Anxious about CPAP? Try This Desensitization Technique!

Photo Credit: Julia Freeman-Woolpert

Photo Credit: Julia Freeman-Woolpert


CPAP (Continuos Positive Airway Pressure) therapy for the treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea can be frightening for some. I have seen fear on their faces as soon as I walk in the exam room to discuss the treatment. For those patients, I have successfully used the desensitization technique described by Jack D. Edinger and Rodney A. Radtke in the Sleep Journal (Volume 16, issue 07).

Edinger and Radtke’s desensitization technique consists of the following five “steps”:

1) wearing the plastic CPAP nosepiece at home while awake for 1 hour each day

2) attaching the mask to the CPAP apparatus, switching the unit to the “on” position and practicing breathing through the mask for 1 hour while watching television, reading or performing some other sedentary activity

3) using CPAP during I-hour, scheduled naps at home

4) using CPAP during initial 3-4 hours of nocturnal sleep

5) using CPAP through an entire night’s sleep

When the patient reported performing one step for five consecutive days without anxiety, he was encouraged to move to the next, more difficult step. Therapeutic guidance was provided during five outpatient visits scheduled across a 3-month period.

I have noticed great success in several of my anxious patients with this technique. Patients feel empowered when making this life-changing transition. Their counterproductive anxiety turns into elation. Talk to your doctor about this and try it. You will sleep better and will wake up with more energy. Your health risks will also go down with the use of CPAP.

Best Wishes. Sleep Well, Live Well.


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