Humidification as part of CPAP therapy is truly a godsend. It can mean the difference between waking up rested and refreshed and waking up feeling like a dehydrated version of your former self (just add water). Being exposed to un-humidified air during a night of CPAP can result in sinus irritation, nosebleeds, headache, rhinitis, and other uncomfortable maladies. Fortunately, the humidification systems on today’s CPAP equipment can make these a thing of that past. Although sometimes there’s a price to pay…
Rainout. Not the kind where they pull the tarps out onto the baseball field and send you home, but the kind all too familiar among CPAP users. This is a phenomenon that occurs when condensation from humidification builds up inside the CPAP tube and mask, only to make its presence known at some point during the night. Rainout can feel like someone is squirting water down your nose with an eyedropper, or feel like someone’s shooting you in the face with a spray bottle. Either way, it makes for a rude interruption of nighttime slumber and can defeat the purpose of CPAP therapy.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways we can deal with this. One way is to allow for gravity to work in our favor. We can do this by making sure that our CPAP machine and its humidifier as significantly lower in position than we are when we’re lying in bed. This will cause any build up of condensation within the tubing to run back down the hose and into the humidifier reservoir–not up into our face.
We can also try to beat condensation at its source. We’ve all seen how condensation forms on the outside of a cold can of soda on a warm humid day. Now turn these conditions inside-out. The warm humid inside of the CPAP hose meets colder air of our bedroom: condensation forms on the inner wall of our hose. One way to defeat this is to adjust our room temperature up, so that it’s closer to the temperature that exists inside our hose. This will lessen the likelihood of condensation forming.
For some, like me, this is not an option. For those of us who like to sleep in a relatively cool bedroom, we may choose instead to insulate our CPAP hose. Remember that cold can of soda gathering all that condensation? Now picture it with one of those foam insulating coolers on it–no more condensation. There are a number of commercially available hose and mask covers that provide just this kind of insulation and can help to prevent rainout.
Taking the hose insulating approach a step further is the new generation of heated CPAP hoses. This approach is becoming increasingly popular and for a good reason: it’s truly the gold standard in rainout control. Right now, there are two styles of heated hose. There’s the integrated heated hose that connects directly to and is powered by the CPAP system, and there’s the independent heated hose which can be used with older systems that don’t offer the heated hose option. Either way, even stubborn rainout will be controlled by these.
All told, humidification can be a positive addition to CPAP therapy. The measures available to control its downside are now within easy reach. Many other obstacles to CPAP therapy are being overcome by such ingenuity and innovation. The areas of comfort, effectiveness, and cleaning have seen strides that have greatly benefited those in the CPAP community. No doubt, the future will continue to bring even more such advances that will make the nights of a CPAP user more tolerable and the days just a little brighter.