Top-tips for sleeping with CPAP
When starting treatment for sleep apnoea, you may have wondered how CPAP would affect your life? How would it feel wearing your CPAP mask for the very first time you tried it on? Would you have difficulty getting to sleep while on CPAP?
No two people are alike and so getting used to CPAP is different for everyone. You may be one of the lucky ones who are fortunate enough to take to your CPAP treatment right away, but if not…here are our top tips for adjusting to a CPAP mask and machine when you are trying to get to sleep:
Ease yourself into your CPAP routine
Remember the goal is to make your treatment a key part of your health that you use every night. CPAP is the best treatment option for you at this point in time but it will only be of benefit to you when it is being used.
It is important to become familiar with your mask and feel comfortable wearing it. Try using your CPAP equipment for a few short periods during the day while you are awake. A good place to start is to wear your mask while you are watching TV or reading.1
Make sure your CPAP mask is comfortable
The most common problems with sleep apnoea treatment occur when your CPAP mask does not fit properly. If your mask is not fitting properly you may not be able to go to sleep as easily as you should.
Your healthcare provider will have set up all of your equipment’s settings to suit your particular sleep apnoea needs, but you may need to make some subtle adjustments to your mask.
Adjustments to your mask, to improve seal and comfort, can be made during the day. In the first instance, stand or sit in front of a mirror with your mask on and make necessary adjustments to improve comfort. Once you have made adjustments for comfort connect your mask to the CPAP tubing, lie down and turn your machine on. Your face contour changes when you are lying down so this is a very important step in checking for seal and comfort.
Some sleep apnoea machines have a ‘Mask Testing’ mode that you can use to test seal and comfort. If not, a CPAP pressure of 10cm H2O is a good pressure to test for seal and comfort.1
If after making subtle adjustments to your mask you are still having trouble finding a mask seal that is comfortable you may need to contact or visit your healthcare provider to see if your mask’s fitting is correct.
Maintain good sleep hygiene
Improving your sleep hygiene is an important step to making your sleep treatment as successful as possible. So, before starting out on sleep treatment , make sure you are doing your best to maintain good sleep hygiene. What does this mean? This means making sure your lifestyle, habits and practices are all conducive to helping you sleep well on a regular basis.2
You can improve your sleep hygiene by making a few minor adjustments to your lifestyle and attitude.3 The following tips may help improve your sleep hygiene:
- Listen to your body. Your body’s internal clock can provide accurate signals for when it’s ready to go to sleep. Make sure you listen to it! If your body tells you that you are tired, go to bed! Likewise, don’t go to bed unless you are tired. More on this tip below.
- Improve your sleeping environment. Having a good mattress and CPAP pillow will certainly help your quality of sleep. Also make sure that your bedroom is dark, quiet and the right temperature; it is recommended that your bedroom’s temperature is between 16 and 20°C.4. If you can’t control the noise or light in you room, invest in some ear plugs and eye masks. Avoid social vices like alcohol, coffee and mobile phones before bed. These can all affect your ability to have a good night’s sleep.5
Don’t go to bed until you feel tired6
As mentioned in the earlier, it is important to only go to bed when you are tired. This is also true when starting out on sleep treatment. If you head off to bed when you aren’t feeling tired, you may not be able to switch off. Having something new and unfamiliar like a CPAP machine only makes matters worse; you might find it unusually hard to fall asleep as your mind keeps you awake by thinking too much about your mask and machine.
Be relaxed when you go to bed
A busy, racing or worried mind will find it hard to go to sleep straight away. Throw in your CPAP machine and mask, and you might start thinking it’s just impossible to go to sleep.
Try doing a few things that you find relaxing 1-2 hours before bed. We are all different, so see what works for you! For example:
- Take a bath (the rise, then fall in body temperature promotes drowsiness)5
- Read a book
- Watch television
- Practise relaxation exercises
- Avoid stressful, stimulating activities like doing work or discussing emotional issues. These kinds of activities can cause the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which is associated with increasing alertness6. If you tend to take your problems to bed, try writing them down and putting them aside. Also, don’t exercise just before bedtime.7
Use the Ramp setting on your CPAP Machine
Our machines have an ‘AutoRamp’ setting. When you have made your way to bed and fitted your mask, start up your machine. If the air pressure from your machine feels too high as you are trying to fall asleep, use the “ramp” mode.
The ramp mode will start your device on a low pressure and gradually increase the air pressure over time. This should help you fall asleep before the air pressure reaches its prescribed level.
So check what machine you have and if you are having trouble falling asleep before the air pressure increases, speak to your healthcare provider about increasing the ramp time.
Breathe your way to sleep
Hopefully you are relaxed and tired once you have settled into bed. One of the last things to try now are some breathing techniques. The Sleep Foundation offers a simple breathing exercise that is designed to help you relax and sleep.
Switch it off before bed
Using technology such as texting, checking e-mail, scrolling through social media at night directly before bed can keep you lying awake for longer at night. Even watching television can stimulate the mind and promote alertness, just the opposite of what you need to go to sleep.
It’s important to switch off any devices one hour before bed. This will help your mind and body prepare for restful sleep.
Remember, it takes a while for most people to get comfortable using a CPAP device and mask every night. Be patient with yourself. Doing all of the above steps will give you a good chance of being successful on sleep treatment.
Sleep Health Foundation – CPAP: Making it work for you. https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/public-information/fact-sheets-a-z/206-cpap-making-it-work-for-you.html
Definition of Sleep Hygiene, Oxford Dictionary. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/sleep-hygiene
Sleep Hygiene, Better Health, Victorian Government. June 2014https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/sleep-hygiene
The Ideal Temperature for Sleep, Sleep.org https://sleep.org/articles/temperature-for-sleep/
Twelve simple tips to improve your sleep, Healthy Sleep, Harvard. Dec 2007http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/getting/overcoming/tips
Sleep Hygiene, Better Health, Victorian Government, June 2014 https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/sleep-hygiene
Sleep with Ease, University of New England https://www.une.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/10629/sleep-with-ease.pdf