Can't adjust to sleeping with CPAP

By rumorg Latest Activity January 14, 2010 at 6:52 am Views 22,801 Replies 48 Likes 5


I was diagnosed with sleep apnea about 4 years ago. I have had nurses come in and fit me with different masks. I cannot sleep with any of them on. Problem is since I was a small child, I have always slept on my stomach, with my head to the side. I cannot sleep on my back or side. I have tried but it does not work. Right now I am using a nasal pillow mask which is less 'scary' than the mask that covers my nose. My doctor tracks my use on the CPAP by hooking it up to a computer and getting a printout and I get in trouble every time I go to him, which is every 6 months. Is anyone else out there unable to adapt to sleeping with the CPAP?

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  • Hi_im_sydney
    Hi_im_sydney November 25, 2013 at 7:49 pm   

    I take biap it does not help but i do take cpap to it helps me alot i am a back to side sleeper so i dont know what to say

  • sas71
    sas71 April 16, 2011 at 5:23 pm   

    See other people sleep on their stomachs. My brother made it sound like I was the only one.I have been using mine about a week. I was told to be patient it will improve. My brother and others I found out had one say they can't sleep without it now. I hope it gets better too.

  • ky_wildchild
    ky_wildchild March 9, 2011 at 2:14 pm   

    I am a back/side sleeper so I haven't had the stomach sleeper problems myself but I have a friend who has. She started using one of those curved neck pillows. Sounds weird but she is able to adjust it so that her cheek is on it but the mask is in the opening of it.

  • canoeman
    canoeman March 1, 2011 at 11:53 am   

    I have been through about 10 masks I just can't find a comfortable 1 that I can put on with 1 hand.Any suggestions before I go to different Dr. in May

  • jharol
    jharol December 17, 2010 at 4:56 pm   

    me too and the special pillow does not help me!!

  • JLL
    JLL February 10, 2010 at 11:33 am   

    Oh, one other thing… for the "scary" part, try breathing out longer than you breath in. ie.: breath in for 4 counts, breathe out for 6-8.

    Let us know what "your" ritual is when you get one. Maybe you'll be able to help someone out like yourself in the future.

    Hope you sleep well soon!

  • JLL
    JLL February 10, 2010 at 11:19 am   

    I have come up with my own ritual (which I beleive everyone does eventually).

    First, I can't wear my mask sitting up so I always lay down. (I don't know why.)

    Second, I take a deep breath in and then put on my mask while breathing out. I always use my ramp so it starts out at a lower pressure then slowly builds after I'm asleep.

    Third, I lay on my side with my head in my hand. Then I fall asleep.

    Lastly, I never go to bed if I'm not tired yet. Once in while, when I do go to bed before I'm really tired I'll put a small timer next to the bed and set it for maybe 15 mins. to 30 when I think I might fall asleep without my mask on and then when the timer goes off I'll put my mask on because then I'll be sleepy and I just use the ritual stated above.

    I used to be a tummy sleeper, then moved to my side. But now for some reason lately I wake up on my back, which is worse for my apneas. Someone told me to sew a tennis ball in my pj's. I might do that.

    Don't give up! You can do it! You just need to find your own ritual or you can borrow mine. I've had my mask for 14yrs. now. I just tried different masks and different actions and boom, I got it down. It took awhile but I did it.

  • sleplessqueen
    sleplessqueen January 21, 2011 at 10:26 am   

    I do the same thing, I am a side sleeper, is the only way I can fall asleep, and I use my hand between the pillow and my cheek, but is so incomfortable because I use the face mask and some air leak and I must to adjust the mask, I sleep for about 1 hour and sometimes for 2 hours, but then I wake up like suffocating with my nose congested and soring, I adjust the mask for not digging on my nose, but sores anyways, I can't get use to the mask, I am using it for 3 months now, and I should use it every night but I just can't tolerated.

