CPAP Claustrophobia

When you are afraid to sleep with your CPAP mask on or have feelings of claustrophobia, panic attacks or anxiety with your CPAP, don't feel discouraged because many people have this problem when they start the CPAP treatment

Frequently Asked Questions

  • 1What is CPAP Claustrophobia?
  • 2What are some tips to eliminate CPAP claustrophobia?
  • 3How does one get used to having the CPAP mask on your face?
  • 4Do you really benefit from CPAP ramp feature?

When you are at the start of your CPAP treatment, your body struggles to breathe every night and produces large amounts of stress hormones - adrenaline - that will circulate through your body. That's why for many people it takes some nights of good sleep on CPAP - without apnea episodes - to clear all the stress hormones out of the body.

After you get used to CPAP, you'll be much calmer and the fear will become a thing of the past.

1. Use CPAP Mask with protection against asphyxiation

  • The mask should be vented in order to allow the carbon dioxide to escape.
  • With CPAP masks you can actually breathe through the mask even when it is not running, because the mask is vented.
  • Those exhaust vents are designed to save your life when the power goes off, and your CPAP machine doesn't deliver the vital air.
  • if the exhaust vents somehow get blocked while you sleep, your body's reflexes will help you by, opening your mouth automatically, and moving your body to take the mask off your face.

2. CPAP is offering you the air that you need

  • When you sleep with your CPAP machine and mask, the machine is actually pushing air into you.
  • One might feel claustrophobic at first, but the CPAP machine is really giving you air to breathe!

3. it’s like brushing your teeth every day

  • By using the machine regularly, you will get used to it sooner, rather than later.
  • And the fear of using it will disappear too.

4. Wear the CPAP mask while awake

  • Attach the mask to the CPAP device, and switch the unit "ON".
  • Practice breathing through the mask for one hour while watching TV, reading or performing some other sedentary activity.

5. Positive attitude

  • Once you build this positive mantra into your life, everything will be easier.

6. Have patience with your CPAP therapy

  • Don’t get discouraged if it doesn't work, it takes some time to get used to.
  • It will take a little time to become comfortable with CPAP machine.

7. Mask type is important to help your CPAP claustrophobia

  • The full face masks are the main cause for CPAP claustrophobia.
  • One might prefer nasal masks or nasal pillows because you know you could always breathe by opening your mouth.
  • They only work for treating sleep apnea if you can prevent mouth breathing when you sleep.
  • It can be a problem if you breathe through your mouth, because of the dry mouth issues that can appear after you wake up.
  • If you do wear a full face mask because and cannot avoid mouth breathing, examine the mask carefully and you will find the air valve which will always let the fresh air into the mask if the CPAP is off.
  • If the CPAP machine is on, one will receive air from the machine instead.
  • Try wearing the mask during the day when doing some quiet activity like watching TV, listening to music, or reading.
  • When you are upright and fully in control you know you can remove the mask easily any time you want.
  • While you are awake, and have the CPAP mask on, you may still have the panic attacks. But you can calm down if you know how to relax with it.
  • The secret is breathing relaxation techniques which will control the feelings of CPAP claustrophobia:
  • Take a deep breath and hold it, and silent count to 4.
  • Then breathe out very slowly, while counting to 4.
  • Then pause breathing while counting to 4.
  • Then breathe in slowly while counting to 4.
  • Then repeat the process by holding the air and counting to 4.
  • If you can, use the mask and the machine, particularly if it's a full face mask.
  • After doing this about 12 times, the claustrophobic feeling is usually gone.

If you have CPAP claustrophobia, the ramp function can contribute to the feeling of panic. The ramp is meant to help you get used to the pressure by starting low, climbing slowly to the set pressure, hopefully when you're already asleep. But, it may work against you because at very low pressures you may feel less air and feel more panicky. You may need to experiment with turning the ramp feature down, turning the starting pressure of the ramp up, or foregoing the ramp feature altogether.

Gradually increase the time spent with your mask 

As you are wearing the mask during the day to get used to it, gradually increase the amount of time you wear the mask. The idea is to get comfortable in the mask and learn to trust that you won't suffocate in it.

  • Wear the mask at home while awake for one hour each day.
  • Use the CPAP during scheduled one hour naps at home.
  • Use CPAP during initial 3-4 hours of nocturnal sleep.
  • Use CPAP through an entire night of sleep.
  • Remember to advance by one step after each five days, once the step can be carried out without anxiety.

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