CPAP side effects

If you have sleep apnea and were prescribed a CPAP machine, you may have noticed some of the CPAP side effects that come along with wearing it. Recognizing what these problems are can help you to find solutions so you can wear your CPAP comfortably and get a good night’s sleep. 

Common CPAP Side Effects

Although CPAP therapy is one of the most successful methods for treating and reducing the symptoms of sleep apnea, there are a host of CPAP side effects that may follow after constant use of sleep apnea equipment. If you wear a CPAP mask and use a CPAP machine, these issues might sound familiar to you.

Aerophagia

This is the medical term for eating or swallowing air. This generally occurs when the CPAP pressure is too high for you and can result in gas and bloating.

Discomfort

Wearing a CPAP mask can sometimes cause discomfort when trying to sleep. The mask can feel bulky and constrictive, and the hose can get in the way of trying to sleep in positions other than your back. Exhaling can also be uncomfortable if the pressure of the sleep apnea equipment is too high.

Claustrophobia

Many people feel claustrophobic while wearing a CPAP mask because the mask fits snug around your nose. The feeling of claustrophobia can be even worse for those who wear a full-face mask that sets around your mouth and nose.

Mask Leak

If your CPAP mask does not fit properly or isn’t properly cleaned, it can cause leakage. When there is a leak, there is a high probability that your CPAP machine isn’t able to reach its set pressure.

Dry, Stuffy Nose or Nosebleeds

Having a dry or stuffy nose is a common side effect of CPAP because air from the machine is being blown into your airway. This constant flow of air can also cause nosebleeds to occur.

Skin Irritations

Because CPAP masks fit snug against your face and are worn repeatedly, your skin can become irritated. This CPAP side effect can result in skin irritations such as rash or pressure sores. 

Dry Mouth

Suffering from a dry mouth is yet another common CPAP side effect for those with a full-face mask, as well as patients with a nasal mask who breathe out of their mouths. 

Infections

If a CPAP machine or CPAP mask isn’t properly cleaned on a routine basis, infections, such as lung or sinus infections, can occur.

Headaches

Although headaches are not a common CPAP side effect, they can occur if the machine’s pressure is set too high or if you have a blockage in your sinuses.

Lung Discomfort

Some patients who use CPAP therapy complain of a burning sensation in the lungs. This is often a result of dry or cold air being inhaled from the CPAP mask. This CPAP side effect can possibly be reduced by using warm humidification.

Dizziness

Some complain of dizziness after wearing a CPAP mask. While the mechanism for this symptom is not clearly known, some believe that this might be due to the pressure change in the middle ear. The symptom should be short lived if due to CPAP therapy.

Shortness of Breath

While another common CPAP side effect is the complaint of shortness of breath, this feeling is usually sensorial. It is merely the sensation of not getting enough air because a functional CPAP machine never reduces the amount of air that can be inhaled.

Even though there are side effects related to using sleep apnea equipment, it’s important to be compliant with continuing to wear it. Not using your CPAP mask and machine as prescribed can cause larger, more severe health problems such as fatigue, high blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, heart failure, heart attack, or stroke.

Woman confused about CPAP side effects

How to Prevent CPAP Side Effects

If you’re experiencing any of the CPAP side effects mentioned above, don’t give up on the treatment just yet. There are solutions to these common problems. Try these different strategies to reduce or completely halt your CPAP side effects.

Clean Your CPAP Regularly

Make sure that your CPAP mask and machine are clean. It is important to make cleaning your mask, tubing, and water chamber a regular habit to avoid any bacteria or fungi buildup. The CPAP mask and humidifier chamber should be cleaned daily with mild soap and water. On top of this, you should soak all of the parts in vinegar and water, using one part vinegar to three parts water. Follow this routine once a week. There are also sanitizing machines, like a CPAP cleaner, that you can purchase if you are having trouble keeping up with this cleaning schedule. 

Avoid Using Oily Products

Oily products like makeup or moisturizer can be a major cause of CPAP side effects. Remove any of these products from your face before applying your mask. Otherwise, the oil can build up on the mask if not cleaned daily.

Make Sure You Have The Proper Mask

CPAP masks are available as nasal masks, full-face masks, and nasal pillows because one type of mask isn’t suitable for everyone. Before choosing a mask, there are a few factors you should consider. Mouth breathing, claustrophobia, sleep position, and machine pressure are important areas to evaluate. These should be discussed with your doctor before choosing which type of mask you should be wearing.

Check Your Humidifier

If you’re having CPAP side effects relating to respiratory irritation, dry mouth, dry nose, or nosebleeds, check your humidifier to make sure it’s working properly. Also, as previously mentioned, make sure you’re cleaning it regularly.

Try Switching to Heated Tubing

Heated tubing warms the air traveling through the CPAP and can improve its temperature. The tube, filter, and mask are part of the CPAP supplies.

Consider Sinus Medication

If your sinuses are blocked, talk to your sleep doctor to see if you need a sinus medication to let your CPAP work more effectively and reduce your CPAP side effects.

