Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a medical condition that manifests itself through poses in breathing when sleeping. The most effective way of managing this life-threatening condition has been determined to be the use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine that works by forcefully pushing air through your nostrils as you sleep.
However, although this means has rapidly become famous, it also comes with a lot of complaints from users. Common issues with the use of CPAP machines include:
- Pressure sores and skin irritation
- Stuffy or blocked nose
- The claustrophobic feeling
- A dry throat as a result of dry air
Even with these side effects, most OSA users of CPAP machines are oblivious of alternative measures to take since they feel that they are wholly dependent on this device. Besides, if the medics are saying this s the life-saving device for your condition, what other choice would you have but persevere with the side effects? Giving on using a CPAP machine may not be a clever step unless you have tried everything else.
Try to use the mask daytime
The problem with using the CPAP machine, especially for a new user, could be adjusting to it. If you form a habit of wearing the mask in the day and carrying out your daytime chores with it, then you would probably get used to it. You could wear it while simply sitting on the couch and relaxing, or when watching TV or when reading a book.
The other thing that could be making you find the CPAP machine uncomfortable is the claustrophobic feeling. People who fear closed places, or that get this feeling by virtue of the mask being over their nose can practice to overcome during the feeling. Follow these simple steps to get accustomed to having the CPAP mask on your face:
- Practice staying with the mask held over your face minus the straps or the hose
- After getting used to mask on your face, start using it with only the straps in place
- Include the hose after adjusting to the mask and the straps. However, start by putting a low-pressure setting
- Now try using the mask with all the other parts (bells and whistles) but when awake
Normally if you follow these simple steps you might get rid of the claustrophobic feeling. However, if even after trying to use the mask during the day you still feel uncomfortable, then the best step to take would be to consult your healthcare practitioner.
Change the type of mask
There is a variety of sizes and shapes of CPAP masks. These include:
- The nasal pillow mask
This mask is ideal for people who are claustrophobic as it gives visual freedom and is much more compact than other masks.
- Whole masks with straps that go round your head through your forehead and cheeks and cover both your mouth and nose. The efficacy rate for this mask is quite high. However, they take a longer time to get used to as they tend to cause a claustrophobic feeling. The straps help keep the mask in place for people who move so much in sleep. However, there are those that find these straps very irritating.
Use a CPAP Humidifier
The most common problems CPAP use is a dry mouth and stuffy and dry nose and consequently irritation of the nose and mouth. Newer CPAP models have inbuilt humidifiers that help lubricate the nose and mouth and keep them from drying.
However, if you are using an older CPAP version then it would help to purchase a humidifier to your air stream. For mouth breathers, you could use a combined approach that will involve using an anti-snoring chin strap t prevent extreme drying of your mouth. It will also help in reducing air leakage from your CPAP machine.
Alternative to CPAP Machines
If you find that you still can’t tolerate or still find difficulty in using your CPAP machine, then the wise thing to do would be to consult your doctor and suggest a change of treatment device.
Possible alternatives that are less intrusive in comparison to the CPAP machine are the Tongue Stabilizing Device (TSD) and the Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD).
Advantages of oral mouthpieces:
- They are less invasive to your face or head in comparison to CPAP machines
- They are more portable and you can therefore carry them when travelling unlike the CPAP machine that is bulky and it power dependent
- They are less prone to falling off when you are sleeping.
There are two types of TSDs and MADs. There are prescription-only gadgets that you need a medical doctor to purchase and there are over-the-counter (online purchased) gadgets that allow you to self-fit in the comfort of your home.
The difference between these two is that the custom made types are made from a mold of your mouth and are therefore more fitting with less side effects, while the over-the-counter ones use the boil-and-bite technology to customize the fit. Another noticeable difference is the type, with custom made appliances going for up to 1500$+ while the self-fitted ones retail for about 100$ or even less.