When diagnosed with sleep apnea, turning to a continuous positive airway machine is generally the first route some people take to getting back to a good night’s sleep. However, many people quickly discover that using a CPAP comes with a number of downsides that can range from being minor annoyances all the way to deal breakers as far as using a CPAP is concerned.
1. Wearing a mask overnight may not be feasible.
Using a CPAP means you have to wear a large respiratory mask overnight, and that comes with a number of complications. Many users report skin irritation, particularly around the nose. Getting the mask to fit properly – if there are any air leaks, the CPAP won’t work – can be challenging. Most of all, some people just can’t get used to wearing a mask overnight. Some users end up pulling it off in their sleep, and for a few unfortunate individuals suffering from claustrophobia or some level of PTSD, wearing a mask for eight hours straight is just not an option.
2. Forcing air into your lungs comes with a number of downsides.
By definition, a CPAP blows a continuous stream of air into the wearer’s airway. Many users end up feeling bloated when they wake up, and for some, that’s a bit much to tolerate. Experiencing severe dry mouth or dry, cracked nasal passages is also common, and these can also be issues that interrupt sleep.
3. A CPAP is a machine, which means that it carries a machine’s limitations and annoyances.
- Noise. While most newer CPAP machines run in near silence, older machines can sometimes generate enough racket that they ironically keep the user from getting to sleep.
- Dependence on electricity. Every CPAP has at least one non-negotiable requirement: access to a functional electrical outlet. If you ever lose power, you also lose the ability to sleep through the night.
- Travel can become more complicated. Many CPAP machines are relatively bulky and can eat up a lot of luggage space (and can you imagine the nightmare of an airline damaging or losing your CPAP?). Compact, travel-friendly CPAP machines are available, but they’re not cheap. And as noted earlier, CPAP machines require electricity, which can impact where you choose to go on vacation (overnight campouts may be off the table).
- Many users quickly learn to hate the reality of regular machine maintenance. The CPAP is by definition a respiratory device, which means that its cleanliness requirements are rather stringent: they have to be cleaned at least once a month to prevent germs and other contaminants from growing inside and infecting the user. In fact, many CPAP machines require such frequent maintenance that some users buy a second machine to make it easier to clean.
Many folks are fine with using a CPAP machine to treat their sleep apnea systems and it is still the best treatment option for the most severe cases of sleep apnea. Given how widespread the CPAP has become, the machine is not going away anytime soon. But as with any treatment, it’s important to be aware of the limitations and side effects and that there are other less intrusive options available.