9 Common CPAP Machine Side Effects & How To Fix Them

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Last updated on November 21st, 2022 at 12:06 pm

What are the negative effects of using a CPAP machine?

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is the most effective treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA).  Once the diagnosis of OSA has been confirmed, your GP or sleep technician will advise the most suitable treatment.  Those with mild, moderate or severe Sleep Apnoea are commonly advised to use CPAP therapy.  If you think you have symptoms of Sleep Apnoea, take an in-home sleep test to find out. 

Although the most common treatment option, CPAP therapy can take some time to get used to and there can be a level of discomfort whilst you tweak your equipment for optimal comfort.  Many of the side effects of using a CPAP machine overlap with one another – so by solving one problem, you can prevent another. 

We’ve created this guide to help you identify potential CPAP therapy side effects and ways you can fix them.

Air Leaks

Your partner may have complained that your mask blows air into their face. This can be caused by an air leak. It’s normal for a small amount of air to escape from your mask, but it shouldn’t interrupt your therapy or your partner’s sleep.

CPAP mask leaks occur when the the mask incorrectly fits your face. If you use a mask that doesn’t provide a secure seal, you will likely experience air leaks. Those who wear a mask which is unsuitable for how they breathe will also experience leaks.

Nasal masks are only suitable for those who breathe through their nose. Consider switching to a full-face mask if you breathe through both your nose and mouth. Alternatively, if you use a nasal mask and breathe through your mouth, adding a chin strap to your therapy can help keep your mouth closed.

Many CPAP machine providers have intelligent apps to tell you how often air leaks happen and how to stop them (ResMed myAir, F&P myMask and Sefam Access). Please be aware that these applications are only compatible with the brand’s specific products.

Nasal masks are only suitable for those who breathe through their nose. Consider switching to a full-face mask if you breathe through both your nose and mouth. Alternatively, if you use a nasal mask and breathe through your mouth, adding a chin strap to your therapy can help keep your mouth closed. 

Many CPAP machine providers have intelligent apps to tell you how often air leaks happen and how to stop them (ResMed myAir, F&P myMask and Sefam Access). Please be aware that these applications are only compatible with the brand’s specific products.

Red marks and acne

Skin irritation can make wearing a CPAP mask uncomfortable and makes continuing therapy difficult. An incorrect-sized mask or style can cause red marks, rashes and acne on the face and around the nose.

If your mask fits correctly and you still have sores and irritation, it could be from a silicone allergy. This is called allergic dermatitis and can be solved by wearing a skin-friendly CPAP mask that is free from silicone and minimises skin contact.

Another way to prevent skin damage is by using CPAP mask liners; these are soft fabric liners that act as a barrier between the skin and the mask.

Related page: Solving red marks and skin damage from your CPAP mask

Nose sores

Nasal pillows masks use two prongs that fit into the nostrils; some people find these to cause sores. Although, any type of nasal mask can dry out the nose as the airflow can become too cold, preventing your nose from naturally lubricating. To prevent nasal sores and irritation, you could add a CPAP humidifier to your therapy.

The humidifier works by keeping the air moist and warm. Alternatively, a nasal saline spray can also help treat this.

Dryness

Dry nasal passages or a dry mouth can become extremely uncomfortable. It is common in those who breathe through their mouth and use a nasal mask.

Air leaks could cause you to have a dry mouth from wearing an incorrect mask. Switching to a full-face mask, adding a chin strap or using a humidifier can stop this. 

Nasal congestion

If you come across congestion when using CPAP, you are not alone; this is a common side effect. Again, adding a humidifier to your therapy will help relieve congestion by creating a moist and warm airflow.

To optimise your humidifier, you can add a heated tube to regulate the temperature and humidity levels.

For those prone to congestion, sinus and nasal care are essential. Nasal irrigation is a proven method of treating congestion, sinusitis, post-nasal drip and allergies. The SinuPulse nasal irrigator is simple to use and affordable.  

