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What I've learned (tips for a new user)
#1
What I've learned (tips for a new user)
I've been using a CPAP for three months and want to give back in some way, since its use has been a dramatic improvement in my life.   I compiled the knowledge I learned through searching through or reading apneaboard, and combine that knowledge with things that I found out myself, so that everything that helped me could be in one place when some random stranger decides to look up search terms I'm using. I realize that the post is very long, so I bolded the major points of each thought for readability purposes. 

1) Even if you aren't a "mouth breather", you still might not be able to use a nasal mask/a nasal mask may not be the best option for you:  I tried using a few different chin straps (I never tightened them to the point that I couldn't open my mouth at all.  It was my preference to be able to open my mouth slightly if the power went out, since I don't have a backup battery) and learning the tongue trick but my tongue would eventually always naturally drop whenever I got completely relaxed, and an air bubble would always pop up.  If I was awake, I'd release air bubble and then close my mouth again.  However, if I was asleep, the air would force my mouth open cause a large leak.  I'm such a heavy sleeper that a mouth leak wouldn't wake me up for long periods of time.  That destroyed the quality of my therapy and my wife's quality of sleep.  I suppose I could've tried taping but that doesn't sound fun to me, as my skin as super sensitive.  I could've also tried a mouth guard or a cervical collar but I decided to try a full face mask before attempting these options and found out that.....

2) You shouldn't be afraid of a Full Face Mask: First off, finding the right mask is absolutely as vital as everyone on this forum says. The full face mask I tried first (the dreamwear full face mask) worked EXTREMELY well for me and still does. In the end, I decided that this single mask was much more comfortable than a nasal mask plus any additional accessories I would need to get the leaking under control, and it has been the BEST decision I've made thus far. I don't get major leaks with the dreamwear full mask (the n30i was especially leak prone for me...none of the cushions fit my nose correctly, and I always got a stream of air shooting towards my eyes if I moved even a small amount).  I think there's a bit of a push towards nasal masks (pillows, cradles and cushions) because they work for a lot of people and they're lower profile than full masks (though I don't feel like my mask is particularly bulky).  However, if it's not working, it's not working.  Don't be afraid to just stop the trial and error with nasal masks and nasal mask accessories and try a full face mask. You may find that it's comfortable and works better for you.  

3) Your problem might be the temperature, not the pressure: For those who have a heated tube, don't assume that a comfortable air temperature will be the same with a CPAP as it is without a CPAP.  You may need to adjust the temperature to be comfortable. When I first started CPAP I thought I had a problem tolerating air pressure, though the actual problem was the air was too warm for me. The default temperature was 72 degrees, which I thought was reasonable, since 72 is a comfortable temperature for me to sleep in when I'm not using a CPAP.  However, I felt like the air was "stifling" and had difficulty getting comfortable.  One night, I started experimenting and dropped the temperature by a few degrees, and lo and behold, my difficulty breathing and the "stifling" aspect of the air went away, with the air almost became refreshing to me.  After experimenting, I dropped the temperature down to 67, which is my optimal air temperature.  

4) If you stick to it, sleeping with a CPAP will become the norm and will become comfortable:  For me, this happened quickly.  For you, it may not.  Nevertheless, if you keep trying and find what works for you, not sleeping with a CPAP will very quickly become as strange to you as wearing a cpap did when you started.  Don't stop!  Your health matters.

5) Reducing skin irritation: I have very sensitive skin and was worried that any mask I wore would give me acne.  To combat this, I use my mask (Dreamwear Full Face) without the fabric covers that come with the mask (I think fabric is much more likely to cause problems than silicone, since fabric absorbs skin oils but silicone doesn't).  When I wash my mask cushion every day (and yes, if you have oily skin or acne, I would absolutely do the same....it takes 3 minutes), I also give a quick wash to the silicone tubes on the mask.  By doing this, I haven't had ANY problems with skin irritation or acne.  

6) Get rid of CPAP strap marks: Sometimes I wake up with CPAP mask marks across my face.  I've experimented and if I do nothing, they can stick around for MANY hours.  With that being said, if I simply just massage the areas where the strap marks are for around 30 seconds, the strap marks tend to disappear within a half an hour or less.  Give that area blood flow and the marks will go away...at least for me. 

7) Get an APAP but if CPAP mode is working better, use that instead: Thanks to the guidance and advice of many, I was able to get a great APAP device (Airsense 10 Autoset).  As time passed, I decided to switch from the CPAP mode the device came set on to APAP mode, and even after "narrowing my pressure range" using OSCAR as a guide, my APAP AHI was higher than my CPAP results on most nights.  On average, my AHI is usually 1 to 1.5 lower when using a steady pressure on CPAP mode (my AHI has settled around 1.2 at this time, which I'm happy with).  Just because an APAP is more advance, it doesn't necessarily mean you will get the best therapy from it.  Some people have difficulty adjusting to the changes in pressure.  I didn't have difficulty adjusting in any conscious way (I wasn't being woken up by the pressure changes), but the results speak for themselves. With that being said, you should always still try to get an APAP when securing a device, since they provide more flexibility and APAP mode may be significantly better for you than CPAP mode...everyone is different. 

8) Even if you have mild apnea, get it treated, one way or another: My AHI, relative to many on this board and many PAP users you will meet, was "low".  I was diagnosed with an AHI of 5.8, which barely even qualifies for a diagnosis or treatment.  For me, untreated apnea may not have the same devastating consequences as someone with more moderate or severe apnea (though it very well may have...again, everyone is different).  However, I was extremely tired all the time and my quality of life was suffering.  By treating my apneas, I don't feel like superman, but I feel more like a normal person.  I'm not tired when driving to work after sleeping 9 hours.  I'm not yawning non-stop after only being awake for a couple of hours.  I feel much more mentally alert.  I just feel MUCH better A small but lovely side effect is that my wife has said that I "look a lot healthier and better." And honestly, I agree. You can always easily tell when someone is tired, and a tired person generally never really looks all that healthy.  You want to be more attractive and look healthier?  Get treated and get some sleep. 

That's all I have for you lovely people.  I'm sure I'll learn more as I continue my journey, but after 3 months of CPAP, these are the major tips that I want to pass along.  Keep up with your treatment and if you need help, seek it!  There are a hundreds of people on this forum who want to help, as I've already experienced. 

Good luck!
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#2
RE: What I've learned (tips for a new user)
Chrisiscitrus, this is a terrific post, with lots of great information and encouragement for newbies and old hands alike. Thanks very much for taking the time -- it's a very generous contribution to this community.
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