So You’ve Been Prescribed CPAP Therapy — Now What?
Individuals who find themselves in a seemingly endless battle with fatigue will often go to the doctor to try to figure out what is causing them so many restless nights. And more often than not, these visits will eventually result in a diagnosis of sleep apnea.
Though sleep apnea may not seem as serious as other medical conditions, its long-term effects can be quite severe. The repeated cycle of stopping and restarting breathing during the night will continually interrupt your sleep, keeping you from getting the full rest you need. From increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke to making you more susceptible to weight gain and depression, sleep apnea can contribute to a wide variety of health complications.
To counteract these long-term risks, most sleep apnea patients are prescribed CPAP therapy. This change to your routine can seem intimidating, and getting used to your treatment can be a challenge at first. However, by sticking with your CPAP treatment, you can improve your sleep and overall well-being.
As with any other task, good information will help you prepare for this lifestyle adjustment. Here are a few important things to consider so you can develop the right mindset going into your treatment.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
After receiving a diagnosis of sleep apnea and a prescription for CPAP therapy, you will likely have a lot of questions. That’s a good thing! But rather than taking all your questions to an online forum, start with your doctor.
For example, it is helpful to understand if you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea or central sleep apnea. In obstructive sleep apnea, the throat muscles relax during sleep, blocking off the airways. In addition to CPAP therapy, losing excess weight, reducing alcohol consumption, and exercising more often can also help alleviate your symptoms.
Central sleep apnea is a rare condition in which the brain doesn’t signal your muscles for proper breathing during the night. It is often concurrent with heart disease and can be caused by opioids and other medications. As such, your doctor may have different lifestyle recommendations to go along with a CPAP prescription.
As part of receiving a sleep apnea diagnosis, you will have undergone a sleep study. Make sure that you receive your own copy of the report and have your doctor explain key details for you. Nighttime oxygen levels, AHI (apnea hypopnea index) statistics, and other measurements can give you greater insight into your condition and why you need a prescription.
Finally, obtain a physical copy of your prescription so you can purchase equipment from the seller of your choice. Depending on your level of insurance coverage, this could make a significant difference for your long-term expenses.
Choosing the Right Equipment
Despite its importance, studies have consistently found that close to 50 percent of CPAP users abandon their treatment after a relatively short period. Many never even purchase CPAP equipment after the initial titration study that is used to determine their prescribed air pressure.
An initial bad experience, difficulty adjusting to the equipment, or even concerns over the machine’s noise levels can all cause someone to give up on their therapy. Going into your treatment, you should understand that getting used to your equipment can be a challenge. But you should also remember that each of these challenges can be overcome.
Many of the challenges associated with adapting to CPAP therapy stem from not having the right equipment. In many ways, finding the perfect balance in your treatment requires some trial and error as you find the right mask and machine combination for your needs.
For example, many CPAP machines utilize additional features that make it easier to adapt to the continuous air flow. Auto ramping gradually increases air pressure after the machine is turned on, giving you time to fall asleep before the machine starts delivering air at the prescribed pressure level.
Many who struggle adjusting to a CPAP device do better when switching to a BiPAP or Auto CPAP device. BiPAP devices lower the delivered air pressure during exhalation, allowing for more comfortable breathing. Auto CPAP devices actually track your breathing patterns throughout the night, adjusting air pressure delivery as needed to maximize comfort while still mitigating sleep apnea events.
Proper mask sizing is also essential for effective treatment. A mask that is too large will be more prone to leaks, which can irritate your eyes and face and keep your treatment from being effective. A mask that is too tight could cause skin rashes and irritation.
You should also be mindful of which mask type will work best for your needs. While a full face mask is recommended for those who breath through their mouth, those who struggle with feelings of claustrophobia from wearing a mask often benefit from nasal pillows or a nasal mask. Your sleep style — such as whether you sleep on your back or your side, and whether you roll around in your sleep — should also influence your mask selection.
Finally, using a humidifier will make the use of a CPAP machine more comfortable by helping the air feel warm and moist. This will prevent sore throat and nasal irritation.
Don’t be afraid to consult with your doctor if you think you need to try a different equipment setup to achieve better results. Sometimes, all that is needed to make your treatment comfortable is changing a mask or switching from CPAP to BiPAP.
Addressing Other Challenges
While finding the right equipment for your needs can go a long way in helping you adjust to CPAP therapy, there is no denying that other factors can also discourage treatment adherence. Noisy equipment, feelings of claustrophobia, or even subconsciously taking off your mask during the night can all keep you from getting the therapy you need.
With such issues, practice and patience are an absolute must. It may take a few weeks to adjust, but this doesn’t mean that CPAP therapy isn’t for you.