  • annie_ky
    annie_ky October 17, 2011 at 12:13 am   

    I take a benadryl before sleeping to help with the congestion. I sleep on stomach with one leg bent so head turns enough for mask. Do make sure that your mask has adequate ventilation so that you are not breathing your own breath. I have a regular pillow that is between my arm and head and sleep on edge of it to keep room for the mask. If you are having red places or sores your mask is too tight or needs replacing. I use to not be able to stand anything on my face but now cannot lay down without my mask on. My biggest problem is getting use to a mask and when I go to get a new one they changed it or discontinue it. I do hope this helps some of you out.

  • SleepyNinny
    SleepyNinny February 4, 2010 at 5:42 pm   

    Have you seen the pillow that is made special for users of cpap? I found one on Elder Beerman website recently but have not ordered it. It is expensive but may be worth looking at. I am still having problems getting my cpap to not leak around my eyes. Just cannot go to sleep with all of the air blowing on me!!

  • annie_ky
    annie_ky October 17, 2011 at 12:20 am   

    I have had eye surgery (cateract). So, I have a dry eye problem and can not stand for the air to blow in my eyes. I keep the top strap snug but not tight and put the mask a little lower than it is to be and slowly push up till it is in place. On other masks I have also taken my finger with a little water(most of the time I just lick my finger) and run it around the edge of the mask that touches my face and it helps to seal it to the face better.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous February 2, 2010 at 11:55 am   

    I too am a stomach sleeper and have used a CPAP for more than 5 years without a problem. I use the type of mask that covers only your nose as I find the one that covers the nose and mouth to restrictive. Sleeping on my stomach, I also was unable to use the one with the nodules in your nose.

    I use a king size pillow, kinda fold it in half and tuck it under my chin to prop up my head just enough to clear the mask. I stuggled with this at first until I could get the pillow just right. The feather pillows don't work for me so I use the heaver pillows that will hold the position.

    Once I can get to sleep, it is not a problem, and the mask stays in place. My doctor gave me a few sleeping pills to use until I could get adjusted to the mask and the sound of the air and it helped a lot.

    Everyone told me I would have to change how I sleep but I was determined to figure out a way to make it work because I use to sleep on my side but I cannot do that anymore and unless I am on my stomach, I cannot fall asleep.

    Good Luck!

  • Shan
    Shan January 24, 2010 at 1:39 am   

    I too am unable to get used to the mask and the air that is being pushed into my nose and mouth. I associate the experience with trying to sleep with a pillow over my face. I have tried several different masks, and I still have not found one that works. I continue having that claustrophobic feeling, and after a couple of hours of hellish "sleep" I finally yank the blasted thing off my face, and get what little sleep is left of the night.
    This is very frustrating as I am always tired and never feel rested no matter how many hours I sleep.

  • olered1
    olered1 April 3, 2011 at 6:50 pm   

    Well I am glad I am not the only one that feels that way-I could not get use to mine either and would make it only a couple of hours and rip i off too. Wow—wonder if we will find a mask that works better for us—It looks like they have alot of different masks to use.

  • mr_mrssanders
    mr_mrssanders October 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm   

    I rip mine off too…did it again last night…I'm so exhausted…but I just can't get any rest. It does make it better that there are others out there that experience the same thing…because the other people i know on cpap…they think I'm just making it up…cuz they are "so much happier" on it. :(

  • Shan
    Shan April 3, 2011 at 10:48 pm   

    I am certainly hoping for something better and less constricting. I have noticed that I am lacking energy and by mid afternoon am totally exhausted. Obviously, I am still not getting enough sleep. It's a very frustrating situation. I seem to sleep better on my side, as I noted that if I sleep on my back, I feel like I am choking. So, another small lesson learned!! :)

  • Tracy
    Tracy January 24, 2010 at 11:32 am   

    Shan and all who are having cpap difficulties -

    It's important to make sure you know about all of the patient controlled comfort features available on your machine. It's a shame our providers do not thoroughly go over this information when they give us the equipment of THEIR choice and not necessarily OURS.

    If you still have your patient manuals for your machines, take time to read through it. If not, call or visit your home healthcare providers and insist they educate you! Sometimes, the providers just set up our machines with the prescribed cpap pressure and DISABLE other features. Your comfort features need to be ENABLED to change them. Make sure yours are ENABLED.

