Is CPAP making my sleep apnea worse?

I have found no improvement in my sleep apnea since starting on CPAP. I first started with a nasal pillow - which almost gave me pneumonia and many bloody noses - even with a heated hose. Now I have full face mask. However, I find the philips respironics dream machine that they assigned to me does not create enough humidity. Mynose dries up so bad that it is non functional - cannot breathe through it sometimes at all. My mouth does not stay opened especially since the mask kind of lifts the bottom lipt upward ( resmed air touch F20) and I am not an open mouth sleeper anyway. This extreme dryness in the head does not seem to be a healthy situation to me. Does anyone have any suggestions to 1. create more humidity 2. to keep the mouth open while sleeping? Or another way to deal with sleep apnea without a machine?

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Keeping the mouth open while sleeping will not be helpful as this will only create more dryness. I’m assuming that your Respironics machine has a humidifier and that your machine has been set to make the humidifier functional. Are you using the humidifier that came with your machine? What has the humidifier been set at?

Sometimes the best thing is to check back in with your respiratory therapist and tell him/her the trouble you’re having. Ask the professionals for help. Make sure to get across to them the level of your discomfort. Make sure you bring in your mask and machine. If they can’t arrange a same day or next day appointment, then just show up - they’ll have to fit you in. Don’t let them turn you away. Any number of things could be going wrong with your therapy. CPAP is not making your apnea worse…it’s just making you feel worse for the time being.

Do you have access to your own sleep data? Each night your machine produces a record of your sleep. The therapists look for the AHI (Apnea/Hypopnea Index) from each night’s sleep record. We patients should look too. CPAP treatment usually reduces the AHI to less than five, which is considered to be normal. This is the measure used to find out how effective your CPAP treatment has been for you. While your AHI might be in the normal range now, it usually takes time for a sleep apnea patient to feel better. Some fortunate few of us adapt within a day or two, but the usual adaptation time is anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months. As you have already discovered, the process is largely trial and error before we find what we need to make ourselves comfortable with CPAP.

CPAP is the first, most effective and least invasive of all the treatments offered for obstructive sleep apnea. It will really pay off for you to do everything you can to make this treatment work for you. What level of apnea do you have? Is your apnea mild, moderate or severe? Do you have a copy of your sleep study report? If not, request one. You have a right to that information. Learn all you can about your OSA and its’ treatment. Untreated sleep apnea - even the mild kind, can produce serious, long-term, negative effects on our health.

So, hang in there and go to work on this. Your patience and persistence will pay great dividends.

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