Sleep apnea is a potentially serious medical condition affecting some 22 million Americans. It causes the sufferer’s breathing to stop repeatedly throughout the night for anywhere from ten to thirty seconds at a time, and if left untreated it can cause a wide range of side effects including high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. It has also been linked to an increased risk of sudden cardiac death.
Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form of the disorder, is the result of the upper airway becoming blocked during sleep, usually by the collapse of the soft tissues of the throat. Risk factors for this type of apnea include having a large tongue, an unusually narrow airway, or extra fatty tissue in the throat due to obesity.
One of the most frequently prescribed treatments for obstructive sleep apnea is the continuous positive air pressure machine, or CPAP. The CPAP prevents airway closure during sleep by blowing air into the wearer’s throat through a special face mask. Many users report positive outcomes including more restful sleep, reduced fatigue, and improved focus. Consistent users also experience a reduced risk of cardiac problems and hypertension.
Unfortunately, though these machines can help reduce the symptoms of apnea, the noise they make can be almost as disruptive to the user’s sleep as the apnea itself. And if you share a bed with your partner, there’s the additional concern that the noise will wake them up, too. The good news is that there are steps you can take to reduce your CPAP’s noise production. Read on to discover just a few!
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1. Consider Repositioning your CPAP Machine
If you don’t share a bedroom with anyone else, the noise from your CPAP can often be neutralized simply by relocating the machine to be below the level of your ear. Ideally, the machine should not be placed on the carpet as it can block the airflow. You should also ensure that any surface you place it on is clean to avoid the absorption of particulate matter into the machine – and your lungs.
This can cause irritation of the lungs as well as potential allergic reactions. Fortunately, these risks can be reduced by using CPAP Cleaning Mask Wipes. These wipes are biodegradable, lint-free, and scent-free, and will help keep your CPAP mask properly sanitized. Ideally, the wipes should be used to clean the inside of your mask promptly after use. The mask should then be allowed to air-dry before it is worn again.
To further ensure proper cleanliness – and to help neutralize the sound of your CPAP’s pump – you can place the machine on a clean, dry towel, ensuring that the material does not block the flow of air. This will help prevent dust and debris from entering the machine and making its way into your lungs.
2. Ensure Your CPAP Machine Isn’t Leaking
Unusual noise during the “inhale” stage of the machine’s cycle can be a sign of a leak. These most commonly occur because your mask isn’t thoroughly sealed to your face, allowing ar to escape and producing excess noise. Not only can this be a noisy nuisance, but it can also compromise your CPAP’s functionality by adversely affecting its air pressure and flow. And if the leak is severe, your machine may stop delivering any therapeutic benefits whatsoever, as sufficient airflow is necessary to keep your airway open.
In addition to unwanted noise and a reduced therapeutic value, a leaking CPAP can sometimes cause dry eyes. If your mask isn’t fully sealed to your face, the machine can blow air directly into your eyes, leading to dryness and discomfort. If this occurs, it can usually be remedied by pulling the mask away from your face, then repositioning it to better fit the curvature of your face.
Finally, if the silicone of the mask has become wrinkled, creased, or simply worn out, it may be time for a replacement. Experts advise replacing your mask every six months to avoid the possibility of complications caused by leakage. As always, it’s important to ensure the mask is correctly fitted to your face. Some users may try to remedy a loose fit by tightening the mask excessively, and though this will create a stronger seal around parts of your nose and mouth, it can also lead to further leakage elsewhere.
3. Make Sure Your Humidifier is Functioning Properly
Nowadays, many CPAPs come with built-in humidifiers to help keep the airway moist and reduce dryness in the mouth. These features can help reduce a great deal of the discomfort sometimes associated with using a CPAP, but they come with their own set of disadvantages, including the need for regular maintenance and the potential to be disruptive to the user during sleep.
Not every CPAP machine comes equipped with a humidifier, but if yours does be sure to inspect the water level regularly. Over time, a CPAP’s humidifier will gradually deplete the machine’s water supply, leading to a telltale sound known as the “CPAP whistle,” or, occasionally, a noisy gurgling sound. Fortunately, this can be fixed by replenishing the water supply with clean, fresh water.
