Sleep Apnea Treatment: Benefits of a CPAP Humidifier
Posted: March 23, 2021
After a sleep apnea diagnosis, you’ll probably be prescribed a CPAP device for sleep apnea treatment. There are many options out there, but consider a device with a humidifier. This can help improve comfort during CPAP therapy!
Why use a CPAP Humidifier for Sleep Apnea Treatment?
If you’re looking for a CPAP device for sleep apnea treatment, you may have noticed that some options come with a heated humidifier. The devices we provide have built-in humidifier options to help with your treatment.
However, you might be wondering why this is so important. For most people, a heated humidifier helps with CPAP therapy.
Breathing in dry, cold air can do a number on your sinuses and airways. It can stop your mucus from flowing properly and prevent good drainage for your sinuses. This can lead to congestion and the dreaded dry, stuffy nose. Dry sinuses may also not be able to filter out bacteria and other germs as effectively as moist ones. That’s why our providers generally recommend CPAP devices with built-in humidifiers if you have sleep apnea.
Some common complaints about CPAP therapy can often be resolved by using the humidifier in your device, such as:
- Dry mouth or throat
- Dry nasal passages
- Stuffy nose
- Runny nose
- Burning sensations in your sinuses
Heated humidifiers not only put moisture into the air you breathe through your device, they also help warm the air to comfortable temperatures. Most doctors recommend sleeping in a place that is between 60°F and 67°F. However, breathing in cold air can also irritate your sinuses. So, a heated humidifier helps warm and moisten the air to help you feel more comfortable while you sleep with your CPAP device.
Who Needs a CPAP Humidifier for Sleep Apnea Treatment?
While everyone is different, most people can benefit from using a humidifier with their sleep apnea treatment. An estimated 40% of CPAP users experience symptoms like nasal congestion, dry nasal passages, and dry throat or mouth. These can be uncomfortable, but humidification can help!
Also, according to the American Sleep Association, people over 60 years old are about five times more likely to need heated humidification with CPAP therapy. If you’re taking two or more medications, then you’re about six times more likely to need it.
For most people, humidifiers in CPAP help increase comfort, which can help you use your CPAP device as prescribed. Many people stop CPAP therapy because of discomfort from dry nasal passages. However, stopping therapy can put you at risk for many serious health effects, like heart problems, work or driving accidents, and even death. Once again, humidification can help with that. In fact, one Swedish study found that using a CPAP humidifier made people 43% less likely to stop treatment.
In addition, when your sinuses are dry or congested, you may be more likely to breathe through your mouth at night. For many, this can cause air leaks which decrease the effectiveness of your sleep apnea treatment. Also, if you choose a mask that only covers your nose, then you may not benefit from using your CPAP device. Instead, we typically recommend humidification to help prevent these problems and help you tackle your sleep health head on.
Can’t I Just use a Room Humidifier?
So, humidity is important, but why not just pick up one of those room humidifiers and skip the one on the CPAP device? This may not be as effective as the humidifier in your device for sleep apnea treatment.
CPAP devices take air from the room and pass it through to your airways and lungs to help keep your airways open and reduce sleep apnea events. However, using a room humidifier doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t need a CPAP humidifier.
First, room humidifiers often do nothing to help warm the air before it gets to your nose and/or mouth. So, you’re either breathing in cold, irritating air, or you’re sleeping in a sauna. Neither of those sound very comfortable and could affect your sleep.
Also, CPAP-delivered air can have about 20% less humidity than the air in the room. So, even if you’re keeping your bedroom at the recommended relative humidity level between 30% and 50%, the air you breathe from your device may not be within that range. The built-in humidifier for your sleep apnea treatment can help add the moisture back in to help you breathe easy and comfortably at night. So, consider using both for daytime and nighttime comfort!
How to Use Heated Humidity for Sleep Apnea Treatment
Once you’ve decided to go with a CPAP device with a humidifier, there are some important steps to take. Our team helps guide you throughout the process to make sleep apnea treatment simple, easy, and convenient.
Optimizing Settings for Sleep Apnea Treatment
One of the first things we need to do for effective sleep apnea treatment is optimize the settings. This can help you get the most benefit out of your CPAP device. We not only monitor and adjust pressure settings, we can also help you find the humidity level you find most comfortable. Our team monitors your progress and looks for signs that you may need to increase or decrease the humidity settings. We can make these adjustments for you remotely or we can give you a call to help you do this yourself. If you ever have questions or want to troubleshoot your device or the humidifier, our sleep technologist is here to help you address these concerns right over the phone. Unlike medical equipment suppliers, we’re here at every step of the way to help you with your sleep apnea therapy.
Another thing that may affect the CPAP humidifier settings is your location and the season. If you live in a warm, humid area already, you may not need to use the highest humidity settings. Also, many people notice that they need the humidity settings turned up in the winter versus the summer. Our team helps you determine the right settings to help you be comfortable when using your CPAP device.
Use Only Distilled Water
One thing you may have noticed about your CPAP instructions is that it says to use distilled water for the humidifier. Why is this?
Tap water and even most bottled waters contain a lot of minerals and may even be contaminated with chemicals or microbes. You don’t want these entering your airways and lungs during sleep apnea treatment!
Also, minerals can wreak havoc on your device. You may have noticed hard water spots on your shower or bathtub before. What happens is as water evaporates, it leaves behind minerals like calcium and magnesium. These can build up and leave scale behind on your CPAP humidifier and over time even discolor the device.
What’s worse, mineral buildup can start to corrode the internal components of your device. This can end up making your device break down sooner than it’s expected lifespan. Not following the direction to use distilled water may even void the warranty. So, not only will you likely need to replace your device sooner rather than later, but you might be paying out of pocket for it.
Distilling water removes all the impurities and minerals from water. You can find distilled water at most grocery stores. Just keep in mind that bottled water isn’t necessarily distilled. So, you might want to check the labels before heading to the checkout lane.
Keeping the Humidifier Clean
Also, you’ll need to keep the humidifier clean for the best results. Just like the other components of your CPAP device, you’ll need to clean the humidifier regularly. Otherwise you could damage the device or even increase your risk of health issues during sleep apnea treatment.
For example, leaving standing water for long periods of time can encourage mold growth, bacteria, and other germs. So, it’s important to empty and rinse the water tank each morning and allow it to air dry.
You’ll also need to clean and disinfect the CPAP humidifier components according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This can vary, so you’ll need to read your device’s manual. However, in most cases you’ll need to use mild soap and warm water to wash out the tank. You might wipe the humidifier plate with a damp rag as well. Frequency usually ranges from daily to weekly. Many people also use a vinegar solution of one part vinegar to five parts water to help disinfect the water tank every week or every other week. If you’ve been sick, you might need to wash your device and humidifier more often.
For any CPAP device, it’s important not to put anything in the humidifier tank that could harm your lungs. For example, you don’t want to use bleach for disinfection, as it can put your health at risk. If you’re not sure what to use or you need guidance, consult your user’s manual or give our team a call!
Advanced Sleep Apnea Treatment from Our Team
When you need total health solutions for sleep apnea, choose our team at Low T Center! Our men’s health clinic offers all-inclusive sleep apnea services, from diagnosis to ongoing treatment monitoring. Unlike other sleep clinics, we not only test you for sleep apnea, we also provide you with all the equipment you need, the re-supplies like replacement filters, and our dedicated sleep team monitors your progress. We can even optimize your CPAP settings remotely to help you get a better night’s sleep. If you need a team on your side to help you at every step of the way to improving your health, book an appointment at one of our convenient locations today.
Disclaimer: This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of Low T Center. You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.