In an article for the American Sleep Apnea Association, CPAP user Eugena Brooks notes, “Unless you wear some sort of mask for employment or recreational activities, wearing a mask takes some getting used to. I began by wearing it for short periods of time while doing something else to distract me like when watching TV, reading or just listening to music. I will still put on soft music if I am having a little trouble dropping off to sleep. This should also be helpful if you have the sensation of claustrophobia. Talk with your doctor about learning relaxation exercises.”
If you have a hard time getting used to your CPAP equipment at first, don’t get discouraged. As the above example illustrates, many people simply need more time to get used to their equipment. By consistently practicing wearing your mask and giving yourself time to gradually adjust, CPAP therapy can become a normal part of your nightly routine.
Learning to Care For Your Equipment
Along with learning how to use your CPAP equipment properly, you must also learn to provide proper care and maintenance. This will ensure that you will continue to enjoy the best possible performance from your equipment in the months and years ahead.
When you purchase CPAP equipment, you should throughly review the care and replacement guidelines that come from the manufacturer. For example, it is typically recommended that masks and tubing be replaced after three months. If you have insurance coverage for your equipment, your insurance provider may also have its own timeline for replacing masks and other system components.
Following these guidelines is an absolute must. Over time, exposure to the oils in your skin can wear down the plastic of your mask. Tubing can crack. Humidifier water chambers can trap bacteria. Your machine may also have filters that need to be replaced. Following part replacement guidelines will prevent leaks and keep bacteria and other airborne particles out of your system.
Daily and weekly cleaning programs will also prevent bacterial buildup and ensure that equipment functions properly until it is time to be replaced. Most masks and tubing can be washed in a mixture of mild antibacterial soap and warm water. However, it is always best to review the information in your owner’s manual so that you avoid causing accidental damage to your equipment.
Focus on the Positive
Many people go into CPAP therapy with negative expectations. Knowing that it can take time to adjust to using your equipment, that users have the responsibility of regularly cleaning and replacing CPAP components, and the fact that CPAP therapy is a lifetime commitment for most users can be daunting.
However, the cliche “attitude is everything” applies just as much to your CPAP therapy as it does to any other part of life.
Writing for Success magazine, Keith Harrell explains, “We all have a choice. We can choose an inner dialogue of self-encouragement and self-motivation, or we can choose one of self-defeat and self-pity. It’s a power we all have…Your mind is a computer that can be programmed. You can choose whether the software installed is productive or unproductive. Your inner dialogue is the software that programs your attitude, which determines how you present yourself to the world around you. You have control over the programming. Whatever you put into it is reflected in what comes out.”
Ultimately, your attitude and focus will likely determine whether you stick with your CPAP therapy and improve your health, or whether you quit your treatment.
So how can you ensure that you’re “programming” your attitude the right way? Start by trying to tune out the negative. Maybe you have a friend or family member who disliked CPAP. Remember that their experience doesn’t dictate what your experience will be. Maybe you felt uncomfortable when you first tried using the mask. Remember that there are countless CPAP masks available so you can try to find the right fit.
In addition to finding positive solutions to negative objections, it can also become easier to stick with your CPAP therapy when you focus on your motivating factors.
There are many positive outcomes from sticking with your sleep apnea treatment. You can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke. You will no longer feel fatigued during the day, which can also improve your memory and concentration so you can be more productive at work and happier and more energetic during time spent with family and friends.
CPAP therapy can even help you stop snoring. If your snoring has been keeping a bed partner awake, the relatively quiet hum of a CPAP machine will be a welcome trade-off.
Sticking with your CPAP treatment will ultimately improve your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. When you focus on these positive outcomes, you will be more motivated to stick with your therapy plan, even if it is a challenge at first.
While beginning CPAP therapy can be a challenge in and of itself, you don’t want it to also become a challenge for your budget. Unfortunately, many individuals have insurance policies that either don’t cover their equipment purchases or only partially cover these expenses.
This is where No Insurance Medical Supplies comes in. As a leading seller of CPAP equipment, we offer machines, masks, and more from top brands like Philips Respironics, ResMed, and Inogen, with many products at significant discounts off MSRP.
In addition to our discounted prices, we also offer free shipping on orders over $89, as well as financing programs to help split your purchase into affordable monthly payments. We also sell used and refurbished equipment, helping you save even more as you begin your treatment.
Receiving a prescription for CPAP therapy may change a lot of things in your life — but ultimately, it will change them for the better. Be proactive about this important life change. By learning as much as you can so you can have the right attitude and expectations from the get-go, you will be better prepared to make your therapy a success. At No Insurance Medical Supplies, we’re proud to help you make better sleep a lasting reality.