As the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) moves closer to mandating sleep apnea testing for commercial truck drivers and railroad operators, some transportation companies are taking steps to prepare workers for diagnosis and treatment.

One of the most challenging steps in treating sleep apnea is often the prescribed treatment itself: CPAP. The continuous positive airway pressure device remains the most widely prescribed therapy for obstructive sleep apnea, though it is not the only treatment. One major trucking company recently posted some tips for adjusting to CPAP, and though its recommendations are geared toward drivers, they can benefit anyone new to CPAP treatment.

Adjusting to CPAP treatment can be difficult

Life with CPAP

CPAP uses a mask connected to an air circulator to provide a continuous oxygen flow during sleep. Many people find it difficult to acclimate to the device, especially in the early stages of treatment. The Crete Carrier Corporation, one of the nation’s largest trucking agencies, shared the following recommendations from sleep apnea sufferers about coping with CPAP:

  • Fit matters: A properly fitting mask can be key to successful, long-term treatment. The mask should be snug, but it should not pinch the skin or cause discomfort. CPAP masks come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and if your mask is uncomfortable, you should seek a different type.
  • Avoid irritants: To avoid respiratory irritation, clean the machine regularly as recommended. Likewise, make sure your mask is clean before use. If the mask causes chafing or dry skin, apply some lotion after washing your face; you can also apply a little diaper-rash cream to the affected area before placing your mask. Steer clear of petroleum-based products like Vaseline, which can damage the seal on the masks.
  • Try, and try again: Adjusting to CPAP can take a little practice. For some, it takes a few days; for others, a few months. Practice wearing the mask intermittently throughout the day to get used to how it fits and feels. If you have difficulty falling asleep or remaining asleep, consider a new sleeping position or try a different pillow.
  • Be positive: Those who approach CPAP with a negative attitude are more likely to discontinue treatment before it can be effective. Remember that CPAP is intended to help you regain restful sleep and prevent life-threatening health risks including heart attack, heart disease and high blood pressure.

In other words, all we are saying is…

Give CPAP a Chance

In a previous post, we discussed the importance of giving yourself some time to adjust to CPAP and giving the therapy a chance to work. Some additional suggestions include:

  • Accessorize: If your machine and mask are clean and you still feel dryness or irritation in your nostrils and throat, try running a humidifier while you sleep. If you have discomfort from the mask or a connective component, talk to your doctor about other options.
  • Check the pressure: Because CPAP is essentially forcing air down your throat, it often feels a bit awkward at first. Adjusting the pressure settings can increase your comfort level. Some patients may benefit from bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP), which simulates natural breathing by using alternating pressures.
  • Noise reduction: If you have an old or reconditioned CPAP machine that is loud enough to disrupt sleep, it may be time to upgrade. Modern CPAP devices are designed to run quietly. Make sure to keep objects that may rattle off the CPAP machine, and don’t place the machine on objects that may amplify its noise.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Talk to your doctor about problems sticking with treatment and specific comfort issues. If you’re unable to adhere to CPAP, there are other choices available. Many patients have better success with a custom-made oral appliance designed to promote an open air passage during sleep.

To learn more about oral appliance therapy for sleep apnea, please call the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado at (303) 691-0267 to schedule your appointment with Denver sleep dentist Dr. Kevin Berry. Dr. Berry has extensive experience helping those with sleep apnea restore healthy, natural sleep using oral appliances.