What to Expect with PAP Therapy for Sleep Apnea

Man using Somnera System for sleep apnea

If you’ve just been prescribed positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy, you may be worried about what your treatment will entail. Knowing what to expect with PAP therapy for sleep apnea can help you choose the right device and prepare for a new healthy habit. 

While you need time to adjust to any therapy, today’s technological advancements have made PAP machines more user-friendly than ever. The newest PAP therapy devices can offer a comfortable night’s sleep while minimizing the overall size of the device, the hose, and the mask accessories. Within just a few weeks of acclimating to your new nightly routine, you will start to feel the difference in your sleep and quality of life.

Read on to understand what PAP therapy is, how PAP therapy devices work, and what you can do to make sure your sleep apnea treatment plan sticks.

What Is PAP Therapy?

PAP therapies can help treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) by using pressurized air to keep your airway open as you sleep. This prevents your airway from collapsing so you can breathe throughout the night and enjoy proper rest. You need to use a PAP therapy device all night, every night to avoid sleep apnea events which can affect your overall, long-term health.

All sleep apnea treatments that deliver pressurized air through a mask and hose are considered PAP therapy devices. This includes APAP (auto-adjustable positive airway pressure), BiPAP (bi-level positive airway pressure therapy), and CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure therapy). 

How Do PAP Therapy Devices Work?

PAP therapy devices vary by the pressure and how they deliver the stream of air.

  • APAP therapy devices monitor your breathing and adjust the pressure using an internal algorithm.
  • BiPAP therapy devices have a different pressure setting for your inhalation and exhalation.
  • CPAP therapy devices provide the same continuous pressure throughout the entire night.

You can see a comparison of the different PAP therapy devices in this blog post.

While these traditional PAP therapy devices can successfully treat your sleep disorder, they can also be difficult to adjust to. It’s important to know what to expect with these PAP therapies for sleep apnea, as adherence to treatment is the key to reclaiming your night.

APAP and CPAP provide airflow during the inhalation and exhalation. You may find it uncomfortable to breathe against a strong stream of air and you may struggle with air leaks that cause dry mouth or a sore throat. All of these issues can affect your ability to sleep or your desire to continue with the therapy. 

While BiPAP offers different settings when you inhale and exhale, these machines give you a similar experience to APAP and CPAP. You still use a bulky mask and hose, and the devices are often large and not travel-friendly. 

The Somnera® System

A new sleep apnea treatment has been designed to offer the same therapeutic pressure while eliminating many of the common complaints of other PAP therapy devices

The Somnera System uses low-flow technology and delivers 75% less airflow than most CPAP machines. The patented SmartValve™ regulates pressure at the silicone mask, which has also been created with comfort and adjustability in mind. Low-flow technology eliminates the need for a bulky hose and humidifier, which means you can enjoy a smaller machine that is also easier to clean and maintain. 

Like all PAP devices, the Somnera System requires an acclimation period. Your commitment to your sleep apnea therapy will set you up for the best results.

Woman preparing Somnera System

Tips for Getting Started With a PAP Therapy Device

No matter which PAP therapy device you choose, these tips will help you set up your new sleep routine to get the most out of your sleep apnea treatment. 

Create an Ideal Sleep Environment

A new PAP therapy device may initially distract you from sleeping, which is why you need to make sure everything else in your bedroom is conducive to a calm and restful sleep. Using your bedroom only for sleeping can help build a strong association with a healthy evening routine. Watch television, read, and catch up with work in other parts of your home whenever possible. You should also try to go to sleep at the same time every night.

Ensure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool before you go to sleep. If you can’t prevent all noises and lights, wear ear plugs and an eye mask to block out these disturbances. Avoid heavy food, coffee, and alcohol at least several hours before bed, as these can prevent you from falling asleep. Similarly, avoid blue-light technology from screens which can suppress the melatonin production you need to fall asleep.

Don’t Remove Your Mask

As you adjust to your new PAP therapy device, you may find yourself waking up in the middle of the night and struggling to fall back to sleep. You may be tempted to remove your mask so you can relax and fall asleep more easily, but this can have two negative consequences.

  1. During the first few weeks of PAP therapy, the goal should be to build up a strong momentum of device usage. By removing your mask too early, you could reduce the benefit of all of the  hard work you’ve put into adjusting to the device. 
  2. You increase the chances of having events and getting less restful sleep without positive airway pressure. Sleep apnea events are often worse during REM sleep, which takes place during the last third of your sleeping time. You may not be able to stay in that deep sleep if your airway is not supported at the proper pressure.

Keep Using Your PAP Therapy Device 

Forming a new habit takes around 21 days. That might sound like a lot if you’re struggling to adapt to your treatment, but remember: Every consecutive night you use your PAP therapy device is another step closer to building that habit.

It’s just like starting a new exercise regime. You feel sore after the first few sessions and then your body adapts to the new activity. You start to feel the important health benefits and you’re glad you developed the habit. Think about how sleep apnea wreaks havoc on your sleep quality and causes long-term health problems to remind yourself why you’re committed to your treatment.

No matter where you are or what you’re doing, commit to using your PAP therapy device every single night. That might sound even more difficult if you’re always on the go. Take a look at this blog post for ways to fit your treatment into a busy lifestyle.

Get Professional Sleep Support

Adjusting to your PAP therapy device takes time and training. Even if you’re committed to treating your sleep apnea, you may need extra support to stay on track. That’s why Somnera includes private sleep coaching with every purchase of our PAP therapy device at no additional cost.

The SleepBridge™ Support Program includes a one-on-one virtual consultation to let you know what you can expect with PAP therapy for sleep apnea as well as ongoing tips and encouragement. You can enhance your sleep therapy experience with the SleepBridge App, which allows you to track your progress. 

Whether you’re newly diagnosed or you’ve already tried CPAP and want a different therapy experience, partnering with SleepBridge coaches yields positive results! Habits usually take 21 days to stick, but most Somnera users develop their new sleep habit quickly and successfully by taking advantage of our sleep support program. 

For more tips on getting started with treatment, read our blog post on what to do after an obstructive sleep apnea diagnosis.