Difficulty with CPAP

If you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, you have probably heard how important it is to treat your sleep disorder. Not only do you want to get a better night's rest, you also need to reduce the risk of developing one of the many health conditions that are caused or worsened by untreated OSA, such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and asthma.

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But you might have also been exposed to an older kind of CPAP machine, and think to yourself that there's no way you could stand to have that thing on your face while you're sleeping. The good news is that, given time and patience, virtually all patients can tolerate a CPAP, especially once they see the positive changes that better sleep brings to their lives. In fact, helping patients get used to their CPAP has become something of a subspecialty of Dr. Kakkar's; he has written articles, contributed to book chapters, and is even developing software all focused on helping patients get used to their CPAP.


These are some of the most common problems we've seen our patients encounter with their CPAPs – and how to conquer them.

I'm afraid I won't be able to sleep with all that noise.

While early CPAP machines were quite loud, the modern machines are extremely quiet. Most people can barely hear them running.

My mask doesn't fit right.

When you first get your CPAP machine, the technician will provide you with a mask that they believe will work for you. If it doesn't, please let us know right away. It might leak, or fit incorrectly on your face. The good news is that there are many different styles and sizes of masks; one of them will almost certainly work.

I start to feel claustrophobic when I put the mask on.

We have a lot of patients who were afraid of using the CPAP initially; with most patients, we have been able to help them successfully transition to CPAP therapy. We suggest that you start by just holding the mask up to your face, without attaching the straps. Next, move to wearing the mask alone, disconnected from the hose and the machine, while you're relaxing around the house or watching TV. Once that feels more comfortable, attach the hose. Then, once that feels all right, turn the machine on, and practice wearing the CPAP while you're relaxing. Only once you're comfortable do you need to transfer to wearing it in bed as you settle in to sleep.

If, after that, you still don't feel comfortable, contact our office and we can help you find a more specific solution that will work for your situation.

I can't sleep with this on my face.

Much like feelings of claustrophobia, this is a temporary problem that usually fades as you become more accustomed to wearing the mask. If you have difficulty falling asleep, practice wearing the mask during the day, first with the machine off, and later with it on, so that you can get used to its presence.

You can also speak to your vendor about features that allow the pressure of the CPAP to ramp up as you sleep, so that it's not at its strongest pressure right away.

My sinuses are dry or my nose is stuffy.

Because of the air pressure of the CPAP, it is possible for your sinuses to become dry overnight, which can cause them to feel stuffy. The first solution is to adjust the humidity setting on your CPAP. If that doesn't help, you can try using a saline spray at bedtime to help moisturize your sinuses.


Remember that with time, practice and appropriate follow-up, CPAPs work for almost every patient. If you're struggling to make yours work, please contact us right away. We want to help you get a better night's sleep, and that means more than just diagnosing your condition; we want to help you treat it, so that you can get back to feeling like yourself. Don't suffer in silence; tell us what's going on so that we can help!


Dr. Kakkar follows all patients with CPAP personally and ensures that they are able to use it. If CPAP fails, alternative treatments to CPAP are available and we will be more than happy to discuss what is likely to be most successful for you.