When it comes to getting the most out of your CPAP therapy, comfort is key. Your CPAP machine's air pressure level is an important part of that equation. If any part of your equipment is making you uncomfortable, you run the risk of your therapy being less effective, and you may not use your CPAP as prescribed by your sleep doctor.
Since every person's body is different, there's no single air pressure setting that will work effectively for everyone. That's why the settings are adjustable! While we don't recommend trying to adjust your air pressure yourself, there are some ways you can tell if you might need your sleep doctor to make a pressure adjustment.
Is Your CPAP Pressure Too High?
Too much air pressure in your mask, mouth, nose, and airways can be very uncomfortable and disconcerting. It can distract you from sleeping and make your overall therapy less effective than it should be. That means difficulty falling asleep and trouble with waking up repeatedly overnight, causing daytime fatigue and other negative symptoms of sleep apnea—exactly what your CPAP equipment is designed to treat.
CPAP air pressure that's too high also causes some users to "swallow" air during the night, which is called aerophagia. This can cause abdominal discomfort, stomach bloating, and painful gas issues like excessive belching.
Some CPAP users report excess air pressure causing a burning sensation in their nose and throat or even forcing fluid into their ears at night, causing hearing issues and fluid leaking out of their ears.
Is Your CPAP Pressure Too Low?
Not enough air pressure from your CPAP equipment will also lead to ineffective therapy. Generally, you will need enough pressure to keep your airways open rather than collapsing, ensuring you get the oxygen your body needs throughout the night.
Many CPAP users whose pressure is too low will experience more than five apnea or hypopnea events per hour, meaning their therapy is ineffective. These users will continue to experience the negative effects of sleep apnea, including poor sleep, waking up gasping for air, feeling air-starved, chronic fatigue, high blood pressure, and others.
Another sign your air pressure may be too low is continuing to snore loudly during your CPAP therapy. Proper air pressure should keep your airways open through the night, so if you're still snoring while using your CPAP machine, but your mask isn't leaking, then your pressure may need to be increased.
Finally, CPAP users with low pressure can experience aerophagia, as gasping for air during the night causes them to "swallow" air into their stomachs. As with aerophagia caused by pressure that's too high, these users will have problems with bloating, gas, discomfort, and excessive belching.
What Should You Do if Your CPAP Pressure Needs Adjusting?
Here's what we recommend if you feel your CPAP air pressure isn't right:
Try an Auto-CPAP
Many of today's most advanced CPAP machines offer an "automatic" pressure feature, which senses airway closure and snoring and adjusts the air pressure accordingly. These machines generally offer more performance tracking data as well, helping your sleep doctor understand how your therapy is performing and make any needed adjustments.
Talk to Your Sleep Doctor
No matter what symptoms you're experiencing, the best thing you can do if you think your air pressure needs adjusting is to talk to your sleep doctor.
Generally, your sleep doctor will perform a "CPAP titration," an in-lab sleep study, before you begin therapy to calibrate your machine's air pressure settings. For this reason, it's not recommended that you try to adjust your CPAP pressure yourself. It's best to leave these adjustments to the professionals!
Another step you can take to make your CPAP therapy more comfortable is to try RemZzzs® soft, breathable cotton CPAP mask liners. They're easy to use, create a better air seal, make you much more comfortable, and even make it easier to keep your mask clean.