Whether it’s starting a morning routine or exercising more consistently, building healthy habits takes time. And falling asleep using your CPAP, especially if you’re just starting therapy, is no different.
We know it can be intimidating, but treating your sleep apnea plays a critical role in improving your energy levels, productivity and overall health. To help you get started, we’ve put together our 7 best tips to help you acclimate to therapy and get the restful sleep you’ve been looking for.
Having trouble getting to sleep with your CPAP?
Getting used to the feeling of CPAP therapy can take time at first, so if you’re having trouble falling asleep, try not to get discouraged. Instead, try these simple tips to help you fall asleep and feel the benefits of CPAP therapy:
1. Ease yourself into CPAP therapy
Try using your CPAP therapy equipment for a few short periods during the day. We recommend wearing it when you’re just watching TV or reading (and not necessarily when you’re tired) to ease into it, and determine if there are any fit, humidification or pressure adjustments necessary.
2. Make sure your CPAP mask is comfortable
A CPAP mask is one of the most important components of staying consistent with CPAP therapy. If it’s not fitting properly when you’re trying to fall asleep‚ you may not sleep as well as you’d like.
Making subtle adjustments is key to feeling comfortable and staying consistent with therapy. Try putting on your mask during the day, fitting your mask to get a good seal, or even standing in front of a mirror to properly fit your mask. If you’re making adjustments, make sure you do so lying down and with the device on. Your face contour changes slightly when you lie down, so this is an important step not to miss! Your sleep apnea machine may have a ‘Mask Fit’ mode that you can use to test it with, too.
If the mask is too big, the headgear straps holding it to your face will need to be pulled tightly, which may be irritating. Additionally, if the mask is too small, it may not seal properly and the air might blow into your eyes.
If you’re worried about how the mask or head straps feel against your skin, there are remedies available: mask accessories, such as soft nasal pads, sit on the nose and reduce excess rubbing against the skin.
3. Good sleep hygiene is key
Before starting out CPAP therapy, we encourage you to establish good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene essentially means ensuring that your lifestyle, habits, and practices are all conducive to helping you sleep well on a consistent basis.
You can improve your sleep hygiene by making a few minor adjustments to your lifestyle, such as:¹.
Listening to your body
Your body's internal clock often provides signals when it’s ready to rest, so it’s important to listen to it! For example:
- Go to bed when your body signals to you that it's tired.
- Don't go to bed unless you are tired. (We’ll touch on this more in the next section, as it's an important factor to consider when starting out on CPAP).
Improving your sleeping environment
- Sleep with a good mattress and pillow
- If you’re a side sleeper, there are specially designed pillows you can purchase that will help you to use your CPAP mask.
- If you can't control the noise or light in your room, invest in some ear plugs and an eye mask.
Making small improvements to your sleep hygiene may help set you up for success with your CPAP therapy.
4. Don't go to bed until you feel tired
As mentioned earlier, when starting out on CPAP you should try to go to bed only when you’re tired.
If you head off to bed when you aren't feeling tired, you may not be able to switch off. Add in the addition of something new and unfamiliar like a CPAP machine, and you might find it unusually hard to fall asleep. Your mind may keep you awake by thinking too much about your mask and machine.
If you find when it’s getting close to bedtime that you aren't tired, consider delaying going to bed by a little while and doing something relaxing. Feeling tired and relaxed can make falling asleep that much easier, especially for someone starting off on CPAP therapy.
5. Prioritize relaxation before bedtime
A busy, racing, or worried mind can make it difficult for you to fall asleep right away. That’s why we recommend doing a few things that you find relaxing 1-2 hours before bed. We’re all different, so try testing out a few different options and incorporating your favorites into an evening routine:
- Take a bath (the rise, then fall in body temperature promotes drowsiness)¹
- Read a book
- Watch television
- Practice relaxation exercises
Avoid stressful, stimulating activities like doing work or discussing emotional issues. These things can cause your body to pump out the stress hormone, cortisol, which can increase alertness.
6. Use AutoRamp™ on your CPAP machine
If the air pressure from your machine feels too high while you’re trying to fall asleep, use AutoRamp to adjust the air pressure to a low air pressure setting while you’re trying to fall asleep and to increase to full pressure once you’re asleep.
Some CPAP machines, like ResMed's AirMini, have this automatic ramp pressure setting so your CPAP won't increase the pressure until you’ve fallen asleep. If you’re finding it difficult to fall asleep before the air pressure increases each night, speak to one of our sleep coaches about how to increase the ramp time.
7. Breathe your way to sleep
Hopefully you are relaxed and tired once you’ve settled into bed. If you’re still having difficulty falling asleep, one of our last tips is to try a deep breathing technique. The Sleep Foundation offers a simple breathing exercise that’s designed to help you relax and sleep: diaphragmatic breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing (also called belly breathing) engages the large muscle at the base of the lungs. Here’s how to try it:
- While lying down, place one hand on your upper chest and the other hand at the top of your belly, right below your rib cage.
- Breathe in through the nose so your belly pushes against your hand. Your other hand and your chest should remain as still as possible.
- While continuing to keep your chest still, tighten your stomach muscles and exhale through pursed lips (the way you might hold your lips when you whistle).
Treatment can be life-changing, improving your energy level and empowering you to awaken your best.
Our final tip while adjusting to your CPAP is to be kind and patient with yourself night in and night out. Starting CPAP therapy isn’t easy, but with these tips, we hope you’ll feel empowered to be successful on CPAP therapy and experience its maximum benefits. And don’t forget that our team of dedicated Sleep Specialists is here to help, with any questions about your CPAP device and support you throughout your therapy journey.