7 Tips for Falling Asleep on CPAP
Can’t get to sleep with your CPAP?
Getting used to the feeling of CPAP therapy can be hard at first. But there are some simple steps that you can follow to familiarise yourself with CPAP therapy.
Try these tips for falling asleep and having success with your CPAP machine and mask.
1. EASE YOURSELF INTO USING CPAP
Try using your CPAP therapy equipment for a few short periods during the day. Wearing it when you are not tired and when you are watching TV or reading, is a great way to determine if there are any adjustments needed.
Your therapy specialist will have set up all of your equipment’s settings to suit your sleep apnea needs, but you may need to make some subtle adjustments to your mask or your humidifier’s settings.
2. MAKE YOUR CPAP MASK COMFORTABLE
The most common problems with treatment occur when your CPAP mask does not fit properly. If its not fitting properly when you “hit the sack” you may not be able to go to sleep as easily as you should.
During the day, make subtle adjustments to your mask to get a good seal and to make it comfortable. Stand in front of a mirror to do this.
Once you have made some adjustments to how it feels, try lying down and turning on your machine. Your face contour will change slightly when you are laying down. So this is an important step not to miss! Some sleep apnea machines have a “Mask Testing” mode that you can use to test with.
If the mask is too big, the headgear straps holding it to your face will need to be pulled tightly. This may irritate you. Likewise if the mask is too small, it may not seal properly and the air may blow into your eyes. If you are having either of these problems, you should visit a CPAP clinic to see if your mask’s fitting is right.
If you are worried about how the mask or head straps feel against your skin, don’t let this bother you. You can buy soft nasal pads to sit on your nose to reduce the rubbing of the straps against your skin.
3. MAINTAIN GOOD SLEEP HYGIENE
Before starting out on CPAP therapy, 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.1
You can improve your sleep hygiene by making a few minor adjustments to your lifestyle and attitude.2 Here are some habits that you should follow:
Listen to your body
- Your body’s internal clock can provide accurate signals when it’s ready to go to sleep. So make sure you listen to it. For example:
- Go to bed when your body signals to you that it’s tired.
- And likewise, don’t go to be unless you are tired. (We will touch on this more in the next section, as it’s an important factor to consider when starting out on CPAP!)
Improve your sleeping environment
- Have a good mattress and pillow.
- If you are a side sleeper, there are specially designed pillows you can purchase that will help you to use your CPAP mask.
- Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and the right temperature.
- It is recommended that your bedroom’s temperature is between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius3
- If you can’t control the noise or light of you room, invest in some ear plugs and eye masks.
Avoid social vices like alcohol, coffee and mobile phones before bed 4.
Improving your sleep hygiene is unlikely to eliminate your sleep apnea or your snoring, but it will set you up for being successful with CPAP, which can help treat these things.
4. DON’T GO TO BED UNTIL YOU FEEL TIRED5
As mentioned earlier, when starting out on CPAP you should try to go to bed only when you are tired.
If you head off to bed when you aren’t feeling tired, you may not be able to switch off. Add in the addition of something new and unfamiliar like a CPAP machine, and you might find it unusually hard to fall asleep. Your mind may keep you awake by thinking too much about your mask and machine.
If you find when it is getting close to bedtime that you aren’t tired, consider delaying go to bed by a little while. Try doing something relaxing.
Don't do this too often, only do this as you are getting used to CPAP therapy.
5. 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 therapy machine and mask, and you might start thinking it’s just impossible to go to sleep.
Do a few things that you find relaxing 1-2 hours before bed. We are all different, so do whatever works for you!
- Take a bath (the rise, then fall in body temperature promotes drowsiness)5
- Read a book
- Watch television
- Practice 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 alertness5. If you tend to take your problems to bed, try writing them down—and putting them aside.6
6. SEE IF THERE IS A RAMP SETTING ON YOUR CPAP MACHINE
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. You should be able to fall asleep before the air pressure reaches its proper level.
Some machines, like ResMed’s AirSenseTM Autoset have a smart automatic “ramp” pressure setting. This means the machine won’t increase the pressure until you have fallen asleep.
So check what machine you have and if you aren’t falling asleep before the air pressure increases, speak to a CPAP therapy specialist at Edensleep about increasing the ramp time. Just make an appointment at a time that suits you!
7. BREATH 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.
It is worth it!
Remember, it takes a while for most people to get comfortable using a PAP device and mask every night. Be very patient with yourself. Doing all of the above steps will give you a good chance of being successful on CPAP.
Always keep in mind that using CPAP brings with it health benefit. Using CPAP less often reduces its health benefits and makes it more difficult for your body to adjust to the therapy.7