Your CPAP therapy is as individual as you are. Your needs to treat sleep apnea are specific to you: your biological makeup, your facial structure, your weight, whether you have high blood pressure or heart disease and how you breathe during sleep. All of these things contribute to what CPAP machine, mask, and humidifier you use, and most importantly, your CPAP pressure settings.
CPAP Pressure Settings
CPAP machines deliver a specific amount of pressurized air to prevent the soft tissue from collapsing and blocking your airway. Most people with sleep apnea require a pressure setting between 6 and 14 cm H2O ( or centimeters of water is a unit of pressure ). A sleep physician determines the optimum CPAP pressure after reviewing your apnea-hypopnea index (AHI).
Most CPAP machines have a pressure settings range from 4 cm H2O to 20 cm H2O. The average pressure is around 10 cm H2O.
Specialized CPAP machines can deliver CPAP pressure up to 25 to 30 cm H2O.
Ultimately, your CPAP machine needs to be able to push air through your airway while you sleep to ensure you get the oxygen you need. Oxygen is the key to how your body can regenerate cells, how you heal, how your brain functions when you are awake and even how you eat and whether or not you exercise.
Is my CPAP pressure set correctly?
Because the results from your initial sleep study determine your CPAP pressure, a clinician or doctor need to adjust the pressure settings. You cannot use a machine without the correct pressure settings. As a matter of fact, it can endanger your health to use a CPAP machine when you do not need it, or when you use it on the wrong setting.
Titration is finding the optimum pressure for your needs. If you experience a stifling feeling, or you think your pressure may not be benefitting you, there are a couple of ways to re-titrate your CPAP machine safely:
- Get an auto-titrating CPAP machine. These machines are set at a range of pressures, usually between 5cm H2O and 20cm H2O. With this range, the machine can adjust to your needs throughout the night and over a period of a few days to a couple of weeks. Your doctor or clinician will look at the data from your machine and change your settings to the average the auto-titrating machine displayed.
- The other common way to titrate a machine is to go into a sleep lab for a titration study. It takes less time but is usually more expensive. A titration study can be done in one night, but the method is similar to an auto-titrating CPAP machine.
Consult a physician if problems persist
If you are having a hard time adjusting to the pressure of your CPAP machine, make sure you get in touch with your medical supply company. Adjusting to CPAP therapy can be challenging, but it is not supposed to be uncomfortable and there are ways to improve how you feel when you use your machine. A properly working CPAP machine will allow you to sleep better at night, feel better during the day, as well as improve your health!