Try Using Mask Barriers

Creating a barrier between the CPAP mask and your skin can help with skin irritations such as sores and rashes. There are barriers you can purchase that are sometimes made with gel or cloth. A hypoallergenic tape can also work to create a barrier.

Make Sure Your Strap is Secured

If your mask is strapped on too tight it can cause skin irritations. If it is too loose, it can cause a leak. Take the time to ensure your CPAP mask strap is secured properly to avoid any unnecessary CPAP side effects.

CPAP mask and machine

Adjusting CPAP Pressure to Avoid CPAP Side Effects

If the other methods don’t work to relieve your CPAP side effects, it may be time to adjust your CPAP machine’s pressure. Here are a few notes to remember when it comes to perfecting your CPAP pressure.

Make Sure You’re Using the Correct Pressure

Make sure the pressure on your CPAP machine is the pressure that was prescribed to you. If it is and you’re still having trouble with discomfort while exhaling, swallowing air, or feel the pressure may be too high, you may want to talk to your doctor to see if your pressure setting needs to change.

You May Need a New Pressure  

If you’ve gone through recent lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking or drinking, or weight loss, you might need to adjust your set pressure to a new level. Sometimes lifestyle improvements can help to reduce symptoms of sleep apnea, which may result in you needing a lower pressure. BiPAP pressure, a sleep apnea treatment that uses two pressures, can also be used to alleviate symptoms. If any of these changes have occurred, you should be reevaluated by your doctor.

Try Using the Ramp on Your Machine

When you use the ramp on your sleep apnea equipment, your CPAP machine starts out at a lower pressure and gradually increases until it reaches your set pressure. Using this gradual technique can increase your comfort level, as well as help you get used to wearing your mask each time you put it on.

Always make sure to talk to your doctor before making any changes to your CPAP routine. Since the side effects of sleep apnea outweigh the CPAP side effects of using a CPAP mask and machine, it’s important to find a solution so you can wear your CPAP comfortably and consistently.

Philips DreamStation CPAP with Humidifier and Heated Tube

DreamStation CPAP with Heated Tube and Humidifier

Respironics DreamStation Go CPAP Machine

Respironics DreamStation Go CPAP Machine

DreamStation CPAP Pro With Humidifier

DreamStation CPAP Pro with Humidifier

Dreamstation CPAP Pro

Philips DreamStation CPAP Pro

14 thoughts on “CPAP Side Effects

  1. Teresa Gall Reply

    I am getting headaches and feel disoriented since using the cpap. I don’t like it.

  2. Paul Brown Reply

    My side effect is: Pimples
    Not fun. So I have two types. The Nasal Mask and a Pillow Mask. The Pillow Mask can cause a pimple inside the Nasal opening. The Nasal Mask can cause a Pimple around the bridge of my nose. I will switch Masks depending on the Pimples – usually every two months. I have minor pressure irritation on the seal locations but I expect that. I like the article.

  3. Respikart Reply

    The side effects of CPAP Machine which you listed in this post are well researched. Also the way of your writing about how to Prevent from side effects of CPAP by adjusting CPAP pressure is very natural. Thanks for sharing this kind of useful information with the world.

  4. Kate Brownell Reply

    Good article to know about the CPAP masks and its side effects. It is a very rare content that describes this. I have been using [link removed] since last year. It is undoubtedly a good device for sleep apnea but now I believe I have dependency on this mask. In order to sleep normally I need to stop its use and find an alternative way to control sleep apnea. For that purpose this is a good article for me.

  5. Dr Vilas Mulay Reply

    I am using CPap. The pressure rises from 4 to 12. After getting upatabout 7 am, I feel giddiness (dizziness) for about 3 hours. Rest of the day I am fine.I do not have this complaint when I do not use Cpap. Does this mean that I should set my Cpap machine at pressure 4 or should I stop using it. Please advise.

  6. Robert Findlay Reply

    I have been useing CPAP for 3 weeks now haveing high blood pressure problems and swollen feet and ankles since been useing.

  7. Sharon McNeill Reply

    I have been using CPAP machine for years. Recently it mal functioned. I have sent it for repair. I’m left with a strange voice. I love to sing and I am unable to project my voice. Normal talking is stressed and a different tone.
    Have you heard of anything like this happening before to any one else. Is there any suggestion for a solution.

  8. Todd Reply

    I’ve been having a dry cough for some time… I’ve had a cpap for 4 or 5 years. I think my voice box is part of my symptoms. I sound “gravelly” not like grave but rocks. I’ve been experiencing this since about the time I started useing my machine… Dr’s. Can’t figure it out.

  9. Warren Reply

    I have a resmed myair. Will it clean my reservoir? It seems rather large.

    • Lydia pereira Reply

      I’m having a lot of pain associated with gas,To where my lungs are at and it hurts Bad,..

      • Anonymous Reply

        Swallowing air: may need to reduce pressure if AHI is well under 5 or get a chin strap to keep mouth shut

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