Claustrophobia

When beginning your treatment, CPAP can be overwhelming. Wearing a mask throughout the night can cause claustrophobia for some users, and it can take up to a month to get used to the treatment.

However, choose a minimal contact mask if you find your mask too uncomfortable. For example, choose a nasal mask or a less invasive full-face mask, e.g. the Fisher & Paykel Evora or ResMed AirFit F20

Another way to get used to your mask is by wearing it throughout the day to allow yourself to get used to the feel of it.

Related page: How to be comfortable with your CPAP mask

Aerophagia 

This is a term used to describe burping, bloating and gas caused by air swallowing. Aerophagia is when a person finds it too difficult to breathe against the pressure of their machine. Reducing your air pressure levels and switching your sleeping position can stop aerophagia. 

Please note: it is not advised to change your CPAP pressure settings without the guidance of your doctor or sleep specialist.

Headaches

Morning headaches are a symptom of untreated Sleep Apnoea. However, if you wake up with headaches whilst using a CPAP machine, this could be a sign of a sinus infection or blockage. Take a look at our sinus and nasal care for simple sinus relief options.

If your pressure settings are too high, it can also cause headaches.

Ear pain

Using a CPAP machine can cause ear discomfort, which is usually due to inflammation. Acid reflux, flu and allergy can all be the cause of inflammation in the ear canal.

If you use a CPAP machine and are prone to ear infections, tinnitus or pain, please ensure the following:

  • Your pressure settings are correct
  • Your mask has no leaks
  • Keep your sinuses clear from blockages

Cleaning and replacing CPAP supplies

Regularly cleaning your supplies is beneficial to get the most from your equipment and prevent side effects. Germs, bacteria and dust build-up can impact the quality of your therapy. Follow your CPAP manufactures instructions for cleaning your supplies or read our helpful guide here.

The SoClean 2 CPAP sanitiser can make your cleaning routine simpler.

Related page: FDA Approved: So Clean 2 Ozone Sanitiser

Nothing lasts forever; when wear and tear begins to show on your equipment, you will need to replace it. If your mask has begun to cause side effects where it never has before; there’s no need to buy a whole new mask; just find the replacement mask part. If you’re unsure what part you need, you can contact us.

Regularly cleaning your equipment and replacing filters will help you get the most from your machine. 

CPAP accessories to help combat side effects

Uncomfortable CPAP side effects can be eliminated by adding additional accessories.

Chin strap: The chin strap holds the mouth closed during sleep for those who use a nasal mask and breathe through their mouths. A chin strap helps to prevent leaks and a dry mouth.

CPAP humidifier: Some machines come with an integrated humidifier, like the F&P SleepStyle, whilst others have optional humidification. The humidifier adds moisture to the air to prevent dryness, congestion and discomfort.

Mask liners: The soft fabric liners protect against skin irritation and sweat build-up. Working as a comfortable barrier between your skin and mask to create a secure seal.

Nasal sprays: Nasal congestion is a common side effect; using a nasal spray can alleviate discomfort.

Heated tubing or hose fleece: A humidifier can sometimes cause condensation. Switching to a heated tube or adding a hose fleece keeps the air at a constant temperature to stop condensation build-up, add comfort and reduce noise. 

Hose lift: To move more freely during the night, use a hose lift; these prevent tangling in your tubing and pulling on your mask.

CPAP pillow: Your sleeping position impacts your therapy; sleeping on your side is encouraged as it helps to open the airway. Adding a CPAP orthopaedic pillow allows you to sleep on your side without dislodging your mask or suffering from red marks.

CPAP Bedside table: If you travel with your machine, using a portable CPAP table will make your experience simpler.CPAP battery pack: To make travelling with your device easy, consider a battery pack to avoid pausing your therapy.

Related page: How your sleeping position affects your sleep.

Find the best supplies for you

It can take time to adjust to CPAP therapy, and the side effects can make it harder. Finding the right CPAP supplies for you can make all the difference.

For helpful guidance and expertise, contact us.

Author Danielle Myatt