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CPAP Machine Side Effects

Oct 14, 2020
· 12 mins read

Most people diagnosed with sleep apnea had to go through CPAP or continuous positive airway pressure therapy at least once.

The primary reason a person experiences sleep apnea is due to the blocking of the upper airway. This happens when your muscles are more relaxed than advisable in your sleep. The CPAP machine allows for smooth airflow in your airway.

This way, an obstructive sleep apnea patient can sleep peacefully without experiencing a shortage of breath.

Yes, this is a helpful machine that connects to the patient’s airways. And it does so with the help of a hosepipe that’s connected to a mask. Yet, when you get too acquainted with it,  CPAP side effects can follow.

You may have already experienced and noted some of these side effects. Or maybe, you could be unaware of some underlying reactions that are occurring due to the CPAP machine. Knowing exactly what to look for would help you find solutions to these side effects.


Common Side Effects of CPAP

Congestion and Dry Nose

Of all the side effects of CPAP, this one’s easily identifiable and a fairly common one.

It’s common to either find your nose dry or congested after waking up or even have a parched throat. It’s highly likely that the air pressure from the CPAP machine is drying out your nasal passage to the point of irritation. If not taken care of, it can also lead to bleeding.

The air the machine gets from the mask is quite dry, which can give rise to a burning sensation in the lungs.

Not only is a dry nose a major cause of inconvenience, but it also makes you prone to infections. Your body’s own defense mechanism might also kick in, leading to congestion as your nasal passage tries to counteract with extra mucous.

This is a problem one can easily get rid of by buying a CPAP machine that comes with an in-built humidifier. The humidifier ensures that the moisture in the air is maintained at an optimum level to prevent your nose from drying. 

In case you already have a CPAP device with a malfunctioning humidifier, try turning up the settings or cleaning it to check whether it’s running smoothly.


The CPAP machine side effects also include accidentally amplifying the effects of claustrophobia in people suffering from it. Even if they aren’t claustrophobic, they might start feeling so while wearing the mask.

The mask is meant to supply the patient with the needed air intake but the fit of the mask can be quite tight against your nose. It usually covers most of your face which can be an uncomfortable experience.

Particularly, using a full mask would heighten your chances of becoming claustrophobic.

A nasal pillow mask is a good option in this case, as it doesn’t cover your entire face. If you have been instructed to use a full mask by your doctor, it may be better to try the ‘one step at a time’ approach.

Try using the full mask when you are taking a nap instead of a full night’s sleep. Or maybe put the mask on while you are awake - especially when you are doing some leisure activities like reading or watching television.

The more you get accustomed to the mask, the longer you’d be able to wear it, until you can sleep properly at night without feeling stuffy.

It might be easier to get used to the CPAP machine if it’s equipped with a sleep onset mechanism. The setting starts by providing light air pressure. Once it senses that you’ve fallen asleep, the air pressure ramps up to the prescribed level.


Bloated Stomach

If you feel bloated after waking up, there is a good chance you are accidentally gulping the air from the CPAP mask. This doesn’t have a medical remedy; however, adjusting the way you sleep might help.

Chuck the pillow and lay down flat on your back. If that doesn’t help, try sleeping by applying pressure on your side or elevating your head more than you would with a pillow. The point is to sleep differently from whatever your current sleeping position is.

If changing your position doesn’t resolve the issue, it’s time to discuss it with your doctor. Consult them and find out whether the air pressure can be lowered.

Unrested Eyes

As far as CPAP side effects are concerned, this one’s particularly hard to detect since dry eyes can occur due to a number of reasons. If you do note a tightness around your eyes every time you wake up, it could be due to a leak in the mask right where it meets your nose bridge.

The air could be blowing right to your eyes thus causing the dryness. However, there’s an easy fix for it. You don’t need to tighten your mask since it can trigger claustrophobia. Instead, add a bit of cotton ball or a nasal pillow mask so that your mask fits snug around your face.

If this doesn’t fix the problem, your mask might need resizing. It’s likely that it’s either too big or too small for the expanse of your face.

Marks Surrounding Your Nose

If the area around your nose, that is your cheeks, seems to have a reddish tint or tiny bumps, it could be due to three main causes. 

It could be due to the congestion of facial oil because of a tight mask. It’s also probable that the mask is too tight, thus leaving marks on your face. Or, maybe the material of the mask is causing an allergic reaction.

