Do you know any CPAP machine cleaning tips?

But first things first… why do you need a CPAP machine? Most probably, you have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is of 3 types

  • Obstructive
  • Central
  • Mixed

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) poses unmatched health risks. OSA results from airway blockage. This happens when limp throat tissues drop backward, obstructing the airway during sleep. Shallow breath or even few seconds of breathing stoppages is experienced.

Consequently, disruptive snores that interrupt sleep. The breathing interruptions reduce oxygenated blood to the brain. Consequently, the brain is awakened and so is the body. Chocking and gasping like noises follow when trying to catch breath. This recurs many times subsequently affecting quality of sleep.

When unfortunately diagnosed with OSA, a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine is recommended to aid breathing in sleep.

The device basically uses mild air pressure to keep breathing airways unobstructed and during sleep. Consequently, for your quality sleep guarantee, CPAP machine cleaning must be part of your critical hygiene routine.

Parts/Components of a CPAP Machine and how they work;

The machine basically consists of 3 main components; the motor, hose and mask.

  1. A motor: In simple terms, it’s a small compressor. Works by sucking in room temperature air from the room. It then pressurizes it as per pre-set perfect pressure inwards the airway. The steady and subtle air flow ensures that the airway doesn’t collapse. Some machines have a humidifier with a water tank. The tank heats up the water to moisturize the air. Moisturizing the air prevents drying up of the throat. Additionally, the motor has a filter for extracting impurities in the air. Motors with built in humidifiers come in handy for dry and arid places.
  2. The Hose; this is for passing the moist air from the motor to the mask by pressurization. Hoses of machines with humidifiers are heated to prevent condensation as moist air pass.
  3. The mask; It’s through this, that the pressurized air streams in the airways and to the lungs preventing obstruction. Mostly, masks are made of silicone. Although silicone offers good comfort, the down side is, it breaks down easily if proper care is not offered.

Types of masks

Mainly, there are three types. They are defined by their fits;

    1. Nasal pillow/Nasal prongs: Are plugged directly to the nostrils. They ideally seal the nose linings, and as such, direct air straight to the nostrils. Highly recommended for claustrophobics with medium to low pressure prescription setting.
    2. Nasal mask: these fit over the nose only. Are very light and ideal for side sleepers. Also, good for people with high pressure prescription setting.
    3. Full face mask: Covers both nose and mouth. Handy for mouth breathers. Ideal for those with high pressure prescription setting. Good for back sleepers because of the big part of face coverage.

For effectiveness of a CPAP machine, the mask MUST always fit properly. This prevents air leaks. Nasal sprays after a doctor’s consultation may be used in-case of congested or running nose after using a CPAP machine. Further, simple saline spray solutions are recommended for chronic nasal lining dryness. For dry mouth, try Biotene spray or other normal oral rinse products or use chin straps.

Challenges of using a CPAP machine

There are several of them;

  1. Difficulties falling asleep in a CPAP: Mostly, will occur as you start off to sleep. This is because, sometimes, the pressure feels overwhelming. It’s solved by setting the pressure a little low, but ramp-up over time. Most machines have the automatic ramping capabilities. However, inadequate pressure could result to snoring, choking and gasping like noises.
  1. Suffering Aerophagia: This is basically swallowing of air excessively. As a result, it causes a painful bloated and air filled stomach. Results when air enters the esophagus to the stomach instead of the lungs. It occurs when a mouth breather isn’t wearing a full mask or if the CPAP pressure is either too high or too low.
  1. CPAP tube tangling. Placing the tube above the head enable free and easy movement. Tube lifting also helps.

Other challenges when using the mask 

Masks are sometimes guilty of some of the challenges not necessarily linked to the CPAP Machine. These include;

    • Mask exhalation ports blockage.This poses the risk of re-breathing carbon dioxide exhaled. Mostly happens to side and stomach sleepers when the head sinks in the pillow. This could result from using un-ideal pillows. It causes unwanted mask re-adjustment and movements. This can be avoided by using a CPAP Pillow.
    • Skin irritation and sores. It could be as a result of a very tight fitted mask or even, a worn out mask cushion. To solve this, you could consider mask liners, mask sealers, nasal gel pads, lubricants like lanolin and skin protectors. Also, ensure the mask fits properly and comfortably. All these will help prevent irritations and leaks.

  • Experiencing claustrophobia. This’s the feeling of tight constriction and suffocation like confinement when using the mask. This wears off with continued use though and replaced with good sleep.
  • Irritation and swelling of the eyes. This occurs when air leaks, directed to the eyes. The air causes eye irritation and dryness. A little tightening of the mask or replacing worn-out mask cushion helps stop the leaks. A soft blind fold or eye mask can also prevent air leaks dry and irritate the eyes.
  • Disturbing whistling noise. This could happen if the exhalation pores/ports are clogged. They thus need to be unclogged and cleaned. Mostly, bedding lint and body oils are responsible for the clogging.

A worthy additional note is that, most CPAP Machines are very silent or have inaudible noise. However, in-case you feel the noise is working against your attempt to catch sleep, you could use sleeping ear plugs.

