Remembering your first night as a CPAP user, as you clumsily put on your mask and untangle yourself from the CPAP hose the next morning. Are you having trouble keeping the mask on? Are you waking up with a sore nose and dry throat? Almost all CPAP users start out feeling uncomfortable with the air pressure, perhaps even feeling claustrophobic with the mask. Having the proper follow-up care makes all the difference when it comes to CPAP Therapy compliance.
Your CPAP provider are experts and are highly familiar with the concerns from responding to the CPAP device. Sometimes simple solutions such as refitting your CPAP mask, adjusting the humidifier temperature, adding a heating tubing, and changing a few settings can help improve your adherence. After purchasing your machine, it is important to routinely calibrate your machine, download your therapy reports, and replace your equipment. Calibrating your machine is critical as your machine may no longer be giving you the correct air pressure after long periods of usage. It is similar to tuning a musical instrument to allow it to stay in good condition over time. Our recommended timeline is divided into 3 phases of CPAP follow-up care.
1st Phase: Early Follow up (1st month of therapy)
The most significant time of follow up is during the first month of starting therapy or using a new CPAP device. A phone call within 24 to 48 hours can usually help clarify any questions that the user runs into. We understand that there is a lot of information to absorb during the setup process and it can be overwhelming. During the first week, discomfort can usually be corrected by simple adjustments such as refitting your mask, increasing humidity or changing EPR/C-Flex settings. Sometimes the most effective fixes are simply to loosen the mask straps as it is very common to over tighten the mask. Adapting to CPAP therapy can take a few weeks through experimenting which mask and which settings fit you best. Your local CPAP technicians are a great resource in helping you to succeed according to your unique needs.
2nd Phase: On-Going Therapy (3 months, 6 months)
Within the first year, it is important to monitor your therapy closely by doing a report every 3 to 6 months for your sleep specialist. The report presents your daily usage and other information that may be used to analyze the effectiveness of your CPAP therapy. To create a report, you must visit your home care provider who has access to software programs that can read your CPAP data. Simply bring in the removable SD card from your CPAP device to generate your report. These reports will be able to show your compliance and tell your doctor how well you are following our therapy program. Compliance is defined as using CPAP for more than 4 hours per night for over 70% of the month. The clinician may also review the process of proper cleaning of the PAP unit and accessories, ensure the fit of your mask, and recommend any equipment and supply replacement.
3rd Phase: One-Year Follow-up (Machine check, Calibration, Doctor Consultation)
It is recommended to bring in your CPAP machine for a maintenance check annually, so that the technician inspects your CPAP equipment and calibrate your machine, to ensure it is giving the correct air pressure. The equipment such as tubing, filters and masks should be replaced annually to maintain its optimal performance. Filters accumulate dust, masks start to lose its seal, and due to the accumulation of bacteria, cushions and tubing should be replaced.
Further, physical changes due to weight gain or weight loss can affect your CPAP therapy as well. It is encouraged to book an annual consultation with your sleep specialist to stay informed with your CPAP therapy. Your doctor will monitor your AHI (Apnea Hypopnea Index) through reports to make sure the number of apnea episodes you have per hour of sleep is reduced. After 5 years, depending on the province, you may be eligible for another CPAP machine after a retest of a sleep study. As your body changes throughout the years, your prescriptive air pressure may change too.
Machines today have progressive programs that can allow a CPAP user to gradually adjust to their prescribed air pressure. Philips Respironics’ Dreamstation device has a feature called “EZ Start” that gradually increases the air pressure to ease you into having a positive sleep therapy experience. CPAP masks have also evolved throughout the years becoming lighter and less cumbersome.
Remember, don't get discouraged! An adjustment period is perfectly normal, and it will be different for everyone. Some may feel the benefits of therapy right away, while others may require several months through adjustments and fitting. It is never too late to have follow-up care for your Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) treatment. Contact your local CPAP technician, respiratory therapist, or sleep doctor today to schedule in your next follow-up appointment and to be one step closer in achieving better sleep and better health.