    RAMP - allows the machine to start at a low pressure then slowly increase over a set period of time ( 15-30 minutes usually) to allow the patient to fall asleep easier.

    EPR ( on ResMed machines) CFLEX ( on Resprionics machines) - is a feature on almost ALL cpap machines today. Expiratory pressure relief - available ( if enabled) in three setting choices 1 -2 or 3. This features REDUCES the air flow 1-2 or 3 points lower AFTER the machine detects when we are starting to exhale or breathe back out.

    Most of us don't have trouble INHALING - but its the exhalation that gets us and is difficult. Remember the machine is set to BLOW one constant and continuous ( CPAP - continuous positive airway pressure) pressure setting. So - EPR or CFLEX is a phenomenal comfort aid that is most helpful. It takes away that claustrophobic feeling and the feeling of suffocation caused from that hurricane force wind blowing at us constantly!!!!!

    You all probably have this feature on your machines - find out if its enabled and use it.

    Hope this is helpful!

  • mr_mrssanders
    mr_mrssanders October 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm   

    my provider turned off my ramp and I can't turn it back on…tried everything and complained but they still are not turning it back on…is there anyway to fix this??? They told me about the ramp and I liked that in the beginning…then when they messed it up…i realized that was one of my biggest putitng on the mask problems:(

  • YourCpapHelper
    YourCpapHelper October 24, 2011 at 3:15 pm   

    Hi Mrs S - what machine do you have please?

  • Tracy
    Tracy October 24, 2011 at 11:53 am   

    I cannot imagine why any provider would disable a feature that was working for a patient. If I were you, I would visit that provider with your cpap in hand and insist they enable it again. Don't take no for an answer…report this to your sleep doctor or prescribing physician too!

  • YourCpapHelper
    YourCpapHelper October 24, 2011 at 3:27 pm   

    We calibrate, set and ASK the patient if they have settings preferences - EVERY time!

  • Shan
    Shan April 3, 2011 at 10:50 pm   

    Thank you, Tracy! I appreciate the information and will definitely check it out!!

  • PrincessNarcosleepy
    PrincessNarcosleepy December 18, 2010 at 1:54 am   

    I had no idea these features existed! I can't wait to try them!

  • camper204
    camper204 January 23, 2010 at 11:10 am   

    I like to sleep on my stomach and have always slept that way. Even when I had the sleep study I was not able to sleep on my stomach. It took a while, but I did fall asleep.

    I have found that by using a flat pillow and turning my head to the side, with my CPAP mask on, I am able to get to sleep. Luckly, I have a 6ft hose and am able to move the hose around when I switch which side of my face I am sleeping on. It does not take long for me to fall asleep in this position.

  • Pappie
    Pappie January 20, 2010 at 8:21 am   

    I have been under the mask, nose covered with a forehead t-bar thing, gel inside the mask, for about 6 months now.

    I have a side sleeping perference and use to sleep on my back about 50% of the time. I have since stopped sleeping on my back due to leakage problems with the mask. While that was not ewasy to do, I just made up my mind to do it and was mostly successful after working on it for about a month.

    Sleeping on my side does produce fewer leaks and pressure-discomfort but does not entirely eliminate the issues. I do turn over left-side to right-side, etc throughout the night and found that if I readjusted my pillow end by tucking the last 6-8 inches in under the rest of the pillow, that I could create a kind of abrupt ledge where I let the mask hang off. That works well for me 90% of the time.

    When I wake and feel the leak, usually aimed at an eye, I pull hte mask away from my face until it breaks all contact, 1/4 inch maybe, then reseat. that generally takes care of the leak.

    I totally avoid the strap adjustment as I know that will only lead to chasing the issue around and around. I may adjust straps for a few nights with a new mask but that is it. I am convinced that strap adjusting is a hopeless solution. I reason that my face does not change that much so why should the strap adjustment change.

    Sometimes the hose can pull the mask askew and cause a leak especially with my need to turn over 6-8 times a night. To solve that problem, I suspend a 10 ft hose in a bend over where I sleep using a small harness attached to the ceiling and to the hose. the hose then has a small slack loop right at my head with the rest of the hose suspended directly over where I sleep. That solution has eliminated the hose-pull problem. traveling, I find I can usually loop the hose over the bed's headboard and secure with a strip of duct tape creating the same effect.

