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Using a CPAP Humidifier

Using a CPAP Humidifier Using a CPAP Humidifier

If you have recently been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), the chances are high that you have been equipped with a continuous positive airway pressure machine. The CPAP machine will help to increase the level of air pressure delivered to your mouth and nose.

While these units are excellent at keeping your airways open and unobstructed during the overnight hours, some users may find them slightly uncomfortable in the beginning; this is particularly the case if you are prone to developing a dry mouth or throat.

A Humidifier Can Help with Comfort

You will be happy to learn that using a humidifier can provide relief. Still, we strongly suggest that for awhile, you try the CPAP machine -- and more importantly the CPAP mask -- before purchasing a humidifier. Therefore, it is wise to address some basic questions, such as:

How does this type of apparatus function?

  • What are its primary benefits?
  • Will you always need to use this attachment?
  • Are there any possible side effects to watch out for?

While it is always important to consult with a sleep specialist if you have any concerns, answering the questions above will provide you with an additional level of clarity and insight. So, let's begin. 

A Quick Look at Why Humidity is Important

As we have noted, the primary intention of a CPAP machine is to enable your airways to remain open while asleep. This is why your face mask must stay in place during the overnight hours. However, some users will inadvertently remove this apparatus. One of the reasons behind such an unconscious habit involves the level of moisture in the air.

As we all know, breathing in dry air for extended periods can irritate the mouth, nose and throat. Some individuals experience the very same sensations while sleeping. Many modern units have a built-in feature which allows them to adjust the humidity if desired. 

Those who regularly breathe through their mouth can be more prone to such a condition. This may also occur if you happen to be suffering from seasonal allergies or a nasal obstruction (such as a deviated septum or blocked sinuses). 

So, it becomes clear why adding a bit of moisture to pressurised air can produce viable results within a short period of time. 

The Main Advantages of Using Humidified Air

The primary benefit of this approach involves the ability to remain comfortable while at rest. You are also less likely to awake with a sore or irritated throat. 

In the same respect, those who can obtain humidified air are not as prone to removing the mask as they sleep. There can even be times when arid air can cause other conditions such as nosebleeds or oral health issues due to dry mouth. 

Even if you do not remove the mask entirely, simply adjusting it due to discomfort can lead to an imperfect seal around its periphery. Once again, this causes the airflow to drop, and the effectiveness of the therapy. A humidifier can help to alleviate all these issues. 

What About Travelling?

Those who regularly travel for work or leisure are often curious to know if this device can be easily transported. In some cases, it is built directly into the continuous positive airway pressure machine. It can, therefore, be activated and deactivated whenever necessary. 

However, other configurations will allow the humidifying portion to be detached and stored separately. This may be a wise option if you are concerned about a limited amount of space (such if you happen to be flying in coach class). It is a good idea to speak with your doctor or sleep specialist to appreciate the options and alternatives that may be available. 

Might it Be Necessary for the Future?

Some individuals can become acclimated to the device, and over time, they might no longer feel that it is necessary. For example, perhaps you relocate to an environment with a higher level of air moisture. 

You could also feel as if you can sleep without relying upon a higher level of water content in the air. In either of these cases, the machine itself can typically be adjusted.

Detachable humidifying systems can simply be removed from the blower. The tubing can, after that, be connected directly to the machine. New units may also contain a manual switch to deactivate the heating and moisture elements. These can usually be accessed via the settings menu (refer to the operating manual to learn more). 

A Quick Look at Potential Side Effects

There are two possible side effects which should be mentioned briefly:

  • Continued dryness within the mouth and throat.
  • A situation referred to as "rainout".

If you happen to experience prolonged levels of dryness even after this option is activated, the chances are that the humidity and temperature settings are not high enough. These can be manually adjusted in order to obtain the proper level of moisture-based off of your personal preferences. 

Rainout occurs when the warm air emanating from the machine cools down while flowing through the tube. This can lead to a build-up of condensation within the face mask. The best way to avoid this scenario is to use a heated tube and to adjust the level of moisture that the CPAP is producing. Once again, these simple adjustments will generally provide the desired results. 

We can now see that humidity plays an important role when treating obstructive sleep apnoea. Thankfully, many modern units will offer this as a standard option. If you have additional questions, it is always prudent to consult with a sleep specialist. There is no reason why a sound evening of rest should remain elusive.