If it’s because of oil buildup, wash your face properly before you put the mask on. After you take the mask off in the morning, clean the cushion of the mask. You don’t want oil from the night to be stuck on the mask. If not cleaned properly, the leftover oil can attack your skin all over again, once you put the mask back on.

If the breakout still continues, mask liner or nasal pillow mask could be the solution, as they are designed to be less in touch with the skin.

If the redness is concentrated around your philtrum or right at the bridge of your nose, it’s possible that the straps of your headgear might be tighter than required. Too tight a strap can cause bruises, ultimately leading to severe pain.

It’s advisable to change the mask if the reason your mask is too tight is due to a leak. The adjustments you make on the mask should also be minor so that the heaviness of the mask is more evenly distributed.

If the breakout is due to a new CPAP mask, you are most definitely having an allergic reaction to the chemicals that make up the composition of the silicone mask.

Usually, the burn of the chemical lessens as time passes and the problem should perish after a while. However, if you can’t wait too long to use your mask, simply soaking the mask in lukewarm soap water should get rid of the remaining chemical particles.

This method is applicable in any kind of mask. Although, you shouldn’t soak it for too long lest it damages the silicone.

Dry Mouth

If you wake up feeling your mouth is dry, it’s likely that you might be unintentionally sleeping with your mouth open at night. This can cause complications in your CPAP treatment as it reduces its efficacy.

There are three ways to deal with it.

 One would be to check if the mask is leaking. If the mask is more than six months old and you notice it’s leaking, it’s time to get a new mask. However, if it’s a new mask, you might want to adjust it better.

 If you are using a full mask and you don’t notice any leakage, a humidifier along with the CPAP machine would be a good option. It would give the air the right amount of moisture needed to prevent your mouth from drying. If it’s only a nasal mask, a chinstrap could keep your mouth in place.

If none of these work, there are masks that are specifically geared towards people who sleep with their mouth open. Investing in one can be a great idea too


Headache In The Morning

Headaches aren’t a common side effect of CPAP. However, high air pressure or pre-existing sinus problems might trigger them.

If the CPAP machine is creating a barrier for the sinus cavities, it could be causing pressure for those cavities. The built-up pressure can give rise to headaches.

There are medications available that could help keep your sinus cavities open. You could also use a heated humidifier when the CPAP machine is in use to keep your sinus passageway unblocked. If your headache persists even after trying these methods, it might be better to call your ENT specialist as soon as possible.

Restriction of Movements

This isn’t a side effect of CPAP, but rather a common problem faced by most patients at night. It could very well become a side effect as patients tend to ignore their body’s needs because untangling themselves from the CPAP machine is too complicated. So, they hold off on going to the bathroom even if they need to.

After one has gone to sleep with the CPAP mask carefully fitted around your face, no matter how much one needs to go to the bathroom, it appears to be too much of a problem.

What most people do is remove the mask and then go to the bathroom, which isn’t an ideal solution. It messes the fit, resulting in you readjusting the mask all over again.

The smart thing to do would be to disconnect the mask from the CPAP machine and then go to the bathroom. Once done, you come back and reconnect it.


There have been cases of CPAP mask wearers feeling light-headed after treatment. It’s actually unclear as to why this symptom occurs in some, but the general belief is that it is due to the new pressure change your middle ear is going through.

It would be a good idea to consult with your doctor in this case. See if they can change the pressure to a more suitable level where you don’t end up feeling dizzy by the end of the treatment.

Discomfort In The Lungs

There are patients who feel a burning sensation in their lungs due to CPAP treatment. This is a side effect caused due to the inhalation of dry air.. Again, a heated humidifier can take care of this problem with little to no trouble.

Breathing Problems

Patients have complained about experiencing difficulty in breathing when they are on CPAP therapy. However, this can’t actually be true. If your CPAP machine is a proper one, CPAP therapy can have other side effects, but lowering your air level isn’t one of them.

This is mostly a case of the mind playing tricks on the patient as they get hyper-aware of their dependency on the CPAP machine.


Ways To Prevent CPAP Side Effects

You have already read some of the solutions to the side effects. If you haven’t experienced a side effect yet, trying the following methods would keep them at bay.

Clean The CPAP Machine

Cleaning CPAP Supplies

Cleaning the CPAP mask and machine is quite important, and possibly something your doctor has already advised you to do. Cleaning the mask, water chamber, tubes, etc should become a regular part of your routine. This will prevent the buildup of any kind of bacteria or fungi.

