Millions across North America and around the globe suffer from sleep apnea. The most common way to treat the condition is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or CPAP. CPAP machines can help tremendously in alleviating the symptoms of sleep apnea and getting a good night’s rest.
However, to get the best out of your equipment, you need to be aware of the specific care requirements for CPAP treatment and what each of the constituent parts of your CPAP setup is:
CPAP mask: the CPAP mask is a crucial part of the treatment. It not only provides comfort to the patient but also maintains proper air pressure flow. The mask must ensure a tight seal to maintain constant pressure. CPAP masks come in various sizes and shapes and can cover the mouth, nose, or both.
Tube: This is a flexible hose that connects the CPAP mask to the motor of the machine.
Motor: Also known as the flow generator, the engine blows a steady stream of air into the tube, which flows through the mask and keeps the throat and airway passage open. Modern CPAP machines are usually very compact and quiet and can be kept on a bedside table without causing too much disturbance.
CPAP filter: CPAP devices come with a filter located at the back of the machine at the entrance of the air intake. CPAP filters are essential to prevent particles of dust and debris from entering your breathing passage. You can get both disposable and reusable filters. You must replace CPAP filters from time-to-time when they wear out.
We have compiled a tight, compact list of To Do’s Commandments when generally caring for your CPAP.
Daily or Weekly Routine
1) Thou Shall Discover the Power of Clean Mask Parts
Examine the mask cushion (that touches your face or nostrils) for signs of yellowing, softening, stickiness, stretching, and or discoloration. Skin oils, soap residue, etc. contribute to your mask cushion condition. A daily/weekly wash ensures that the mask cushion lasts until its replacement becomes necessary, six to nine months for most mask cushions.
2) Thou Shall Inherit Clean, Breathable Air
Take your CPAP tubing and smell the air that comes from it as it’s connected to your running machine. If you feel anything strange, mildew-like, or odoriferous, it may be time to give that tubing a good wash or a trip to the trash (i.e., purchasing new tubing). Most tubing will last up to a year, according to CPAP accessory manufacturers. Being mindful of its condition will help you decide how much care is necessary.
Also, check your CPAP filter on the back of your unit. If you can trace a discolored line on your filter, see particles erupt into the air and/or dirt on your fingertip, it is time to either change the filter entirely or rinse it clean.
3) Thou Shall Have Appropriate Humidity
The container that holds water heats up and gives you humidity during your sleep can get a bit dirty from the water being used. Some users report calcium deposits even when distilled water is used consistently.
Be sure to give that humidifier chamber a good wash with soap and water, like doing dishes. Another optional disinfection method is to soak this chamber in one part white vinegar and three parts water for thirty minutes, followed by a good rinse and air dry. This is done as needed. Lastly, if the chamber does not clean out using the previous steps, it may be time to replace it.
Rather than clean it and risk not drying it properly, you still have the option of using a CPAP sanitizer. You can, therefore, clean your CPAP machine without getting it wet and eradicate up to 99% of all germs, bacteria and viruses.
4) Thou Shall Enjoy the Power of Non-Stretched Out Headgear
Examine the mask headgear that wraps around your head. If you have to keep tightening it nightly, it will stretch out. Look for whether it’s longer, discolored, misshapen, or has hardened up in spots. These are all hints that your headgear needs changing.
It will sustain a hand-wash with soap and water but will stretch prematurely if you dry it in a clothes dryer. It is best to air-dry for longevity. The average life for headgear is one year, per most manufacturers.
Weekly or Monthly Routine
5) Thou Shall Read the CPAP machine Owner’s Manual About Each and Every Component of Your CPAP Circuit
Many bypass the owner’s manuals thinking the use and operation of a medical device are as comfortable as “plug and play” or “setting it and forgetting it.” This approach may work in the short-term but will do no one any favors in the long run.
This is especially true if a device requires primary care for consistent sleep-time results. Small details of care, like filter changes and cleaning, can spell the difference between a pleasant night sleep or a not-so-good sleep. Remember, manuals are written to support your long-term success.