You asked, we answered: My CPAP makes me claustrophobic. Is there anything that can help?

Man holding a CPAP mask


Is there anything I can do to learn how to wear a C-Pap properly? I am so claustrophobic that I'm unable to even want to go in for a sleep study.

Answer from otolaryngologist Zafar Sayed, MD and sleep medicine expert Michael Summers, MD

The comfort of your CPAP device depends on the device settings and the type of mask used to deliver the pressure. Your sleep medicine specialist or respiratory equipment provider can help you get the best fit and settings.

  • Type of mask: A nasal mask may be less claustrophobic than a full face mask (which would cover the nose and mouth). Masks made of a variety of different materials may also be available to help avoid moisture buildup and skin irritation
  • Device settings: CPAP pressure is adjusted to how much pressure you need to keep your airway open while breathing. Some patients prefer a different device with variable pressure, called Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure. The BiPAP device has two airway pressure settings: high pressure for inhalation and low pressure for exhalation

For patients unable to use the CPAP routinely, the Inspire implant may be an option. The Inspire device is a small, implantable device that works differently from CPAP – no mask or hose required. Instead, the Inspire device senses the sleeper's breathing in the lungs and opens up their airway for restful sleep. Nebraska Medicine is the only program to offer the Inspire device in Nebraska.

Knowing how the sleep study works might make you feel better about coming in. During the sleep study, small metal electrodes are applied to your head and skin with special adhesive to monitor your stage of sleep, eye muscle movement and jaw movement throughout the night. Breathing is monitored by light expandable belts placed around your chest and waist and a thermistor placed under your nose. A small clip on your index finger monitors the level of oxygen in your blood.

For more information, call the Nebraska Medicine Sleep Disorders Center at 402.552.2286.

Is there something you're too embarrassed to ask your doctor? Ask us here!

These are anonymous questions, meaning we can't give one-on-one medical advice in this format. For medical advice specific to your unique condition, schedule an appointment at 800.922.0000.