Living with Sleep Apnoea

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Patients con sleep apnoea/hypopnoea syndrome (SAHS) should follow a series of measures for their treatment and control.

Scale with a correct weight

Overweight. Losing weight is one of the first measures to take into consideration. Weight loss leads to an improvement in the symptoms and reduces the number of episodes of nighttime apnoea/hypopnoea.

Man running; regular physical exercise

Exercise. Maintain an active lifestyle, perform regular physical activity.

Person sleeping on the bed lying on the side

Sleep on your side. People normally snore more and experience more episodes of apnoea when they sleep on their backs.

Person sleeping in bed

Follow good sleep hygiene habits. Sleeping enough hours and according to a regular routine is essential.

Strikethrough coffee

Avoid alcoholic and stimulating beverages and sedatives, especially shortly before going to bed.

Cigarette crossed out on a "no smoking" poster

Quit smoking.

Plate with eggs, sausage and fried potatoes crossed out

Avoid large evening meals.

How to alleviate the side effects of CPAP

CPAP humidifier

Rhinitis or nasal congestion. These are the main problems associated with CPAP use. They can be reduced by using a humidifier but sometimes they require more specific treatment.

Person with Continuous Positive Pressure Device

Skin lesions. These are caused by the mask adjustment straps. Liquid Vaseline® or special plasters often help patients get used to and tolerate the mask. It is a good idea to wash and hydrate the face with a moisturiser every morning. In any case, patients are recommended to consult with the pulmonologist.

Person sitting in bed with headboard raised

Accumulation of air in the stomach (aerophagia). Patients should raise the head end of the bed slightly and sometimes they may need to take a specific medication. In any case, patients should talk with their pulmonologist.

Person with CPAP and red eyes

Eye discomfort, conjunctivitis. This is normally due to leaks from areas where the mask is in contact with the skin, so the mask should be readjusted for a better fit.

Person with earplugs

Noise. Patients and their partners tend to complain about the tonal change during inspiration and expiration while wearing the mask rather than the noise produced by the actual machine. This problem can be remedied by wearing earplugs or moving the tube away from the CPAP machine.

Person lying in bed feeling cold

Cold sensation. Trying passing the tube under the bed linen and placing the CPAP machine near your feet or using a thermal humidifier together with the CPAP.

Dry mouth from sleeping with mouth open with CPAP

Dry throat. This occurs because snoring and apnoea cause water loss through the soft palate. It usually stops of its own accord. In some cases, the dryness disappears with CPAP use and in others, however, it is the actual CPAP airflow that provokes the dry throat. If it prevails for more than 4 weeks, contact the CPAP supplier so they may connect a humidifier to the machine.


Nosebleed. Although they are not very common, nose bleeds can hamper the application of CPAP. To prevent them, humidify the nasal mucous membrane by drinking fluids, flush with physiological saline solution or seawater, use room humidifiers or connect one directly to the CPAP and turn the heating down to avoid drying the environment. Systematic application of nose ointments may be very helpful in cases of nasal dryness.

Person with hand on temple with headache

Headaches. The cause remains unknown, but they usually disappear with normal painkillers and stop after a few days of use.

Person sitting up in bed due to insomnia

Insomnia, claustrophobia. These are very uncommon side effects that improve after a period of adaptation. If there is no improvement after a few weeks, you should talk to the pulmonologist.


The CPAP machine is a small, portable device, so you can always take it with you when travelling.

The unit includes a transformer which means it can be used practically anywhere in the world without having to make any additional adjustments. However, it may require an adaptor for the local power socket, where applicable. CPAP machines also come with a cable to connect to 12 and 24 V batteries, hence they can be used in lorries, motor homes, boats, and so on.

We recommend carrying the CPAP machine in your hand luggage, rather than your checked luggage, and you should take a travel certificate with you which explains that you use the unit for medical purposes. You can obtain one of these certificates from the medical team.

Substantiated information by:

Cristina Embid
Josep M. Montserrat Canal
M Concepción Ruiz Sánchez

Published: 16 January 2020
Updated: 16 January 2020

The donations that can be done through this webpage are exclusively for the benefit of Hospital Clínic of Barcelona through Fundació Clínic per a la Recerca Biomèdica and not for BBVA Foundation, entity that collaborates with the project of PortalClínic.


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