Commonly Asked Questions About CPAP Machines (And How to Answer Them)

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CPAP machines are the first-line of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). They’re complicated machines, and it takes a while to get used to wearing them and breathing with them at night.

If you’re in the early stages of an OSA diagnosis, you likely have many questions. We answer the most commonly asked questions about CPAP machines below.

What Is CPAP Therapy?

CPAP therapy for OAS uses a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine (or another device) to help you sleep through the night.

The machine uses constant airway pressure to keep your airway open while you’re asleep. Remember that OAS means your airway becomes obstructed and you stop breathing during the night.

How Do I Get a CPAP Machine?

You can’t buy a CPAP machine on your own.

The process begins by talking to your doctor about your sleep symptoms. If you snore, wake up tired or with headaches, or know that you stop breathing during your sleep, then your doctor may send you for a sleep test.

A sleep physician then reviews your test results and advises you on the best steps forward. Often, they recommend a CPAP machine. However, you won’t be sent home to figure it out on your own. You will likely try one out during a second sleep study, which gives the sleep specialist time to identify the correct settings.

You then receive a machine with the settings that work best for your physical symptoms.

Does CPAP Machines Use a Filter?

Every CPAP machine uses a minimum of one filter.

The type of machine you receive dictates the sorts of filter used. In most cases, they feature foam material, and you can wash them. Some devices use disposable paper filters.

How Often Do I Need to Clean My Filter?

Keeping your filter clean and changing it when required are the only things you need to do to maintain your machine.

If you have a washable filter, you clean it by running it under clear running water. Expect to do this weekly, but be sure to clean it as soon as it becomes discolored. Once clean, leave it to dry and then reinstall it.

You can’t wash a disposable filter. You should remove, dispose of it, and install a new one. Most disposable versions last for a month, but you may need to change it more regularly (twice a month) if there’s a lot of dust in the air where you live. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Cleaning and switching the filters is the only maintenance you need to perform, but it is critical because it keeps dust out of your machine.

What Else Do I Have to Do to Take Care of the Machine?

You also need to clean your CPAP mask. Wash the mask daily with warm water and mild soap (with no fragrance) or a CPAP mask detergent. Expect to clean the tubing once a week. You will also need to replace the pads once or twice a month. Most manufacturers ask you to switch out the mask itself every three to six months.

Be sure to wipe off moisturizers or oils from your face before you go to bed. They can break down the silicone in your mask.

Because the machines are low maintenance, there’s not much else to worry about. However, you should keep the environment around your device clear. Be sure to dust the room and the area around the machine regularly. You should also make sure that there aren’t any curtains or linens blocking the intake.

If you also use a humidifier in your CPAP therapy, be sure to handle it carefully. First, empty the water chamber every morning to avoid accidental spills during the day. Second, don’t pick up both machines at the same time. Water in the CPAP machine not only damages the device itself but also voids the warranty.

Always remove the humidifier before picking up either machine.

Can I Travel With My CPAP Machine?

One of the biggest complaints people on CPAP therapy have is traveling. You need to carry your CPAP machine with you whenever you intend to spend the night somewhere else, which removes some of the spontaneity of traveling.

If you travel regularly, look for a travel-friendly CPAP machine. These tend to be smaller and fit neatly into cases or carry-on bags. Additionally, your CPAP machine doesn’t count as your carry-on (thanks to a Department of Transportation ruling). So you can carry on your CPAP machine and your carry on without the airline charging you for two bags.

If you do carry it on, put it in a clear plastic bag so that TSA can easily see what’s inside your carry-on.

Are There Any Alternatives to CPAP Machines?

If a sleep doctor prescribes a CPAP machine, you need to make an effort to use it and adjust to it.

Before you switch machines, you can try another mask or interface to improve your comfort. Click here to learn more about the different types of CPAP masks.

If this doesn’t work, you can try a dental device or surgery, if these tackle the causes of your OAS.

There is also the option to try other machines, including an Automatic Positive Airway Pressure (APAP) machine. APAP machines are more technologically advanced because they automatically change the pressure delivered to make sure you get only the minimum pressure your body needs to maintain the airway. The CPAP machine, however, uses a single pressure setting – and the highest necessary – as per the results of the sleep study.

Do You Have More Questions?

Finally getting an OAS diagnosis changes your life. It offers an opportunity to get the sleep you need, but it usually comes with the need to use a machine to do so.

CPAP machines are the most common type of OAS therapy because they work. However, our technologies are always changing.

To learn more about changes in healthcare technology, visit our Technology archive.

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