A Quick Beginners Guide to CPAP Machines

If you’ve just been told that you need to start using a CPAP machine, you might be feeling a little apprehensive about the next steps. Many people who stop using their machines do so because they aren’t experienced enough to work through the problems that might arise. Here are some simple tips to help beginners use a CPAP machine.

Take Your Time Selecting a CPAP Mask

Choosing your CPAP mask is going to be a crucial step to sleeping comfortably at night. There are different masks that suit a variety of needs. It will be important to take the anatomy of your face and shape of your nose into consideration.

showing a cpap machine

One size does not fit all when it comes to CPAP masks. Many people who quit treatment will do so as a result of an improper fit, so take your time and select wisely.

Practice Using Your CPAP Machine

Most people don’t find that they are immediately comfortable with their CPAP machines. The best way to get started is to practice using while you are awake. Start with slow and deep breaths. At first, you are going to notice that the air easily fills up your lungs, but that breathing back out can be a little harder. You will also take notice to the sound of the air escaping through the exhalation ports of the mask.

If you are using a nasal mask, you will feel the air rush out of your mouth if you open it. When using a full face mask, you can breathe however you wish and still receive the benefits. Spend time for a few minutes or hours, whatever is comfortable, finding a pattern of breathing that feels right to you. If you need some distraction during this practice time, feel free to take your mind off the exercise. Watch some TV or read a book. Whatever keeps you on the machine longer will help you achieve your goal of feeling comfortable enough to sleep with the mask on.

Sometimes the Air Might Feel Too Strong

This is actually a common complaint but you’ll never want to adjust the CPAP air pressure without speaking to a doctor. Doing so could lower your oxygen intake and eventually cause unwanted health issues. Your best course of action is to go back to practicing with your machine during the daytime hours so it will become more comfortable at night.

Stuffy Noses are Common with CPAP Users

If you are one of the many people that suffer from a stuffy nose while using your CPAP machine, there are some steps you can take.

  • Use a saline nasal spray up to 6-8 times per nostril before using your CPAP machine.
  • Ask your doctor about using a CPAP machine that comes with a humidifier. This will add moisture to the forced air and can reduce nasal congestion.
  • Thoroughly clean your mask and tubing daily. This is an important step toward protecting you from germs and bacteria that can lead to sickness.

Fighting a Sore Throat When Using a CPAP Machine

It is also quite common to wake up with a sore throat after your CPAP usage. You might have been breathing through your mouth while sleeping which is a common cause. You can apply a simple chin strap to your mask to keep it closed all night. Another option would be to purchase a full face mask so you can breathe through your mouth. Once you switch to the full face mask, you’ll want to have a humidifier on your CPAP machine to keep the air moist. If all else fails, be sure that the filters on your CPAP machine are clean.

CPAP masks


Troubleshooting a Poor Fitting Mask

Nothing makes a CPAP experience worse than wearing a mask that isn’t fitting properly. It causes air to leak out of the mask resulting in red eyes, snoring and even a stop in breathing. Try some of these solutions to see if they relieve the issues for you.

  • Take time adjusting the straps to see if you can make it fit better.
  • Inspect the condition of your mask and cushions. You will want to purchase new supplies every 3-6 months or as necessary if they have excessive wear and tear.
  • If you are unable to make the mask comfortable on your face, be sure to speak with your doctor. They might be able to offer additional support to help you achieve comfort.
  • Try a different style of mask. There might be a better option that fits your face properly.

If you are suffering from an improperly fitting mask, you might also experience some other symptoms. Your mask may cause red, sore spots or bruises on your face. These symptoms generally mean that your mask is on too tightly.

You can loosen the straps to reduce the discomfort, but the mask will still need to be tight enough to prevent leaking. Another option you might want to consider is to cover the straps with pads which will prevent chaffing. If all else fails, you will want to try out a different style of mask.

Perform Regular Maintenance

To keep your machine running at optimal levels, you will need to ensure that it is clean and sanitary. Every day you will want to clean your mask to remove any bacteria that might be present. In addition, you should perform weekly cleanings on the entire system which will include the mask, tubing and tank. By doing this you not only keep yourself from being exposed to unnecessary germs but you are prolonging the life of your equipment. Talk to your doctor or CPAP supplier to receive a full listing of maintenance tasks that should be performed.


While there are many reasons a person quits using their CPAP machine, with the proper education, you don’t need to be one of them. Using your machine is a critical component to the well-being of your body. It is, therefore, necessary that you take every measure possible to make it comfortable and safe to use. If you experience any additional problems, it is always wise to speak with your healthcare professional. They will have the answers you need to provide a successful treatment plan.