Setting up a CPAP machine for the first time

Once programmed by your physician, preparing your CPAP for operation is pretty simple. Read the instructions fully before setting up your CPAP for its maiden voyage, but here are some suggestions to get you started.

  1. Find a location next to your bed that is about head height or slightly below with access to a power supply. Keeping your CPAP machine at head level or below reduces the potential for the unit being pulled off and causing injury in your sleep.
  2. Install a new air filter and use a clean, damp cloth to wipe off the output port and let it dry.
  3. If your CPAP includes a humidifier water reservoir, remove it and wash with warm water and a mild, scent-free dish soap, or you can use a CPAP-specific cleaning solution. Rinse the water chamber thoroughly, use a towel to dry the exterior, and air dry out of direct sunlight before use. If you’re worried about soap residue in the water chamber, rinse with a diluted solution of white vinegar and distilled water (1:2 ratio) then flush with water and let dry.
  4. Fill the water reservoir with distilled water only, ensure the exterior is dry, and install it in the humidifier. Use only as much water as you need for one night. This will depend on the level of humidity you prefer. A higher humidity setting will use more water, whereas a lower setting uses less. My preferred humidity control setting is 1.5, so it uses very little water. Through trial and error, you’ll identify the right humidity setting and water level over the course of a few nights. It’s better to have a little too much water than too little. When water barely covers the bottom of the chamber after use, you’ll know you’re in the right ballpark. Don’t reuse water in the chamber. It should be dumped, rinsed, dried, and filled daily with fresh water. (Tip: If you experience a significant amount of water in your air hose, reduce the humidity setting. I suggest starting with a low setting and slowly increasing it until you wake without a dry mouth, throat and/or nose. You may need to increase the humidity setting during the winter months as heaters tend to dry out the air in your home.)
  5. Plug your new hose into the output port of the CPAP machine, and identify a path for your hose that will not pull items off of your nightstand or knock over furniture or other items on the floor as you move around during the night. Going behind and through or over the headboard is usually a safe bet. Ensure that it will not wrap around your neck if you turn over in your sleep. Excess should hang off of the bed. If you prefer, hose hangers are available to suspend the hose above your head while you sleep.
  6. Attach the other end to your new, cleaned mask and put it on. Lie down in your normal sleep position and adjust the hose as necessary to allow normal movement without too much hose on the bed. (Tip: I have read that if you wash your face before putting on your mask, it ensures a better seal and extends the life of your mask cushion.)
  7. If you have the option, set your CPAP to ramp-up to full pressure over a period of time. Set this to about the time it normally takes you to fall asleep. The lower starting pressure is more comfortable when you’re first adjusting to sleeping with a CPAP. As you become used to it, you can reduce the ramp-up time or go full pressure from the start if that is your preference.
  8. Again, ensure your face is clean, don the headgear and mask when you’re ready to go to sleep, and turn on your machine. Get comfy and nighty night! – by Matt Lindler (a.k.a. CPAP Matt)
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