I’m having trouble exhaling against the pressure, it feels like I’m going to suffocate.
This is a completely normal feeling for new CPAP patients. The CPAP machine literally forces a strong flow of air down your airway, which you breath out against. Imagine your breathing airway is a tunnel, then the CPAP’s airflow would be the pillars that insure it doesn’t collapse. It may seem like you will never be able to get used to it, but for most people who put in the effort it eventually becomes second nature.
The best thing you can do for yourself is relax and try to breath as naturally as possible. Try not to fight against the pressure, or alter your normal breathing patterns. Using your machine’s ramp feature can make acclimating easier. With the ramp, the machine will start at a lower air pressure, and slowly work it’s way back up to your prescribed pressure. Another thing that helps many patients is to use therapy while reading or watching television. Therapy is only necessary while you’re asleep, but wearing it while you are distracted by these other activities helps keep your mind off of the air pressure while you attempt to get used to therapy.
Is it normal that I am getting a dry nose, mouth or throat?
CPAP therapy commonly causes a dry nose, mouth or throat in it’s users. Because of this, most doctors will prescribe a humidifier to pair with the CPAP, which helps combat the dryness. First try increasing your humidifier setting. What setting a patient needs to use is subjective to your own comfort, but there are a few things to watch for:
- If you’re feeling dried out or congested, turn the humidifier setting up. Keep in mind that your humidifier setting is also effected by the relative humidity around you, so you may have to adjust again as weather changes.
- If you experience “rain out”, or water gathering in the hose, it is a sign you need to turn the humidifier down. Most newer CPAP machines can use a heated tubing, which can greatly reduce the risk of rain out.
Sometimes though the humidity level is not the issue, especially when the dryness is in the mouth or throat. Usually what this means is that you’re experiencing a mouth leak. Essentially all the air you’re taking in through your nose is cycling right back out of your mouth. In this case, a chinstrap will need to be worn. The majority of patients only need to wear the chinstrap for about 2 to 4 weeks, by which time keeping their mouth closed while sleeping becomes natural. Occasionally though, a patient will require a chinstrap as long as they use the CPAP.