9 Common CPAP Machine Problems And How To Fix Them | Sleep Clinic Services

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9 Common CPAP Machine Problems And How To Fix Them

wide variety of masks at cpap centra by Rachel Tayse

If you have sleep apnea or snoring you may be using a sleep apnea machine known as a CPAP machine. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It is the gold standard treatment for sleep apnoea.

If you have Obstructive Sleep Apnea, your Sleep Therapist may give you a range of treatment choices and CPAP may be one of these.

Your CPAP machine has three main parts. The first is an air pump or CPAP device. The second is a mask that covers your nostrils or nose and sometimes your mouth. The third is a tube that links the two. The CPAP pump takes air from the room and gently pressurises it. The air blows through the tube and mask into your throat. The pressure of the air keeps your throat open while you are asleep.

If you’re having trouble with your CPAP machine or mask don’t worry. You may need to make a simple adjustment or you may need time to get used to wearing your mask.

Here Are 9 Common Problems and Solutions:

1. The CPAP Air Pressure Feels Uncomfortable

Getting used to the continual air pressure of a CPAP machine can take time. Breathing out may feel uncomfortable or not natural at first but there are ways to alleviate your discomfort.

Many people don’t realise that their CPAP machine may have a feature to fix this problem. Often called a ramp feature, it is designed to gradually increase air pressure over time making breathing easier. It allows you to doze off normally without the full amount of air pressure. Once you are asleep the pressure gradually ramps up or increases to alleviate your sleep apnea.

If you have a newer CPAP machine you can also use the Expiratory Pressure Relief (EPR) feature in ramp or full setting. EPR detects the beginning of exhalation and reduces motor speed to drop air pressure. You can select an EPR setting that is most comfortable for you. If the air pressure still feels uncomfortable it may just take time to get used to. Contact your Sleep Therapist for solutions specific to your situation and your machine.

2. My CPAP Mask Doesn’t Fit Me

Having the right CPAP mask is really important. It needs to be comfortable enough for you to sleep and, if fitted properly, it shouldn’t have any leaks. Make sure you have taken the time to find the right CPAP mask to suit you. Small adjustments to your mask can make a huge difference in getting a good night’s sleep. Talk to your Sleep Therapist about the ways you can adjust your mask. Don’t be afraid to speak up if your mask is feeling uncomfortable in any way.

If you hear or feel any leaks in your mask, don’t ignore it. Your CPAP machine is working to provide the right amount of air pressure for your sleep apnoea. If any of that air leaks out of your mask it may mean that your CPAP therapy won’t work at all. Even a small leak can mean that even though you’re working hard on maintaining your CPAP treatment, it may be making very little or no difference.

Make sure that the mask is fitted to your face snugly. This will create a seal so that no air can escape. If you have noticed a change in your treatment and find your CPAP is no longer working it may be that your mask is not fitted properly or you may need a new mask.

Like most products, CPAP masks need to be replaced from time to time. General wear and tear over time and residues from oils, moisturisers, and makeup can compromise the effectiveness of the mask’s seal. Contact your Sleep Therapist if you believe your mask isn’t fitted correctly or if it’s time to upgrade to a new one.

3. My CPAP Is Making My Nose Dry, Stuffy, Runny Or Making Me Sneeze

A dry or stuffy nose may be the result of an ill-fitted mask. Take the steps above if you feel this to be the case.

If your mask is a good fit you may benefit from a heated humidifier. The heated humidifier is a chamber filled with water that sits on a heater-plate. The air from your CPAP passes over the warm water in the chamber before it reaches your airways. Your nasal airways are no longer overwhelmed and nasal congestion is prevented. Heated humidifiers can come as a separate piece of equipment that attaches to your CPAP machine. Some CPAPs come with an integrated humidifier. Contact your Sleep Therapist for more information about how a heated humidifier can help you. 

If your CPAP therapy is making your nose run or you’re sneezing more than usual there are a few solutions to consider. When CPAP-processed air enters your nose and throat, the air naturally dries, making the temperature drop, and cooling your throat and nose. The dry and cool CPAP air can lead to sneezing and a runny nose. Not only that but you may also suffer from a sore throat. You should recover after a few days to a week when you have adjusted to CPAP therapy.

If you have been on CPAP Therapy for a few weeks and you still have a runny nose or sneezing there are a few things to consider. The type of CPAP machine, the type of humidifier, if you have one, and the type of mask may be causing the problem. A heated humidifier mentioned above may help or if it is allergen related and a small particle of pollen hasn’t been filtered out, you may need to clean your machine more often.

Everyone’s situation is different and it’s best to discuss your own problems with your Sleep Therapist for the best advice.