Precaution: While a face wash before wearing the mask is recommended, moisturizing is not because moisturizers have chemicals that react with silicone.

Why and how to do your CPAP machine cleaning;

While breathing, air filled with bacteria and other microorganisms circulate and flow within the mask, the hose and generally, all other pieces affixed to the nose.

The humidified air in the tubes is a good breeding ground for molds and bacteria too. As such, the concentration of bacteria and the warmth as a result of heating hoses to avoid condensation, gives rise to allergens and other germs. As a result, respiratory infections abound.

Also, while using the mask, our body oils, dead skin as well as our sweat rub off on the mask. These are sufficient for microorganisms to thrive that ultimately cause infections.

It is therefore of utmost importance to properly clean and sanitize the CPAP machine. CPAP cleaners or hand washing are both applicable means. However, using a cleaner is highly advised and preferred. Sanitizing/cleaning also improves functionality and durability of the machine.

Tell-tale signs of a dirty CPAP machine

Some of the easy to note signs include;

  1. It has may have a nasty pungent smell. Smell of mildew or mold is a sign of bacteria buildup presence.
  2. Effects on skin by irritation and sores. This could be out of bacteria and germs resulting out of accumulation of body oils, sweat, dead skin or altogether.
  3. By observation. You may observe a gross film build-up on humidifier and tube, darkened and/or discolored filter(s) and general dust buildup on the machine can signify a call to cleanup or replacements.
  4. Repeated respiratory infections every so often.

How to clean your CPAP Machine

Thorough cleaning can be a bit tedious and take a bit of time to be done daily. As such, you can have it both daily and weekly.

Daily CPAP machine cleaning

Use CPAP mask wipes or with a disinfectant moistened clean towel. Gently, wipe the mask on all parts that have contact with the skin. The wipes are specially formulated not to break down silicone. However, they’ll clean it off the body oils, dead skin and sweat. A mild detergent or warm water also may be used to moisten the towel. Then let the mask to dry.

Weekly CPAP machine cleaning

To thoroughly clean and eliminate germs and bacteria, a real deep wash is necessary at-least, once every week. A sink filled with warm water plus an ammonia-free mild dish detergent offers a good hand bath. Properly rinse and hang the parts/supplies to air dry before use.

Most CPAP machines have two filters; a disposable and a non-disposable. The disposables are white colored and made of paper like material. It’s electrostatically charged to attract and extract particles from the air and off the CPAP machine. Need replacement monthly. The non-disposable requires cleaning weekly and proper drying before re-installing. However, they should be replaced twice in a year.

However, there is another filter; hypoallergenic filter, which can be used together with the filters above. It’s an additional recommendation for allergic persons.

CPAP machine cleaning methods and how they work;

Among the applicable cleaning methods are;

  • Hand wash. This is by use of CPAP wipes and sanitizers as well as using water and detergents. (Refer above).
  • Use of CPAP Spray cleaners. They are effective at eliminating bacteria and other allergens. They also deodorize and refresh the machine.
  • CPAP Cleaners. While any of the above discussed methods will still adequately clean the machine, a cleaner is more convenient and with higher quality results.

How CPAP Cleaners Work;

The most common and effective cleaners will use;

    1. Ozone: The cleaner uses ozone which is basically activated oxygen. This disinfects, purifies and sanitizes the machine and all its supplies in less than 2 hours. It’s very efficient as it proven to eliminate upto 99.9% of bacteria and all other microorganisms. Because no chemicals or water is used, the machine and its supplies require no drying. It’s therefore very convenient for people who travel a lot. SoClean is one of the established brand using this method.
    2. Use of UV Light: Uses specialized UV Light technology, same as that used in ambulances. It’s very efficient in killing bacteria and all other germs in less than 10 minutes. Of the established brands using this technology is Lumium CPAP Cleaner.

Tell-tale signs of a failing and malfunctioning CPAP Machine

Like all other equipment, the CPAP machine may once in a while fail to function optimally. This could call for servicing or replacement altogether. As such, the use must be very observant on such failings for timely address. Some of the signs could be;

  • Hissing noises. Ordinarily, CPAPs are very silent. As such, any odd noise could mean a fault or even air leakage. This needs urgent attention.
  • Experience snoring. If snoring had stopped by using CPAP machine, any recurrence of it would indicate need for attention.
  • Irritating cold dry air. The humidifier is responsible for the right quality of air. As such, cold dry air would suggest malfunction on its part. Could also need pressure settings readjustments before thinking of replacing.
  • Indications of wearing out. Machines will definitely wear out with continued use. Although the recommended replacement time is after 5 years, any wears may call for servicing or early replacement.
  • Sleep interruptions. This could be because of difficulties in breathing while sleeping. It may have resulted from airways obstruction. The obstructed airway is from poor pressure from the CPAP to keep it open. Therefore, servicing for proper pressure setting is needed.

Now that you know CPAP Machine cleaning enhances your hygiene and maintains the machine, go right ahead and enjoy restful sleep today and everyday.

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