If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor may have recommended a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device. A CPAP trial allows you to test this treatment option before purchasing the equipment. Here’s what you need to know about CPAP trials and how they can help determine if CPAP therapy is right for you.
What is a CPAP Trial?
A CPAP trial provides the opportunity to use a CPAP device for a short period, usually about 1-2 weeks. The trial equipment is loaned to you by a medical supply company or sleep clinic. This allows you to experience CPAP therapy firsthand, in the comfort of your home, before investing in purchasing your own CPAP equipment.
During the trial period, you’ll use the CPAP device each night while you sleep. The CPAP machine delivers a constant gentle stream of pressurised air through a face mask to keep your airway open. This prevents pauses in breathing or diminished airflow, which are characteristic of obstructive sleep apnea.
CPAP trial durations vary, but most last between 7 and 14 days. This gives you enough time to adjust to sleeping with CPAP therapy and accurately evaluate its effects before the trial period ends.
Why Try a CPAP Trial?
There are several important reasons to consider a CPAP trial if sleep apnea treatment is recommended for you:
The main goal of a CPAP trial is to determine if this treatment is effective for managing your sleep apnea. During the trial, you can learn firsthand if CPAP therapy reduces daytime sleepiness, improves sleep quality, decreases snoring, and resolves breathing pauses during sleep. Ongoing feedback from a bed partner can also help assess CPAP’s effectiveness.
Find the Right Settings/Equipment
Each CPAP user requires different pressure settings and mask types for optimal comfort and effectiveness. Undergoing a trial allows medical staff to calibrate the CPAP pressure and make mask adjustments during follow-up appointments. This helps determine the ideal CPAP setup for your specific needs.
Check for Side Effects
A small percentage of CPAP users experience side effects like skin irritation from the mask, nasal congestion, or abdominal bloating from swallowing air. A trial period allows you to monitor for these issues before committing to long-term use. Adjustments can often be made to minimise side effects.
Aid Acceptance & Adjustment
Starting any new medical therapy can be an adjustment. Using CPAP each night for a 1-2 week trial lets you get comfortable with the equipment and establish a routine. This makes it easier to transition to ongoing use if you continue with CPAP treatment. A trial aids acceptance and acclimation.
If you will be paying for CPAP equipment yourself, undergoing a trial gives you time to check with your insurance provider about coverage and assess the actual out-of-pocket costs. This allows you to make an informed decision about purchasing based on affordability.
What to Expect During a CPAP Trial
Here’s a quick rundown of what typically happens during a CPAP trial:
- You’ll be fitted with a CPAP mask chosen based on comfort and fit. This is connected by a tube to the CPAP machine, which delivers pressurised air.
- The CPAP pressure setting will be determined based on your sleep study results and titration. This setting is adjusted as needed during the trial.
- You’ll receive instructions on using the equipment each night and how to maintain/clean the mask and humidifier chamber.
- You’ll use the CPAP device at home during sleep for the entire trial period, typically at least five nights.
- You’ll record your experiences in a sleep diary or log provided by the medical supplier.
- Follow-up appointments (s) will be scheduled to evaluate effectiveness, make needed equipment adjustments, and address any issues.
- You’ll return the loaned equipment at the end of the trial period.
- You’ll then decide with your doctor whether purchasing your CPAP is the right treatment path.
Choosing a CPAP Trial Provider
If your sleep doctor has prescribed a CPAP trial, there are a few options for obtaining trial equipment:
- Your doctor may coordinate the trial through a preferred medical supply company.
- Large national retailers like CPAP.com and The CPAP Shop also offer CPAP trials by mail.
- Local, independent CPAP supply stores in your area may also offer trials.
- Some sleep clinics and treatment centres provide trials on-site with their equipment.
When selecting a CPAP trial provider, choose an experienced company that offers full-service support. Opt for a provider that includes mask-fittings, equipment education, 24/7 assistance, data reporting, and follow-up appointments as part of the trial. This helps ensure the prosecution is as effective as possible.
Many major health insurance plans cover a large proportion of CPAP trial costs if prescribed by your doctor. Confirm your specific coverage details in advance. Some suppliers may also offer trial packages at cash prices for the uninsured.
Using CPAP Trial Results to Decide on Treatment
After you complete your CPAP trial period, you’ll meet with your sleep doctor again to review the results. Be prepared to share your detailed experiences using the therapy at home.
Key questions to consider when assessing your CPAP trial include:
- Did CPAP therapy reduce your sleep apnea symptoms and improve sleep quality?
- Were you able to use CPAP consistently each night? If not, what challenges did you face?
- Did you experience any side effects from the treatment?
- What mask and pressure settings were most comfortable for you?
- Is CPAP therapy beneficial enough for you to commit to purchasing equipment?
Your doctor will review your sleep apnea severity and your CPAP trial results. This will help determine if CPAP is the right treatment path or if alternatives like oral appliances or surgery should be considered.
If CPAP significantly improved your sleep apnea during the trial, purchasing your equipment for home use is generally recommended. Keep in mind that adjusting to regular CPAP use often takes several weeks. So don’t be discouraged if you have some difficulties early on.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of CPAP
As you make your CPAP treatment decision after the trial, weigh the key pros and cons:
- CPAP is a very effective treatment proven to manage sleep apnea in those with moderate to severe cases.
- It can significantly reduce fatigue, improve concentration/mood, lower blood pressure, and lessen other health risks associated with untreated sleep apnea.
- It provides immediate relief by preventing breathing interruptions as soon as you start using the device each night.
- Correct, regular use can help restore healthy, restorative sleep.
- CPAP requires a daily commitment to use the equipment for several hours while sleeping. For some, this can be an adjustment.
- Some CPAP users experience temporary side effects like mask discomfort, nasal congestion or dry mouth. These are usually manageable with equipment adjustments.
- CPAP therapy is lifelong for ongoing control of sleep apnea. Travelling with the equipment can be cumbersome.
- Rental or purchase of CPAP equipment and supplies represents a significant, ongoing cost that insurance may not fully cover.
Carefully weighing these factors will help determine if CPAP fits your needs, lifestyle and budget. Discuss all considerations openly with your doctor.
Getting the Most from a CPAP Trial
To give CPAP a fair shot during your trial and make the most of the experience:
- Use the equipment every night during the trial, even if you have difficulties at first. It takes time to adjust.
- Keep a detailed sleep log. Note nights used, hours worn, and any effects noticed.
- Work closely with your equipment provider to resolve mask discomfort, air leaks or other issues. Don’t give up.
- Stick to any recommended CPAP settings during the trial period.
- Share both positive effects and challenges with your doctor during follow-up.
- Consider having a bed partner listen for snoring/breathing interruptions. Their feedback can be valuable.
- Recognise that it takes most CPAP users at least several weeks to adapt. So don’t make a final decision based only on early experiences.
Take the Time for an Effective CPAP Trial
A CPAP trial is crucial to determine if this leading sleep apnea treatment is appropriate for your situation and health needs. Finding the right CPAP equipment and settling into a comfortable therapy routine takes time, patience and commitment. But taking things slow through a well-structured CPAP trial helps set the stage for long-term success if you and your doctor ultimately decide this treatment path is the right choice.