    Overall, I have taken an entirely different approach with my attitude about sleep. I used to consider a good night's sleep a luxury. Now, I think of slumber more as a quality of life necessity and do everything I must to get that solid eight hours.

  • MJLongo
    MJLongo January 20, 2010 at 2:19 pm   

    I have slept on my stomach and I was not about to change because of my CPAP. I was told by everyone I would have to change but I didn't. I sleep with my pillow folded in half and my head cocked to the side. Took about a week to get used to but I sleep like a baby now. I have a regular nasal mask and it is not a problem. Good Luck.

  • mjsobot
    mjsobot January 19, 2010 at 10:31 pm   

    One trick I use that helps me sleep on my back is to put a 2nd pillow under my knees. And sometimes I even make a nest by putting a pillow on each side to support my arms. It doesn't work every night but probably 6 out of 7 nights.

  • Robin red breast
    Robin red breast January 19, 2010 at 10:59 pm   

    Hi, you may want to take a look at this pillow (Contour-CPAP Compliance-Pillow). I do not use it because I am a back sleeper (with 2 pillows under my knees)
    However this pillow looks like it would be perfect for you.

    I wish you good sleep

  • UnoSaxum
    UnoSaxum January 19, 2010 at 8:37 pm   

    I sleep in just about every position possible, I love to sleep on my tummy too.being diagnosed with sleep apnea, the first few months was hard for me to adjust with a mask on. I have a Swift nasal mask and a Vista mask that I swap out. eventually I played with different types of pillow configurations. I now sleep comfortably with 2 standard pillows nothing fancy, and a towel rolled up. I use the towel to support my neck when i'm laying on my stomach found that to work better than the foam neck pillows. but when laying on my tummy the first 1/4 of the night, I take the 2 pillows and form kind of a T with them slightly layered, my head and mask fit nicely in the corner created and with my arms wrapped around the pillow it gives enough lift, then boom out like a light. Occasionally i'll use the rolled up towel to support my chin when i want to lay on my tummy but don't want to lay my head down.

  • donsqueen
    donsqueen January 19, 2010 at 7:33 pm   

    I too sleep on my stomach. I use the nasal pillow. I don't always successfully wear it all night, but it is improving. I have somehow figured out how to angle my head so that I'm not pressing so much on one side of the mask. Also, I put it on while I'm still sitting up, get it situated for that position, then I lay on my side a bit kinda propping myself up on one arm and move the nasal pillow around a little until it's in position again. Then I turn off my light, lay all the way down, and do a "final" positioning. Most nights I am able to get the pillow into position so that the air is not leaking out my nose and I don't have any pressure points on the mask. It sounds like a long drawn out process, but on the smooth nights it really only takes a minute or two. Then I do deep breathing until I falls asleep.

  • pinellipy
    pinellipy January 19, 2010 at 5:29 pm   

    I am absolutely in total agreement. I find my bi-pap very invasi8ve and even when I do use it, I get marks on areas of my face that bruise or become sore. Can't there be something made to adequately provide the airflow? I don't think I'll ever get a good nights sleep…

  • YourCpapHelper
    YourCpapHelper October 24, 2011 at 3:19 pm   

    Try Remzzs mask liners! These really make a difference. Also , how often are you changing the seal or cushion? They usually start marking your face when they're worn out.

  • Anthony
    Anthony January 20, 2010 at 8:01 am   

    I agree with you… there noway I can ever get accustomed to the mask, I found it so difficult, and i get those bruise in my face.

  • SueJ
    SueJ February 1, 2010 at 4:29 pm   

    I used to get bruises, until I got smart. I take kleenex (the soft cushy kind) and fold it into quarters. I then put one of these between my face and the strap. I don't even get indentations anymore!

