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CPAP Pressure: What To Do If It Is Too High

on August 21, 2020

One of the core components of CPAP therapy is the prescribed pressure level setting. When you are first beginning treatment for Sleep Apnea, oftentimes patients find that it is the CPAP pressure level that takes the most time to get used to. 

But what happens if the CPAP pressure level is not right? 

Although a sleep specialist will prescribe the level which is then set by a CPAP vendor, that doesn’t entirely mean that it is right for you. And that’s ok. Don’t get discouraged as it can take time to adjust your pressure settings until they are right for you. After all, you want your pressure level to be comfortable but also, consistent. 

Below, we’ll discuss what we mean when we talk about PAP pressure, how it works and the top telltale signs that your pressure level is currently set too high. 

What Is CPAP Pressure And How Does It Work?

Positive airway pressure level settings can vary. Depending on the severity of your Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) diagnosis and other factors determined by your sleep study, a sleep specialist will determine how high or low your pressure will need to be in order to make sure that you experience no apneic events during sleep. 

As you already know, Sleep Apnea therapy involves the act of keeping your airways open by delivering oxygen directly to your airway passage to help you breathe normally and get a night of restful sleep. To do this, positive airway pressure is needed. The pressure setting set on your CPAP machine will deliver a constant stream of oxygen to your CPAP mask during the night. 

Each patient will need different pressure settings to suit their needs. While it may take time to adjust to using a CPAP machine, it is always important to note whether therapy is continuing to feel uncomfortable. Trial and error are needed to find the right setting that makes Sleep Apnea treatment comfortable for you. 

The Common Signs That Your Pressure Is Set Too High

Are you struggling to get used to Sleep Apnea therapy? Have a suspicion that your pressure setting is causing problems? One of the most reasons why CPAP therapy leaves individuals feeling uncomfortable is due to the pressure being set too high. 

Below, we discuss the top telltale signs and symptoms which can be experienced if your pressure level settings are too high. 

Mask Air Leaks

Mask leaks are very serious and should be fixed as soon as possible. The reason for this is that the treatment of Sleep Apnea relies on there being a good seal between your mask and your face. If this doesn’t exist, then the patient won’t be getting the air pressure they need to improve Sleep Apnea symptoms. 

High CPAP pressure can increase the likelihood of experiencing unintentional air leakage at night as it increases the possibility of air leaking from under the mask seal. If you believe that this may be happening, it is important to talk with your sleep specialist. 

Swallowing Air

Swallowing air, also known as aerophagia, can occur when air enters the gastrointestinal tract including your intestines and stomach. This is not an uncommon CPAP problem but it can cause quite a lot of discomfort for a patient including stomach ache, bloating, heartburn and acid reflux. 

If your CPAP pressure is too high, it is possible for the extra that is being delivered by your machine to travel down your esophagus rather than your airway passage. Over time, this will cause uncomfortable side effects for the patient. 

Dry Mouth & Throat

It is not unusual for patients to experience signs of a dry mouth or throat while they are getting used to pressurized air. However, if you continue to experience this on an ongoing basis even when you are using heated humidification, then your pressure levels may be too high. 

Excess air pressure can cause both your mouth and throat to become sore, dried out or may lead to a burning sensation. It is important to keep an eye on this symptom as it can lead to regular sleep disruptions. 

Constant Fatigue

Finally, one of the final signs that the pressure settings on your CPAP machine are too high is if you continue to wake up each morning feeling unrefreshed. Daytime fatigue is exactly what CPAP therapy is supposed to stop - so, if you are experiencing this, then it is defeating the purpose. 

Constant fatigue due to high CPAP pressure levels is expected especially due to the discomfort that individuals feel during the night. Being woken again and again will ultimately lead to poor sleep quality. 

Fixing The Problem: Speak With Your CPAP Vendor 

As the pressure levels of CPAP machines are a vital component of Sleep Apnea treatment, you should never attempt to correct this yourself. Always ensure that you speak with a professional who is specialized in diagnosing the issues you are having. 

The first step that you can take, however, is speaking with your CPAP vendor. Ask them to run a normal troubleshoot diagnosis and a progress report download. This information will then need to be reviewed by your sleep specialist. Depending on the results, your sleep specialist will prescribe the necessary pressure changes which your CPAP vendor will then implement and monitor for a month. 

In some cases, for those individuals that can’t adjust to fixed air pressure, you may be prescribed an auto-adjusting PAP machine (APAP) instead. These machines pressure levels to your needs as you sleep. Many patients that moved from CPAP to APAP noted a decrease in discomfort and the ability to fall asleep more easily. 

Keep in mind that this option may not be available in all areas of Canada, so please speak with your specialist if you have any questions about APAP therapy. 

If you are struggling to get comfortable with your prescribed pressure level settings, make sure to follow up with your sleep specialist and CPAP vendors. These professionals can help you get on the right track to comfortable and effective Sleep Apnea therapy.