CPAP Therapy Treatment and Tips

Can't get to sleep with CPAP? 7 Tips for Sleep


Treating your sleep apnea can be a life changer, improving your energy level and enabling you to be your best self.  Some people get used to therapy very easily - but don't worry if it takes you a little longer. That's normal.

Learning to use your CPAP therapy equipment is about forming good habits, staying positive and practicing. It's also about getting comfortable. Here are some tips to help ease you gently into therapy – and a better night’s sleep.

Can't get to sleep with your CPAP?

Getting used to the feeling of CPAP therapy can take a little bit of time at first. Here are some simple steps to follow to help you get used to your machine and before you know it you will be feeling the benefits. 

Try these tips for falling asleep and having success with your CPAP machine and mask:

1. Ease yourself into CPAP

Try using your CPAP therapy equipment for a few short periods during the day. Wearing it when you’re not tired like when you’re reading, is a great way to work out if there are any adjustments needed.

Your therapy specialist will have set up all of your equipment's settings to suit your sleep apnea needs, but you may have to make some subtle adjustments to your mask or your humidifier's settings.


2. Make your CPAP mask comfortable

The most common problems with treatment occur when your CPAP mask doesn’t fit properly. If it’s not fitting properly when you hit the sack‚ you may not be able to go to sleep as easily as you should.

Put on your mask during the day. Make subtle adjustments to it to get a good seal and to make it comfortable. Stand in front of a mirror so you can see what you’re doing.

Once you’ve made some adjustments to how it feels, try lying down and turning on your machine. Your face contour will change slightly when you’re lying down. So this is an important step not to miss! Your sleep apnea machine may have a ‘Mask fit’ which is a Mask fitting mode that you can use to test the CPAP mask.

If the mask is too big, the headgear straps holding it to your face will need to be pulled tightly. This may irritate you. Likewise, if the mask is too small, it may not seal properly and the air may blow into your eyes. If you’re having either of these problems, visit a CPAP clinic to see if your mask's fitting is right.

If you’re worried about how the mask or head straps feel against your skin, you don’t have to put up with this. You can buy mask accessories like soft nasal pads to sit on your nose to reduce any rubbing against your skin.

Are you at risk of sleep apnea?

If you frequently wake up during the night you may have sleep apnea. Take our free sleep assessment to find out.


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3. Maintain good sleep hygiene

Before starting out on CPAP therapy, make sure you’re doing your best to maintain good sleep hygiene. What does this mean? It means making sure your lifestyle, habits and practices are all conducive to helping you sleep well on a regular basis.1

You can improve your sleep hygiene by making a few minor adjustments to your lifestyle.1 Here are some habits that you should follow:

Listen to your body

Your body's internal clock can provide accurate signals when it's ready to go to sleep. So make sure you listen to it. For example:

  • Go to bed when your body signals to you that it's tired.
  • And likewise, don't go to bed unless you are tired. (We’ll touch on this more in the next section, as it's an important factor to consider when starting out on CPAP).

Improve your sleeping environment

  • Sleep with a good mattress and pillow.
  • If you’re a side sleeper, there are specially designed pillows you can purchase that will help you to use your CPAP mask.
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and the right temperature. A good temperature range is between 16 and 20° Celsius.2
  • If you can't control the noise or light in you room, invest in some ear plugs and an eye mask.
  • Avoid alcohol, coffee and mobile phones before bed.3

Making small improvements to your sleep hygiene may help set you up for success with your CPAP therapy.

4. Don't go to bed until you feel tired1

As mentioned earlier, when starting out on CPAP you should try to go to bed only when you’re tired.

If you head off to bed when you aren't feeling tired, you may not be able to switch off. Add in the addition of something new and unfamiliar like a CPAP machine, and you might find it unusually hard to fall asleep. Your mind may keep you awake by thinking too much about your mask and machine.

If you find when it’s getting close to bedtime that you aren't tired, consider delaying going to bed by a little while. Try doing something relaxing.

Don't do this too often though, only do it as you’re getting used to CPAP therapy.


5. Be relaxed when you go to bed

A busy, racing or worried mind will find it hard to go to sleep straight away. Throw in your therapy machine and mask, and you might start thinking it's going to be impossible to go to sleep.

But don't.

Do a few things that you find relaxing 1-2 hours before bed. We’re all different, so do whatever works for you!

For example:

  • Take a bath (the rise, then fall in body temperature promotes drowsiness)1
  • Read a book
  • Watch television
  • Practice relaxation exercises

Avoid stressful, stimulating activities like doing work or discussing emotional issues. These things can cause your body to pump out the stress hormone, cortisol, which can increase alertness.1 If you tend to take your problems to bed, try writing them down‚ and then put them aside.4


6. See if there’s a ramp setting on your CPAP machine

When you’ve made your way to bed and fitted your mask, start up your machine. If the air pressure from your machine feels too high while you’re trying to fall asleep, use the ‘ramp mode’.

Some machines, like ResMed's AirSense™ Autoset™ have a smart automatic ramp pressure setting. This means the machine won't increase the pressure until you’ve fallen asleep.

So check what machine you have and if you aren't falling asleep before the air pressure increases, speak to one of our CPAP therapy coaches about increasing the ramp time. Just book an appointment at a time that suits you!

7. Breathe your way to sleep

Hopefully you are relaxed and tired once you’ve settled into bed. One of the last things to try now are some breathing techniques. The Sleep Foundation offers a simple breathing exercise that’s designed to help you relax and sleep.

It is worth it!

Treatment can be a life changer, improving your energy level and enabling you to be your best self.

Remember, just be kind and patient with yourself as you’re getting comfortable using a CPAP device and mask every night . Doing all of the above steps will give you a good chance of being successful on CPAP.

Always keep in mind that using CPAP brings with it many health benefits such as more energy during the day and better concentration to do the things you love. 

And if it’s just not working for you, reach out to one of the friendly ResMed sleep coaches to discuss your CPAP therapy on 1800 737 633.


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3 accessed 5 July 2019.

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