While there is no denying that using a CPAP device can take some getting used to, few treatment efforts can have a greater impact in mitigating your sleep apnea symptoms. When used consistently, a CPAP device will reduce your Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI) — or the number of pauses in breathing that you experience each night.
Left unchecked, individuals with severe sleep apnea can experience over 30 incidences of interrupted breathing in a single hour. The resulting chronic fatigue can have a significant negative impact on daily life, and even contribute to more serious long-term health conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Unfortunately, many who could benefit from using a CPAP device fail to do so. Some either give up too quickly after initially trying to use a CPAP mask, or they may not even be willing to try a CPAP device in the first place.
Many of these issues stem from recurring myths and misconceptions regarding CPAP use. Here are a few of the more commonly reported issues that have been debunked.
Will Using a CPAP Device Make You Sick?
A common concern that many new CPAP users have is that using their device will make them more prone to respiratory ailments and other illnesses.
There is actually some truth to these concerns, but they probably aren’t as severe as you might be led to think. In an interview with the Harvard Health Blog, Dr. Lawrence Epstein explained, “The mask sits on the face, in contact with organisms on the skin. Over time, bacteria and oils on a dirty mask may give you a rash or infection on the skin…If the standing water in a reservoir isn’t cleaned regularly, there is the potential for bacteria or mold to grow, which you could breathe in. Breathing in those organisms can make you sick or increase problems related to conditions such as asthma, reactive airway disease, or other lung conditions.”
So yes, there is the potential that you could get sick from using a CPAP device. But Dr. Epstein’s explanation offers a key caveat: this is only going to happen if you don’t clean your device.
CPAP manufacturers understand this, which is why they provide patients with recommended schedules and guidelines for cleaning and replacing equipment.
At a minimum, you should clean your CPAP mask, water chamber, and tubing on a weekly basis. However, many manufacturers actually recommend that you perform these cleanings daily to prevent bacterial buildup. These components should be submerged in warm water with a mild dish soap before being left to air dry.
You can further reduce the risk of mold growth or skin infections by washing the mask headgear once a week and rinsing the water chamber with a water/white vinegar mixture. You should also follow the device-specific guidelines for washing or replacing your air filters to ensure that your device provides clean air each night.
If you’re concerned about not having enough time for daily cleaning or that your own efforts won’t be effective, you can purchase a sanitation device such as the Sleep8 CPAP Sanitizing Companion. These devices allow you to place the mask and tubing inside a specialized chamber, which is then sanitized with activated oxygen (or ozone). Such devices provide a true “set it and forget it” solution for CPAP cleaning.
So, as far as this misconception is concerned: using a CPAP device has the potential to increase your risk for respiratory illnesses. But the risk is minimal, particularly if you follow recommended cleaning guidelines. As long as you do that, you have nothing to fear.
CPAP and Vertigo
Though less common of a concern, some individuals who suffer from vertigo fear that using a CPAP device could trigger their symptoms. The fear stems from the idea that the air pressure supplied by the CPAP device could cause users to experience vertigo more easily.
This was recently addressed in an article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which explained, “Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is believed to be caused by calcium crystals in the organ of balance, the semicircular canals, in the inner ear…triggering BPPV is not an issue with CPAP. In fact, by improving the oxygen supply to the balance centers of the brain, treatment of OSA has been shown to improve balance problems in some people.”
This one can very easily be chalked up as a myth. However, individuals who suffer from vertigo should consult with their doctor to find ways to better manage their symptoms.
CPAP and Your Looks
Some people don’t want to use a CPAP device because they worry about how they will look in a mask. While it’s true that wearing a bulky mask at night isn’t necessarily an “attractive” look, it is important to put this in its proper perspective.
A CPAP device is meant to be used while you are asleep. The interruptions to your breathing that occur during the night are caused by your airways getting temporarily closed off while sleeping.
Because of this, it’s not like you are going to be wearing your CPAP mask around the house. At most, you might put it on a few minutes before bed so you can activate the ramping feature while you read or watch TV before going to sleep.
While you might feel uncomfortable about the way you look while wearing a CPAP mask at night, the reality is that undergoing sleep apnea therapy will actually help you look better when it matters most — during the day.
As reported by the Huffington Post, those who are sleep deprived are more likely to have droopy eyelids, wrinkles, or dark circles under their eyes — all factors that can cause the individual to look less attractive or sad.
To prove the effect of CPAP therapy, researchers took pictures of 20 study participant’s faces before and after two months of CPAP treatment. The researchers performed a computer analysis of the photos had volunteers rate the differences between the before and after photos.