If your CPAP has a humidifier, then it should be cleaned on a daily basis. Use a mild soap solution to clean it, and the same goes for the CPAP mask.

All the parts of the CPAP machine should also be kept in a mixture of vinegar and water.  The ideal ratio is 3 part water and one part soap.

Ideally, the routine should be followed every week at least once. However, these kinds of cleaning schedules can be exhausting for a patient - especially a busy one. Luckily, sanitizing machines catered towards CPAP machines are available in the market. If it becomes too much, you can always purchase one of those machines.

Steer Away From Oily Items

As mentioned earlier, the buildup of oil on your face can give rise to rashes. In general, it’s advisable to stay away from any kind of oily products.

Before using a CPAP mask, your face should be clean thoroughly with a face wash. Don’t apply any kind of face cream after that.

If you do decide to use moisturizer even while wearing the CPAP mask, the masks have to be cleaned daily to avoid any buildup of germs. The moisturizer in your face seeps into the mask and clings to the mask. If you don’t wash it, it will continue to do so. You can’t afford to not wash the mask for a single day in that case.

Secure Strap

The right kind of strap is quite important when it comes to CPAP treatment.

If the mask is too snug, it is bound to give rise to skin irritation. If the fit is loose than recommended, you might be exposing yourself to leaks from the CPAP machine.

The CPAP mask strap has to be secured just right to avoid these mishaps.

Inspect Your Humidifier

If your CPAP machine is equipped with a humidifier, the side effects can range from a dry mouth and nose to problems with breathing or even nosebleeds. Inspect your humidifier and check whether it’s working properly. If it is providing the right amount of moisture, you should not be experiencing any of these side effects.

Again, cleaning your humidifier every day is a must.

The Tube

These days, the tubes in the CPAP machine can be heated. If the tube is hot, the air passing through it is also warm, thus attaining a temperature suitable for your body.

Among the CPAP supplies, the mask, filter, and the tubes are one of the most important parts.

The tubes also have to be cleaned on a regular basis. The presence of germs in the tubes can contaminate the air passing through it, which can be quite harmful to your body.

Thus, make it a point to clean the tubes properly on a daily basis.


Making Proper Adjustments To The CPAP Pressure

As might now know, most of the CPAP side effects occur due to the wrong CPAP pressure. Here are some instructions you should follow while adjusting the pressure of the CPAP machine.

Finding The Correct Pressure

The pressure level input on your CPAP machine should be the exact amount that your doctor has prescribed for you. Check and double-check it to make sure there hasn’t been a mistake.

However, a patient can experience discomfort even after using the correct pressure. That is, they either feel the pressure is way higher than it should be, experience trouble while breathing, or unintentionally end up gulping down the air.

This calls for a serious consultation with the doctor - whether the pressure settings should be readjusted and if a lower or higher pressure would be more suitable in your current state.

New Pressure Setting

Did you have a huge change in your lifestyle recently? Did you recently heal from a chronic disease, or did it get worse? Was there a sudden fluctuation in your weight? Are you trying to quit your age-old habit of smoking or drinking?

Any of these cases can trigger your primary obstructive sleep apnea conditions to rear its head.

It is these changes that have occurred in one’s medical condition or the lifestyle changes made by them, a new pressure setting might help. Since you are still operating on your older pressure setting and it’s failing to suit your current health condition, it can result in side effects.

The Ramp Of Your Machine

Regardless of whether you are experiencing side effects or not, using the ramp of your machine might be an excellent idea for a sleep apnea patient.

This setting allows the air pressure to begin at a lower level and then work its way up to the final pressure set on the CPAP machine.

This could eliminate a number of side effects. You get more and more comfortable with the CPAP mask. Your mask feels less foreign on your skin as you allow yourself to grow used to its effect.


Final Thoughts

There's a lot to take into consideration when it comes to CPAP machine side effects. At the same time, most of these side effects can be dealt with with quick fixes.

For a patient with sleep apnea, it’s much more harmful to not follow a doctor’s instructions when it comes to CPAP therapy. The side effects are mostly uncomfortable but certainly not a huge threat to your daily life.

If you don’t adhere to the CPAP treatment, health problems can range from a heart attack, fatigue, high blood pressure to heart arrhythmias. Not adhering to your doctor’s instructions can also prove to be fatal. Thus, be extra mindful while undergoing CPAP treatment.

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