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Author: Jenny Hall

About author: Jenny Hall is a clinical manager at Baywater Healthcare. She has extensive specialist clinical experience from Regional Nurse Adviser through to Senior Nurse Adviser, Service Lead and Contract Manager. She has provided leadership for the Regional Nurse Advisers ensuring best practice, implementation of National Guidance and Clinical Governance. Ms. Hall has worked with Baywater Healthcare since 2013, with leadership responsibility in delivering Home Oxygen and Long-Term Conditions services. Her clinical team focuses on delivering services closer to home which offer the NHS value with optimum clinical outcomes. Previously, Ms. Hall provided leadership to Regional Nurse Advisors with Air Products, a company providing home oxygen services to Wales, East Midlands and North London. She has served as a Senior COPD National Trainer and Nurse Adviser COPD Response with Innovex, ensuring highest competencies were maintained and best practices delivered. Ms. Hall has a Ba Honours Degree as a Registered General Nurse from Oxford Brookes University and MSc Health Studies from Staffordshire University. She completed Respiratory Education and Training Courses and the Edinburgh Sleep Course. Jenny Hall’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenny-hall-34331b60/

8 thoughts on “Using a CPAP Humidifier”

  • Lynda Tosh

    I have been using a hospital provided CPaP machine to treat obstructive sleep apnea for nearly three years. Am I right in thinking that a sleep connection bracelet should not be used as an alternative therapy as it only claims to stop snoring? Thank you.

    • Giny Humbles

      Hello Lynda,

      CPAP machine is the gold star therapy for people who suffer from sleep apnoea and should ideally be used every nights.

      If a device is only to sleep you from snoring then it would not help you for sleep apnoea.
      Snoring is one of the symptoms of sleep apnoea but it is not becauase you are snoring that you necessarily have sleep apnoea.

      You might want to either consider a travelling CPAP machine: https://www.cpap.co.uk/shop/cpap-machines/travel-cpap.html
      or alternatives solutions: https://www.cpap.co.uk/shop/alternative-osa-cpap-treatment-options.html

      But please keep in mind that the CPAP is the best solution for you.

      Please do not hesitate to let us know if you need any further information.


  • Josie

    I am desperately trying to help my dad who has chronic COPD with sleep apnoea which wakes him constantly all night every night. He has been referred to a sleep apnoea clinic but we think he may be in stage 4 of COPD. We are desperate to get him a CPAP machine as quickly as possible because he is in a living hell right now. No sleep and can not breathe. How can we get one of these machibe in place because the NHS is just taking too long. We just want his last few months to be a little easier. There are no drugs and there is no hope we just need to make him more comfortable. Can you help?

    • Giny Humbles

      Hello Josie,

      CPAP devices are medical equipment therefore the first step is to have a diagnosis of sleep apnoea and a letter recommended the use of a CPAP machine. You need to be sure that this is the right therapy for him and that he does not have any other medical condition that would prevent him from using a machine.

      Therefore I would recommend taking an in-home sleep test.
      It can confirm Sleep Apnoea quickly, with results in two weeks. If positive, you can get the equipment you need and start sleeping properly again. An in-home test is simple, requires no appointments, and confidential. It's an ideal option for people in your situation.

      You can read more about it here: https://www.sleeptest.co.uk/detailed-in-home-sleep-test-watchpat.html

      Please do not hesitate to let mw know if you need any further information.


  • Ian Johnson

    I have been using a Resmed Cpap machine and for the last 2 years it has been whisper quite.
    Over the last few days it has started to make a sound like a ventilator and is keeping me and the wife awake.
    Is there some thing I can do to fix this or is it a return to the health authority for a repair

    • Giny Humbles

      Hi Ian,

      Please try to see if the noise is coming form the CPAP machine or mask. Check that the tube is properly connected to the machine and to the mask.Also check the tube to see if there is no hole in it. Have you changed the filters from your CPAP? When was the last time you changed the cushion of your mask?
      If the noise is definitely coming from the CPAP machine then please contact teh healtrh authority who have provided you with your equiment or contact the manufacturer directly.

      What is the make and model of your CPAP machine?


  • Terri Thompson

    My son suffers from Myotonic dystrophy and has been given a CPAP machine from the hospital but can’t use it very well, are your machines more user friendly?

    • Giny Humbles

      Hello Terri.

      Which device (make and model) have you been provided by the NHS? WHat is the problem that your son is encountering with it? Please expalin why he can not use it? As all the CPAP machines work the same way, only the features vary. But if we know what the problem is then we can try to help.


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