  • Tracy
    Tracy January 18, 2010 at 2:24 pm   

    I am a tummy sleeper as well, and use nasal pillows. Have you considered a special cpap bedpillow? I actually designed one called PAPillow, you can see it here:

    and the story of how and why it was developed


  • rex lesbius
    rex lesbius January 28, 2010 at 6:27 pm   

    I switched to the ResMed Mirage Swift II nasal pillows system after using a hard nasal pillows system for several years. This type of mask allows you to sleep on your stomach or just about any other position. Ask your doctor to let you try this system; it should work without having to find special pillows.

  • onebadpunkhead
    onebadpunkhead January 14, 2010 at 10:39 pm   

    I'll join this boat. I too, sleep on my tummy. I can't sleep any other way because of my back if I sleep on my side I pinch something in my back causing my arms and sometimes my legs to go numb. I traveled on time with my cpap. I didn't want to carry my pillow from home. So when I reached my sisters home she had purchased a travel size pillow for me to use. It worked great I can lay on my stomach and the mask and hose are level with the pillow.

  • TheDreamer
    TheDreamer January 14, 2010 at 9:12 pm   

    I used to always sleep on my stomach…but due to GERD, I eventually learned to sleep on my back…and now its the main position I sleep in. However, there are just some nights and times where I can't get to sleep if I not on my stomach.

    I found the Comfort Lite II nasal pillow mask and worked out sleeping on my stomach with it…through the help of reading about the Falcon Sleep Position -

    The actually position I sleep isn't quite as 'exaggerated'? But, it works for me.

    I have tried stomach sleeping since with other masks, haven't been as successful…but I'm sure there are other masks out there that would work.

    The Dreamer.

  • jrs2rt
    jrs2rt January 21, 2010 at 4:00 pm   

    I have slept in this position since I was a child, it is more comfortable than the "fetal position. I have had sleep apnea for about a year, also restless leg. I use a biPAP machine set at 16. I have had lots of problems adjusting to masks. I now alternate between a nose pillow mask that also covers my mouth; otherwise it is in one orfice and out the other; and a triangular gel mask w/Tbar. They work fairly well for me. I also found that moldable mouth guard (an inexpensive model) helps with air leakage through my teeth

  • Bayless
    Bayless January 14, 2010 at 2:59 pm   

    rumorg, unfortunately I can not offer any suggestions as I suffer from the exact same thing but I will mark one year at the end of Feb. I too use the nasal pillows but just switched to a comfortgel triangle hoping it would save on nasal irritation that I get some times when I can not fall asleep within 30 minutes. This new mask, which might not work for you being a tummy sleeper, is so comfortable I love it if I could just fall asleep. I will feel sleep coming on, put on the gear and snap the clip and I am wide awake. I have laid awake for 65 minutes waiting for sleep to come. I just hope someone can give us a sure fire solution. After about 5 months I felt I had the pillows licked but it beat me up. I had to switch from sleeping on my stomach many yrs ago as it was too hard on back. Also, both my gram and mom had insomnia when they got old so perhaps whatever is keeping me from sleeping is a mystery. But, I am not going to give up.

  • billy
    billy January 26, 2010 at 9:22 am   

    I use the nasal pillows as it's the most comfortable for me. Only thing is I am sleepy all day long and often have to take a nap because I just can not go on! It will soon be a year of try to get a good nights sleep using everything out there they have to offer. At this time I may ask to have another sleep study done using my nasal pillows to make sure that I am getting the sleep that I think I am getting. Like you I am not going to give up,good luck to you!

  • Tracy
    Tracy January 28, 2010 at 7:10 pm   

    billy- Is your daytime sleepiness even with nightly cpap use with nasal pillows a recent thing? Did you find benefit early on and now your daytime sleepiness is back? Sometimes, we get restorative sleep in the first months, then need pressure changes - having apnea symptoms reappear, like daytime sleepiness, is an indication for a pressure change. Glad to hear you are going to talk to your sleep doctor about scheduling another titration with your current mask - a very good thing to do! Let us know how it works out!


  • SueJ
    SueJ February 1, 2010 at 4:33 pm   

    Tylenol PM works great for me. I take it an hour before I go to bed. Not only does it help me sleep, but it helps with the aches and pains from arthritis and fybromyalsia too.

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