It used to be, and not so long ago, that humidity was not seen as a part of a CPAP machine, just a nice accessory if you needed it. We’ve come a long way since then. Now, if you don’t want to use humidity you have to modify your machine to use it without one. There’s no doubt that humidity can be your best friend. We’ve developed this small guide to walk you through the different aspects of our watery friend.
To breathe comfortably, air must be a certain temperature and humidity level in your lungs. Your nose does do a good job of this under regular conditions. With CPAP however, the air is coming into your airway too quickly for your body to do its job properly. You can wake up with a dry nose or mouth, nose bleeds or headaches. Sometimes your nose tries too hard to humidify the air and you end up with congestion or a runny nose.
This is where humidity steps in. A humidifier warms up a tray of water to add moisture to the air going into your airway. Each machine can be set to different levels of humidity and now they can sense the humidity of the environment and adjust to that as well. The idea is that if you are feeling any of the symptoms above, increase your humidity level. If your face and airway is damp, you can reduce the humidity level.
When that doesn’t work…
Sometimes, even the humidifier isn’t enough. One thing that can happen is rainout – when condensation builds up in the CPAP tubing. This is the result of a warm, humid air in the tubing being exposed to the cool air around the tube. The air can pop, bubble and whistle as it pushes past the pool of water in the tube.
The first recommendation is to ensure there is a loop somewhere along your tube for water to collect there, instead of in your mask. Next, you can try insulating your tubing. There are hose wraps, or you can use a towel, blanket or tensor bandage to keep the hose warmer. If that still doesn’t work, or if you’re still feeling dry, you can try heated tubing. Most machines made now have this capability that allows you to plug in a tube that has a heated coil running through its length. This allows to you to control the temperature of the tube, to provide the maximum amount of humidity to your airway.
With these steps in mind, your airway should be happier and you will avoid some of the pitfalls of using humidity. If you have any other questions about humidity, we’re happy to answer them! Next time on the Sleep Hub – Our top full face masks of 2019!