying whistling or whining sound. If you think your machine is making noises beyond those from regular operation, see tips below for dealing with these whistles or whines.


If my CPAP machine is making a whistling or whining noise, how do I fix it?

If your CPAP machine is whistling or whining, it may be due to a build-up of dust and debris in the machine.  

Cleaning your machine according to the manufacturer's instructions may stop the machine from whining or whistling. It may also help to replace the filter on your CPAP machine. If the problem persists, you may need to contact a CPAP technician for further assistance. The issue could be more involved, including mechanical issues with your machine. The team at First America HME may be able to help you identify the source of the noise and describe steps for quieter performance.


Can I consume alcohol before using my CPAP machine?

Drinking alcohol before using your CPAP machine may significantly reduce the effectiveness of your CPAP therapy. Alcohol can relax the muscles in your throat, which can worsen sleep apnea. This may hamper the CPAP machine's ability to provide you with enough oxygen while you sleep. Because it can make a considerable difference, it is strongly recommended to avoid consuming alcohol before you sleep if you have sleep apnea.


Can I use lotions or oils before using my CPAP machine?

You should avoid using lotions or oils on your face before putting on your mask. These can cause the mask to leak. If you must use a product on your face, your mask will fit better if you can rinse the product off completely before putting on your mask.


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