4. I Feel Claustrophobic When Wearing My CPAP Mask

You may feel anxiety or claustrophobia when wearing your CPAP mask. This is actually common. Getting used to wearing a CPAP mask takes time. The air pressure might make you feel anxiety and genuine fear which causes your body to release adrenaline and stress hormones.

The solution to this problem is time and a relaxed state of mind. Wear your CPAP mask while at home during the day and practice breathing while doing something relaxing like reading a book. Be patient with your CPAP Therapy, it will take time to adapt to your CPAP mask but the benefits of persistence will be worth it. Contact your Sleep Therapist if you have any concerns at all.

5. I Can’t Sleep With My CPAP Mask On

If you can’t sleep wearing your CPAP mask you’re not alone. It may seem counterproductive that a device that is supposed to improve your sleep health actually makes your sleep worse but many people experience this at first. CPAP therapy takes time and persistence. You won’t have a perfect night’s sleep on the first night but after a week or two, you will have adapted to wearing your CPAP mask.

During this time it is more important than ever to practice good sleep hygiene. If after a few weeks you’re still having trouble sleeping contact your Sleep Therapist

6. My CPAP Machine Is Annoying

If your CPAP machine is annoying you may need to make a few simple adjustments. Try wearing it for a few hours during the day so that you are more aware of any adjustments to your mask or air pressure that might need to be made.

Getting used to CPAP therapy takes time. Focus on the positives. You’re doing the best thing for your health. After all, it’s the gold standard in treating sleep apnoea. Think about your long-term goals of leading a happier, healthier and more productive life. Your Sleep Therapist is always available to chat with you if you are finding CPAP Therapy challenging or you need advice on making adjustments to your mask and machine.

7. My Skin Is Sore From My CPAP Mask

CPAP mask manufacturers like Fisher & Paykel are constantly looking for ways to make more comfortable CPAP masks though research and development. CPAP technology has come a long way and future products are very exciting. But let’s be honest. Everyone’s faces are different. And some people may experience redness, irritation or bruising from their CPAP mask.

Even a well-fitted mask can cause bruising or redness if it is an older version. If your mask is causing red marks that don’t disappear within an hour, it’s too tight. If you find that you are tightening the mask too much to prevent leaks, it may be the wrong mask for your face shape or it may not be fitted correctly. If your face is oily your mask may slip slightly into an incorrect position.

The good news is that if you have a CPAP mask that’s irritating your skin or causing soreness, replacing it is very easy. With so many new masks and styles available, you don’t need to put up with a mask that is not meeting your needs. There’s no need to suffer. If you are experiencing moderate to severe sores or bruising from your CPAP mask or you would like to find out about replacing your mask, contact your Sleep Therapist today.

8. My CPAP Machine Is Noisy

Most new models of CPAP machines are very quiet, if not silent. But if you find your device is too noisy, check to make sure the air filter is clean and unblocked. If there’s something in its way, it may be the culprit keeping you up at night. A blocked or dirty filter means your machine has to work harder and may be noisier.

If your machine is gurgling the humidifier may need more or less water in it. Always adhere to the water guideline on your machine. A leaking mask can also make strange whistling sounds. Check your mask for any leaks.

Some people have a very keen hearing and even the slightest sound will be a problem. In fact, women can hear higher tones than men. So, while your CPAP machine might not bother you, the sound could be an issue for your partner. If the natural sound of your CPAP is just too noisy try moving it further from your bed. Ask your Sleep Therapist about longer or adjustable hoses.

If you have tried all of these solutions and the natural sound of your CPAP machine is still bothering you or your partner you could try masking the sound with a white noise app, a fan or relaxing music.

9. I Keep Taking My CPAP Mask Off At Night While Sleeping

When you first start CPAP Therapy you may find that you have taken off your mask during the night. You may have a natural aversion that lasts up to a week while you are getting used to CPAP therapy or it could be a deeper phobia. While some CPAP users have tried things like wearing mittens at night or placing the tape in strategic positions on their mask, it’s important to get to the root of the problem.

If, after a few weeks, you find that you are still pulling off your CPAP mask in your sleep your aversion to the mask is most likely related to discomfort. Make sure that the mask is fitted correctly, there are no leaks and you have the right mask for your face shape. Check your air pressure and try wearing your mask during the day to see if there are any adjustments that need to be made.

It’s important to get to the underlying cause of this problem. Pulling off your mask in your sleep may result in ineffective treatment and non-compliance. Speak to your Sleep Therapist about solutions specific to your individual needs.


Time and patience are the keys to CPAP success. Not only that but an understanding of your equipment, how it works and all of the adjustments you can make is crucial. The good news is that at Sleep Clinic Services we provide you with a Sleep Therapist who is there with you every step of the way. Our Sleep Therapists are trained and experienced in troubleshooting CPAP problems. Contact us today if any of your questions have not been answered here

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