Every individual with sleep apnea experiences different levels of air obstruction. That is why it is necessary to have your CPAP device set to the ideal level for your needs.
This will ensure you breathe easily throughout the night and wake up fully refreshed the next morning, ready for the day ahead.
Your CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device ensures your breathing is not obstructed through the night by continuously applying air pressure through your nose or mouth. This is one of the most common ways to treat Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.
Left untreated, your airway may become obstructed or even collapse while sleeping due to the position of your tongue or throat tissue. Applying positive airway pressure helps address this by keeping the airway open, helping to reduce the instances of you waking through the night gasping for air.
When treated correctly, it will restore your quality of sleep.
What do CPAP Pressure Settings Mean?
The key is to ensure that your CPAP device settings are appropriate for your specific condition.
For most people, an appropriate CPAP pressure is between 6 and 14 cmH2O, with an average of 10 cmH2O. Your sleep specialist will help you determine what specific level is right for you.
It is important to note that over time, your CPAP device pressure may require adjusting. For example, if you start snoring while using your CPAP device, this would indicate that the level is no longer right for you and need to be checked.
Is My CPAP Pressure Too High?
Can CPAP pressure be too high? Yes, it can be.
If your CPAP pressure is too high, you may experience discomfort in your mouth, nose or airways which can make it difficult to fall asleep at night, and reduce the benefits of your overall therapy.
If you are waking up through the night due to discomfort from too much air, you won’t experience a good night’s sleep, leaving you unrefreshed in the morning. Daytime fatigue is exactly what your CPAP device is supposed to stop – so if you’re experiencing this because the settings on your device are too high, then it’s defeating the purpose.
If the pressure setting on your device is too high, you may also experience aerophagia, which can lead to gasping for air during the night which causes sufferers to "swallow" air into their stomachs. This can result in bloating, gas, discomfort, and excessive belching.
Excess air pressure may also lead to a burning sensation in the nose and throat, or lead to fluid entering the ears at night, causing hearing issues and fluid leaking out of the ears.
Is My CPAP Pressure Too Low?
If the pressure is too low, you may continue to experience difficulties breathing through the night. You need enough pressure to keep your airways open, so if they are collapsing, your body won’t be getting the amount of oxygen it needs throughout the night.
Those who experience more than five apnea or hypopnea events per hour probably require the application of more air pressure. Not receiving sufficient air will result in poor sleep, feeling air-starved or daytime fatigue.
Furthermore, if you’re continuing to snore loudly despite using your CPAP device, it is likely you need to increase the air pressure. Just check that your device isn’t leaking air, as this may also cause users to snore.
If your CPAP device’s air pressure is too low, this may also cause aerophagia.
What CPAP Pressure Do I Need?
Sleep professionals use the AHI (apnoea-hypopnea index) to indicate how many times you stop breathing over the course of an hour of sleep.
Generally, if you are experiencing an AHI level of five or more each hour, your CPAP device settings should be increased.
Always consult with your sleep specialist to determine the right air pressure for you.
Should You Change CPAP Pressure Yourself?
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with the pressure being either too low or too high, consult your sleep specialist about having the CPAP device settings adjusted.
Your sleep specialist will monitor your AHI level to determine the settings that are right for you.
Changing the CPAP device setting yourself may result in adjusting the pressure too far in either direction, which could lead to a higher AHI reading, which is not beneficial.
Consider an AutoSet Device
CPAP Australia now has available ResMed’s new generation of AutoSet devices which could be ideal for you.
You can choose from four new devices including the AirSense™ 10 AutoSet™ which adjusts its pressure levels to fit your changing needs – ensuring you only receive the lowest pressure necessary.
With AutoSet you never need to worry about whether your CPAP device is delivering the right level of air pressure for you. The devices will detect your breathing level and adjust accordingly.