The results speak for themselves: “68 percent said the faces in the post-CPAP photos appeared more alert than the pre-CPAP photos. Plus, 67 percent said the faces in the post-CPAP photos appeared more attractive, and 64 percent said the faces in the post-CPAP photos appeared more youthful. The computer software analysis also showed that under-eye redness, cheek redness and forehead surface volume were all decreased after the CPAP treatment.”
Once again, this is a myth with mixed results. Yes, you may look a little strange while wearing your CPAP mask, but in reality, using your CPAP device during a time when you and your spouse are asleep will ultimately help you look more attractive when you’re awake — when your looks actually matter.
CPAP Machines Are Too Noisy
Another common concern among new CPAP users is that their equipment will actually disrupt sleep for them or their partner, rather than improve it. The perceived problem is the amount of noise produced by the machine.
Thankfully, with modern CPAP devices, this isn’t much of a concern. Most CPAP equipment produced nowadays operates between 25 and 30 dBa.
By comparison, that is roughly the level of sound that you would expect from rustling leaves or a whisper. It is actually quieter than other common household appliances, like a computer or refrigerator — items that most people don’t perceive to be particularly noisy.
You should also be mindful of the fact that using a CPAP device can help mitigate snoring, which often stems from sleep apnea. For your partner, the quiet hum of the CPAP machine is likely much less of a problem for their sleep than a loud snore.
What Happens if the Power Goes Out?
News stories like the recent planned massive power outage by PG&E in California have caused some to worry about what could happen if the power goes out while they are using their CPAP device. Some worry that they could even suffocate.
The good news is that such fears are largely unfounded. Remember, the CPAP device isn’t keeping you alive through the night — it is providing air pressure to help reduce incidences of sleep apnea.
CPAP masks have exhalation ports to remove exhaled air. During a power failure, these same ports allow the user to breathe in fresh air until power is restored. These ports also ensure that CO2 levels won’t build up inside your mask. Many patients will wake up when their CPAP machine stops working, giving you the opportunity to remove the mask if desired.
In addition, many travel CPAP devices can draw on battery power to continue providing therapy even when the power goes out. This way, even during an outage, you can continue to get the air pressure you need.
Quite simply, you don’t have to worry about dying if the power goes out while using your CPAP device. However, you will experience fatigue and other effects of sleep deprivation, the same as if you skipped a night of treatment.
Are There Any Alternatives to Traditional CPAP?
Some people start using a standard CPAP device, only to find that they have trouble adjusting to a continuous flow of air pressure or wearing a CPAP mask. However, just because these initial efforts don’t seem to be going well doesn’t mean you’re stuck without a way to address your sleep apnea.
If CPAP therapy doesn’t seem to be working properly, consult with your doctor. They may recommend trying a different pressure setting or switching to a BiPAP device, which adjusts the air pressure based on whether you are inhaling or exhaling. For many, these seemingly minor adjustments may be all that is needed to deliver more effective therapy. In some cases, switching to a different style of mask can provide similar results.
New advances even allow some patients to get the benefits of CPAP therapy without needing to wear a mask at all.
One of the most exciting recent developments in sleep apnea treatment is positional sleep therapy. Products like the Philips Respironics NightBalance have patients wear a small device that is strapped around their chest. This device detects whether the individual is sleeping on their back or on their side. When someone starts sleeping on their back, the device emits subtle vibrations that cause them to roll onto their side without waking up.
Such devices specifically target those who deal with positional obstructive sleep apnea, in which incidences of sleep apnea are mostly — or completely — the result of sleeping on one’s back. Though not an ideal solution for everyone, they present an exciting new development in the ways patients can manage sleep apnea.
Even if a standard CPAP device doesn’t seem to be working, there are still other options available. Working with a qualified sleep doctor will help you find the best solution.
Getting used to using a CPAP device can take time, and there is no denying that some will experience issues like a leaking mask or uncomfortable air pressure. However, by working with your doctor, you can find reliable solutions for these and other issues. What is most important is that you don’t give up on or fail to start therapy because of worries stemming from unfounded misconceptions.
One thing that isn’t a misconception is that purchasing CPAP equipment can be a somewhat expensive endeavor, particularly if you don’t have health insurance or your insurance policy does not provide adequate coverage for sleep apnea treatment.
This is where No Insurance Medical Supplies comes in. We offer CPAP machines from top brands like ResMed, Philips Respironics, and DeVilbiss, many of which are available at discounted prices. We also offer certified pre-owned CPAP devices, allowing you to save even more on your purchase. All orders over $89 also receive free shipping.
If buying a CPAP device outright is too much for your budget, we also offer equipment rentals and affordable financing on select purchases.
The cost of CPAP equipment shouldn’t keep you from getting the sleep apnea therapy you need — just like myths and misconceptions shouldn’t keep you from investigating this therapy option in the first place. With No Insurance Medical Supplies, you’ll be able to get the care you need so you can get the sleep you deserve.