Health System Services | Everything You Need to Know About Your CPAP Machine

Everything You Need to Know About Your CPAP Machine

What Does CPAP Stand For?

CPAP stands for “Continuous Positive Airway Pressure,” and CPAP machines supply airway pressure through either a mask that goes over the nose and/or the mouth, or directly into the nostrils. The airway pressure prevents the soft palate from collapsing and blocking the airway, which is what causes snoring. While the CPAP machine helps prevent snoring, it has several other health benefits.

CPAP Machines and Sleep Apnea

Among the most important and comprehensive of these benefits is that a CPAP machine prevents sleep apnea, which occurs when breathing is interrupted during sleep, often happening hundreds of times in one night. Interrupted breathing can contribute to interruption of the sleep cycle, fatigue during the day, high blood pressure, low blood oxygen levels, stroke, and heart disease. While there is no absolute cure for sleep apnea, CPAP machines provide effective treatment.


Fortunately, CPAP machines are covered by most insurance policies, as they are considered Durable Medical Equipment, though deductibles and copayments may differ depending on the policy. In order to obtain a CPAP machine, a sleep study must be conducted by a sleep specialist to determine the correct air pressure needed to relieve symptoms. An improper air pressure may cause trouble with the throat and nasal cavity. The results of the sleep study are then analyzed by a doctor who specializes in sleep studies, and this doctor writes a prescription for the CPAP machine. Once the prescription is given, an additional study is conducted to make sure that the prescription is correct for the user. Results and benefits will begin right away upon use, but consistent use is necessary in order to effectively treat symptoms.


There are many physical side effects of the CPAP machine that may also cause problems with usage. If the air pressure causes a dry, stuffy nose, first make sure that the mask fits. A humidifier can also be purchased for the machine that can be adjusted to the user’s liking. Using a saline nasal spray before bedtime may also be helpful. If the air pressure causes a dry mouth, consider using a chin strap to keep the mouth closed, or buy a humidified mask that covers both the mouth and the nose. Feelings of claustrophobia from the straps of the face mask are also a common problem. To solve this issue, it is useful to practice using the machine in steps; begin by just holding the mask to the face while awake, without the air hose or the straps. Next, try holding the mask to the face with the air tube, but no straps. Progress to using the straps, mask, and air tube while awake, and lastly, use the machine while asleep. Relaxation exercises may also help. If this continues to be a problem, talk to a doctor about finding a different style of mask with fewer straps, such as one with nasal pillows.

Common CPAP Complaints

According to the Mayo Clinic, the complaint most often heard from new users is that the CPAP machine is hard to get used to. It is suggested that the machine be worn during the day for short periods of time while watching TV, or while taking a nap to ensure that the air pressure and mask fit is correct, but this must be done consistently in order to get used to the mask. If it is difficult to fall and stay asleep while wearing the machine, doctors may be able to prescribe a machine with a “ramp” feature, which increases air pressure gradually as the user falls asleep. More recently, Auto CPAP machines have been released that automatically adjust the air pressure of the machine to conform to what is needed, depending on the user’s stage of the sleep cycle. This kind of CPAP machine is helpful to those who experience discomfort with the steady stream of air provided by a normal CPAP machine. Lastly, it may take some time to get used to the noise that the CPAP machine makes. Most modern machines are almost noiseless, but if the machine is making noise, check to see if the air filter is clean and unblocked, or bring it back to a doctor so they can make sure the machine is working properly. If the noise continues to be a problem, it may help to wear earplugs, turn on a white noise machine, or talk to a doctor about getting more tubing so the machine can be farther from the bed.

New users of the CPAP machine may experience some trouble with the sleep mask itself. One of the most common problems associated with usage would be an ill-fitting mask. A mask that is too large or too small may cause skin irritation or pressure sores, so it is important to find the correct fit. There are many styles of masks available to fit an individual’s needs or preferences. These include full masks that cover the mouth and nose; these fuller coverage masks work well if the user tends to be a restless sleeper, or if the user prefers to breathe through his or her mouth during sleep. Another option includes nasal pillows with fewer straps. These are ideal if the user wears glasses and does not tend to move around during sleep. If the mask tends to fall off the face at night due to movement while sleeping, it may be better to have a full face mask that has more stable straps. It all depends on what is preferred or needed, and the range of different masks allows room for adjustment.

CPAP Maintenance

To get the best and longest use out of the CPAP machine, it is important to ensure that it is kept clean and well taken care of. On a daily basis, wiping down the mask with a damp cloth with mild soap will prevent facial oils and dead skin from accumulating, which would make it difficult for the mask to create a seal over the mouth and nose. Take special care to clean the mask and the tubes daily when ill. Every week, the mask, tubes, and head straps should be soaked in a mixture of warm water and ammonia-free soap for about 5 minutes, and then hung out to dry, making sure that all equipment is completely dry before the next use. The machine itself can also be wiped down with a slightly damp cloth. The main filter can be rinsed in warm water and blotted dry, but the white filter should not be washed- those should be replaced each month. If the machine has a humidifier, the water chamber should be washed out with soap and warm water once a week, and should also be disinfected once every other week. To disinfect, just fill the water chamber with 1 part white vinegar and 5 parts water, and then soak it for about 30 minutes. Rinse it out, and then put in the dishwasher to be washed thoroughly. Use only distilled water in the humidifier to help prevent mineral buildup in the water chamber. Keeping the CPAP machine well cleaned will help it run at an optimal level for a long time.

The Health System Services Difference

At Health System Services, we’ve been helping people with their CPAP needs for over 20 years. If you have any questions or concerns about your CPAP, please feel free to contact us using the form below or stop by your store at your earliest convenience. We are Health System Services and we are here to serve you!