How to get used to positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy
PAP therapy is an effective way to treat obstructive sleep apnea. These tips and tricks can help you adjust to therapy and sleep well.
When used correctly and consistently, positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy is very effective in treating obstructive sleep apnea. However, it can take time to get used to therapy and wearing the PAP device. Don't give up! There are tactics and options that can help you adjust to treatment.
Mastering PAP therapy: Consistency is key
The more often you wear your PAP device, the more likely your obstructive sleep apnea will improve. PAP therapy isn't something you can do only once or twice a week — you need to wear it every night.
While the first weeks might be difficult, wearing your PAP device nightly helps you adapt to treatment faster. It takes most people one to two months to fully adjust — so don't worry if you aren't comfortable with it right away.
Tips for adjusting to PAP therapy
- Practice PAP therapy during the day. Do something relaxing that takes your mind off breathing against the machine. Try reading a book, watching TV or listening to music while wearing your PAP. Activities such as these will distract you as you get used to PAP therapy.
- Ramp up. If you're having trouble getting used to your prescribed pressure, check if your device has a ramp feature. It starts at a lower pressure while you fall asleep and can help you better adjust to PAP therapy.
- Make PAP therapy part of your nightly routine. Sleep in the same place each night where you can easily store and access your PAP device.
- Stay positive. It's common to feel frustrated or be uncomfortable while you adjust to therapy. In these moments, remind yourself about the benefits of PAP therapy — such as better sleep and a decreased risk of heart disease — to stay on track.
Maintaining your sex life
You can still have a healthy sex life with PAP therapy. One solution is to participate in sexual activity before you put on your PAP device.
It's a good idea to involve your partner in learning about your obstructive sleep apnea. By understanding the condition, your partner will also understand the benefits of your nightly treatment. Bonus: PAP therapy can help reduce loud snoring, so everyone will sleep better. Talk with your doctor about other ways to ensure PAP therapy doesn't disrupt your sex life.
Stay in touch with your doctor
As you get used to PAP therapy, your machine may need some adjustments. Your doctor can help troubleshoot issues. If the mask irritates your skin or your nose or throat feels dry, you might need a different type of mask or a humidifier attached to the device to decrease dryness.
Which CPAP masks are best for you?
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) masks and headgear come in many styles and sizes to comfortably treat your sleep apnea. Everyone has different needs, preferences and face shapes, and sometimes you will need to try different mask styles before you find the one that works the best for you.
Sizes may vary across different mask styles and brands. You may need to try on several styles and sizes to find the best combination of comfort and efficiency.
For example, if you take a small in one type it does not necessarily mean you will need a small in a different brand. Proper sizing is very important to comfort and performance of masks.
Here's a look at a few CPAP mask styles and some possible benefits of each. Work with your doctor and CPAP mask supplier to make sure you have a mask that suits your needs and fits you properly.
Most people adjust to PAP therapy within two months. Talk to your doctor if you're still having trouble sleeping after a couple of months or rarely use your device. There are other types of PAP therapies that might be easier for you, including:
Aug. 14, 2020
- Auto-adjustable positive airway pressure (APAP). This type of PAP machine senses when your airway becomes blocked. It automatically adjusts the air pressure to prevent breathing interruptions.
- Bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP). A BiPAP machine provides more air pressure when you inhale and less as you exhale, which may feel more comfortable.
See more In-depth
- Office of Patient Education. Using positive airway pressure (PAP). Mayo Clinic; 2017.
- Liou HY, et al. The effect of sleeping environment and sleeping location change on positive airway pressure adherence. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2018; doi:10.5664/jcsm.7364.
- Weaver T, et al. Adherence with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Feb. 2, 2020.
- Treatment of adult obstructive sleep apnea with positive airway pressure. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. https://j2vjt3dnbra3ps7ll1clb4q2-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Treatment-OSA-with-PAP-Patient-Guide.pdf. Accessed Feb. 1, 2020.
- Shangold L, et al. CPAP, APAP, and BiPAP. In: Sleep Apnea and Snoring. 2nd ed. Elsevier; 2012. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 1, 2020.
- Sleep apnea. Mayo Clinic. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sleep-apnea/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20377636. Accessed Feb. 1, 2020.