Because it happens gradually, you may not notice immediately that your CPAP is making any unusual noises until they become too loud to ignore. If you start to notice a whistling or gurgling sound you’re unaccustomed to hearing, checking the water level first will save you a great deal of hassle later.
You should be equally attentive to the condition of your CPAP’s house. If the end of the hose has been improperly affixed to the mask, air can leak out during use and produce a hissing noise. Likewise, if the hose is kinked or constricted, the obstruction can cause a hiss as well, or it can cause excess pressure within the hose that can make the water in the humidifier bubble.
This can be remedied by investing in a reputable hose management system such as Hose Buddy. Hose Buddy is a holder that slips between your mattress and box spring to help elevate your CPAP hose while you’re sleeping. It’s equipped with a swiveling arm to help prevent the user from rolling over onto the hose during sleep and allowing adjustments to be made to its positioning in the middle of the night. And if you’re bothered by water condensation in your CPAP hose or mask, the Hose Holder can help prevent moisture from collecting inside.
4. Guard Against Leaks with a CPAP Pillow
One of the main challenges of sleeping with a CPAP machine is remaining comfortable while also keeping the mask securely attached to your face. Many users find it difficult if not impossible to avoid shifting position in their sleep, which in turn can dislodge the mask and lead to leakage.
Fortunately, you can buy CPAP pillows designed specifically to stabilize your masks’s seal while still allowing you to sleep in comfort. These memory foam pillows are contoured to conform to your face and neck while also accommodating the unique shape of your CPAP mask and hose. The ergonomic cutouts and flexible neck support are ideal for back, belly, or side sleepers.
Not every CPAP user struggles to balance the security of their mask with the comfort of their sleeping position, but if you do a CPAP pillow is undoubtedly the simplest, most affordable solution to a more restful night’s sleep – and the key to getting the greatest possible benefit from your machine.
5. Use White Noise to Mask the Sound of Your CPAP
Many people fall asleep to music or television and have no difficulty drifting off. But many people find their brains can’t help but focus on song lyrics or spoken dialogue, encouraging wakefulness and making relaxation difficult. If you’re one of these people, a white noise device can help filter out bothersome ambient noise without distracting your brain.
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Many white noise machines work by producing sounds most people consider calming including falling rain, ocean waves, thunderstorms, chirping crickets, and other sounds from nature. But although “white noise” is commonly used as a catch-all term for soothing sounds, it does have a specific definition: noise with equal power across all audible frequencies. It helps reduce the noticeable difference between background noise and sudden sounds.
Many people use white noise machines or apps to help filter out bothersome environmental sounds such as nearby traffic, barking dogs, or chatty neighbors. Some parents also find that a white noise machine next to their baby’s bassinet helps encourage more restful naps with fewer wakings. But white noise can also help neutralize the sound of your CPAP machine so you can enjoy a more restful night’s sleep while still breathing easy.
6. If All Else Fails, Consider a New CPAP Machine
CPAP machines can be expensive, and if you’ve already paid for one you’re probably resistant to the idea of purchasing another. For that reason, this is the last recommendation on our list. If you know your mask is sealing properly, your hose isn’t obstructed, your humidifier has been filled to the appropriate level, and the machine is resting on a stable surface – and white noise hasn’t erased any remaining, distracting sounds – then it may be time to consider a newer, quieter CPAP.
As medical technology has become more sophisticated, CPAP technology has gradually become quieter and less obtrusive. So if your current machine is so loud that the noise it produces can’t be disguised, a newer machine may be just the thing you need. As always, consult with your doctor before committing to such a purchase and make sure the CPAP you have in mind will suit your unique needs.
Sleeping with a CPAP can come with an entourage of frustrations including difficulty maintaining a consistent seal, noise pollution, trouble finding a comfortable position to sleep in, and more. Fortunately, there are plenty of accessories on the market today to help make your CPAP easier to use.
With proper cleaning, maintenance, and some support from trusted manufacturers, you can soon be well on your way to a more restful night’s sleep. Sweet dreams!