April 17, 2020

5 Tips for How to Use CPAP With a Cold

5 Tips for How to Use CPAP With a Cold

The benefits of CPAP therapy actually last a few days after you stop using it. You do not have to wear your CPAP every single day. If you get sick and your nose is too runny to let you use your CPAP machine, don't worry, breaks are fine!

However, we highly recommended that you try to use your CPAP machine when you have a cold. Sleep will help your body fight illness better. If your nose is not too runny to breathe with the mask on, the heated air may actually help you breathe more comfortably. 

A mature woman blowing her nose with a tissue

Dr. Matt Walker, a sleep scientist from Berkeley, says in his TED Talk that sleep health and immune health are intimately related.

So far in 2020, the average American has had more time for sleep than ever. Paradoxically, many people under quarantine routinely spend restless nights awake in bed. Although the country remains on high alert, rest is more important now than ever.

Keep reading for 5 tips on how to use CPAP with a cold.

Tip 1: Use a Full Face Mask

There are 3 types of CPAP masks. Which one is best for you will depend mostly on whether you breathe from your mouth when you sleep, whether you have facial hair, and how much you move in your sleep.

The full face mask is the best option for somebody with a cold because it allows you to breathe through your mouth as well as your nose. Thus, if your nose is stuffy you can still breathe. We recommend the Resmed Quattro full face mask for its high ratings, performance, and reliability.

Types of CPAP Masks


This mask covers your mouth and nose. It is the most effective kind of mask but can be uncomfortable, depending on your nighttime movement and susceptibility to discomfort while sleeping. There is also a higher potential for air leakage.

Nasal pillow

This is the preferred option for CPAP users with facial hair. It is the smallest kind of mask and leaves the mouth uncovered. The air pressure coming in only from the nose can lead to dryness.

Nasal mask

This type of mask allows for the most mobility. It is recommended for side sleepers, and only covers the nose but is different from a nasal pillow in that it actually covers a part of your face. On the other hand, it may not work as well with congestion.

Tip 2: Decongestants and nasal sprays

In many cases, you can bring your stuffiness down to manageable levels using decongestants and other over-the-counter medicine. However, we recommend nasal sprays over decongestants. 

Decongestants have two catches, and you should consider both carefully. 

There is a good reason why some medicines come in blue and purple packages labeled: "nighttime medicine" and some come in orange and yellow packaging that reads: "daytime medicine." Anticongestants, especially those with pseudoephedrine, tend to be considered daytime medicine. This means they will keep you awake for a few hours after taking them.

Tip 3: Humidifier Therapy 

If you don't have access to a steam room, and you definitely can't use your CPAP machine because of congestion, you could consider purchasing a humidifier.

Humidifiers, or vaporizers, work on your sinuses by loosening the mucus in your nose. Sinusitis experts agree that breathing clean, warm, humid air is generally good for sinus health. This treatment is particularly helpful for those who are experiencing dryness in their nasal passages due to low humidity in their environment. This can be due to illness, coldness, or a faulty heating system.

The best place for this treatment is inside a bathroom. This treatment can be surprisingly relaxing!

Tip 4: Vicks VaporRub

Vapor rub made from eucalyptus and camphor has been used for hundreds of years. This treatment works by tricking your brain into thinking you are not congested anymore. Ironically, the brain will respond to this by dropping mucus production in your sinuses. 

Placebo-based or not, researchers at Penn State tested 138 children aged 2 - 11 and found that Vicks helped treat cold symptoms in kids more reliably than comparable cough and cold medicine. 

The results of this test surprised many researchers, but not many veteran parents. 

Because of Vicks's characteristic smell, making this a double-blind study required a little creativity from the Penn State researchers. What they did was ask all parents to put Vicks under their nose so they would not be able to distinguish between the placebo and the Vicks.

This was a surprising result to many. Vapor rub was shown to improve parent's sleep, children's sleep, cough severity, and cough frequency. It was not shown to be significantly better for runny nose, however.

Tip 5: Elevate You Head and Sleep on Your Side

Gravity works against folks who sleep on their back. "Soldier style" slumber can make congestion and sleep apnea worse. Luckily, this is an easy problem to solve. If you are a back sleeper, you could experiment with different sleeping positions.

80% of sleep apnea cases are due to obstructions. This means that most people's apneas are caused by physical blockages in the airways. This blockage can be anything from inflamed tissue to a numb tongue. 

Inside your sinuses, this problem gets doubled. The best way you can find rest with a cold on top of a sleep apnea diagnosis is to avoid blocking your airways. You can do this with a very simple adjustment to your sleeping habits. 


Getting over a cold can be a frustrating ordeal for people with sleep apnea. Not getting rest leads to a compromised immune system, and sometimes the difference between a good night and a bad one is a simple stuffy nose.

A mature man sleeping soundly

To speed up your recovery, we recommend switching to a full face mask, using a nasal spray, using a humidifier, trying Vicks Vaporub, and experimenting with different sleeping positions.

We’re here to help you get a good night's sleep. View our wide selection of products—which includes full face masks, nasal pillows, and CPAP cleaning systems.

Written by The Sleeplay Team

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