How do people with sleep apnea cope when they're sick?

I think I’m coming down with a cold. I’ve been coughing more, and myu throat is scratchy. I’m congested as well, but that’s nothing new. I guess I just notice it more because of the way I feel right now. What’s the best way to manage this while trying to maintain CPAP therapy? Any suggestions?

I don’t have a good solution to this, but I probably would skip a couple of nights if I couldn’t breathe through my nose.

Saline spray before putting CPAP on is an option. The very best option, one that many patients find comfortable when experiencing congestion from colds or allergies is the use of a full-face mask.

This method incorporates the nose as well as the mouth so the pressure from CPAP is sure to be delivered to the upper airway.

Some patients like to keep one on hand for these times. Yes, an added expense, but what are we willing to do for comfort?


Saline spray, Mother T? I’ve never heard of such a thing. What type of spray, aerosol or pump spray, and where can it be purchased?

Not sure if I made it clear in my original post, but I already use a full-face mask. I agree it’s the best solution for sleeping when sick with a cold or the flu because it ensures 100% delivery of necessary air flow.

I checked out a few posts and discovered there are at least a couple of other users here who have more than one mask in order to accommodate different sleep situations. I like that idea, too, and suspect it’s a route I may take eventually.

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@NightOwl If you put “nasal saline spray” into Google, you will come up with numerous saline sprays out there in the market. A saline solution restores moisture to dry nasal passages and sinuses, and curbs inflammation of mucous membranes. I am not endorsing any one particular brand of saline spray, but there is a popular one called “Simply Saline.” It is an over-the-counter product that can be purchased at any large retail store or pharmacy.

Saline spray is also often used even in the gentle noses of babies, so it is not something to worry about…


I’ve had this problem. The air hitting my throat makes it so I cough and can not stop coughing. What I do is sleep in my lounge chair and use my oral sleep apnea appliance. It doesn’t work as well for the apnea but it helps to cut down the episodes of apnea and at least I can stop coughing and get some sleep.

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Yes, a little gravity can help you keep those fluids draining properly from the sinuses. When you can’t clear them properly, you end up with coughing which can truly disrupt the whole night!

Other tricks:

Using humidity with CPAP (if you don’t normally) can be very helpful for reducing inflammation in the nasal passages during a head cold.

Sucking on a menthol cough drop before bed, or rubbing some menthol ointment on your chest, can help free up secretions and prevent congestion as well.

Using a neti pot to clear out congestion is useful to do before bed. This little device is a simple system for gently flushing out the sinuses; you can find inexpensive ones at most box stores or pharmacies.

Finally, don’t forget to keep your CPAP and/or oral appliances clean! Being vigilant about this can help reduce irritation as well as the further spread of pathogens.

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Anything that you feel a little strange with your health, the best thing you can do is consult with your doctor and be honest with your condition.

I have used Afrin nightly for nearly 8 years. Generic works just as well. Get the drip-free version.
I have had many otorhinolaryngologists tell me that this is problematic, but I have to disagree. Only use it once at night. Never again during the day. Just one dose. Two puffs in each nostril at bedtime and you will be clear throughout the night.

If you want to avoid addiction, don’t do this for more than a week.

I am happily addicted. I do have some rebound stuffiness during the day, but this is OK. It’s not harmful to my knowledge.