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96: Is it OK to take a break from CPAP?

cpap Feb 03, 2024

If you’re a regular CPAP user, I’d like to give you a high five for treating your sleep apnea consistently.  But there may be times when you think about taking the night off.  Of course, this is entirely your decision and you will do what’s best.  

Below I’ve listed some reasons I’ve been asked about for taking the night off: 

  • You’re taking an overnight or weekend trip and don’t want to be bothered taking the machine with you.  
  • You are anticipating “sexy time 😏”  and CPAP is just not part of the equation.
  • You’re going camping or hunting and there’s no electricity.  
  • You’ve got a cold or allergies and can’t breathe through your nose.  
  • You just need a mental break from the CPAP.
  • You have some skin irritation that your CPAP mask is aggravating
  • You had a dental procedure or surgery on your mouth, nose, or face.  

In every case, whether or not to use your CPAP is a personal choice.  In fact, your decision to use CPAP is a choice you make every time you sleep.  

If you need a mental break from CPAP, take it.  If it’s just too inconvenient, don’t bring it.  If something isn’t working, go ahead and take a night off.  Take two nights off if that’s what you need.  But I suggest you plan to return to your regular CPAP use after a short break.  

Don’t let a night off become a week, a month, or a year.

When spending the night away from home without your CPAP, you’ll probably run into the effects of interrupted sleep when your sleep apnea isn’t treated.  This can cause problems with your mood and your endurance the following day.  You may not enjoy your trip as much, and if that trip involves driving you may be less safe behind the wheel.  

Consider the possibility that your snoring will disrupt the sleep of those nearby. So not using CPAP can affect someone else’s mood, energy level, and driving safety.  Realize that untreated sleep apnea can cause you to move a lot during sleep, and get up and down with awakenings.  Your poor bed partner may be disrupted by your rocking and rolling all night!

If you’re hunting or camping, the noise you make snoring can alert animals to your position.  This may or may not be a good thing.  You could have more urine output during the night, which means you are stepping out into the cold to pee more.

Sexy time doesn’t involve CPAP (usually).  But if you’re lucky enough to find someone who you want to cuddle and fall asleep with, try talking to that person about your condition.  Being honest and vulnerable is authentic, and authenticity is sexy.  Plus, anyone who cares about you would want you to be healthy.  This may be a great way to find out where you stand.  

If you’re sick or dealing with allergies, there are ways to open up your nose quickly.  You might use Afrin (oxymetazoline) at night FOR UP TO 3 NIGHTS, NO MORE.  Get your nasal mucus out and clear your sinuses with saline rinses.  Start using a steroid nasal spray like Flonase.  Take a decongestant if it’s safe for you.  Not treating sleep apnea when you’re ill means your body isn’t getting the rest it needs and your immune system isn’t as efficient with fighting the infection.  

For skin irritation, changing up the mask type can be really helpful while the affected area recovers.  You might also try a cloth liner to help your skin breathe and reduce friction.  

For those with very severe sleep apnea, big drops in their blood oxygen levels, or complicated medical conditions, there is a non-zero risk to your health with one night of untreated sleep apnea.  

Some dental or surgical procedures necessitate a break from CPAP.  If the professionals who are caring for you recommend that you not use CPAP, follow that advice and get specific on how much time they are suggesting you spend without your CPAP.  Be clear about the severity of your sleep apnea and what you experience when it isn’t treated so you can advocate for yourself.  Keep in mind that untreated sleep apnea (especially if it’s severe) can cause delays in healing and recovery.  You might sleep upright or at a significant incline until you are healed.  Sometimes nasal strips are helpful in opening up your nose to breathe better.  If you’re breathing through your mouth, do what you can to keep your mouth moist to reduce awakenings during sleep.    




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