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Humidity and Management of Nasal Congestion

One of the most common challenges in tolerating CPAP therapy is the development of nasal congestion. This is due to increased airflow through the nose.

The nose is designed to heat and humidity the air that you breathe in. Normally, by the time the air gets to the main airway it is 100% humidified at body temperature. With the typical house having relatively low humidity, and with increased airflow from CPAP therapy, the body's response is to dilate the blood vessels inside the nose. This may cause congestion. Symptoms are similar to having a cold and can include a stuffy or runny nose and/or sneezing.

When wearing a nasal mask, the mouth may open causing a large air leak and the CPAP machine will increase the flow to compensate for the leak. Increasing the airflow aggravates the problem until the patient is forced to remove the mask. This may happen during sleep, so one may wake up without the mask on, not remembering when or why it happened. If the mask is not removed, the patient will wake up with an extremely dry mouth, without benefiting from the CPAP since the pressure is not maintained in the airway.

Most learn to keep their mouth closed in sleep while on CPAP. For most this comes naturally. But if not, we may switch you to a mask over mouth and nose (full face mask) or recommend that you use a chin strap to keep your mouth closed. We can suggest a chin strap if we know that your nasal passages remain open at night. If not then a Full Face Mask will be necessary.

It may be beneficial to increase the humidity setting. Please report any discomfort you may be having to our therapists. We can give you some advice and our strategies are almost always helpful.

Proper Humidity Settings to match your level of comfort are very important!

Always use heated humidity. Almost everyone has greater comfort when using the heated humidifier at a setting that is best for you. Feel free to experiment with the humidity settings that feel most comfortable for you. There is not absolute right or wrong. It is individual and with time you will find out what feels best for you.

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