How to Know If Your CPAP Machine Pressure Setting Is Correct?

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CPAP users must consult a doctor to adjust pressure settings.
CPAP users must consult a doctor to adjust pressure settings. (Image: Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

CPAP machines are frequently used by persons who suffer from sleep apnea or another sleep disorder. Research shows that the compliance rate for CPAP is only around 60 percent, since the machine can trigger uncomfortable side effects. However, side effects may be a result of an inappropriate pressure setting. Before abandoning the CPAP machine, users should confirm that they are using the correct setting to see if experience improves. There are various steps to ascertain if the pressure setting is correct.

Test a pressure testing for at least two weeks. Your doctor may recommend that you increase or decrease a setting, and new settings (whether higher or lower) may present some discomfort at first. Discomfort may include dry nose or mouth or frequent interruptions to sleep. However, you should wait a minimum of two weeks to see if discomfort disappears once your body adjusts to a setting.

Determine how close your pressure setting is to your titrated pressure, which is what your doctor calculated during your sleep study. Many CPAP users initially use their titrated pressure or a cumber just above or below it, adjusting pressure up or down a half cm/H20 as needed. Doctors generally encourage CPAP users to stay within range of titrated pressure.

Note if you regularly experience air in the stomach. If you are routinely awakening with stomach pain or gas, your CPAP pressure may be too high. However, pain and gas in the stomach can also result if your head is not properly aligned with your body as you sleep. Make sure head is not titled too much, as this can interfere with your airways and cause stomach discomfort.

Note if you are experiencing headaches, nasal pressure or ear pressure. Beginning CPAP users are likely to experience these symptoms when first using the machine. However, if these symptoms persist or occur after successful use of the machine, they may be a sign that pressure needs to be adjusted. Too much pressure from the CPAP machine can cause sinus congestion, which can block the ear canals and nasal passages and cause pain.

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