Feel good about travel and socialising with sleep apnoea and CPAP

Friends happy on top of a mountain

February 7th 2022

How do you feel about travelling or socialising with your CPAP device? Happy that you’ll feel well-rested and able to make the most of your time away? Or anxious that you’ll end up snoring and your travel companions will ask awkward questions about your equipment? We hope the answer is ‘happy’ but if it’s ‘anxious’, you’re definitely not alone. So, what could you do to feel more positive about bringing your CPAP equipment along for travel and social occasions?

What are the challenges?

You might have concerns about the practical aspects of travelling with CPAP equipment, such as finding a suitable place to plug in your device at night. You might dread the interpersonal aspect: being teased or having to fend off questions and unwanted advice from well-meaning friends and relatives. Maybe events that sound like fun – a weekend away with friends, a city break with a new partner or a family trip with shared accommodation – feel like your worst nightmare. How do you handle it? Ask for your own room and worry that everyone thinks you’re being precious and aloof? Agree to share and then lie awake half the night in case you snore and wake your roommates or your bed partner? Pretend you have a prior engagement and stay at home alone instead?

Your CPAP device should feel like a lifeline, not an anchor. It should give you the energy to do the things you want to do, not hold you back from enjoying other people’s company or being spontaneous and adventurous. There’s plenty of advice out there to help you handle practicalities, like this travel checklist, but there’s not so much on how to handle your family and friends, the person beside you on the plane or the cute guy from accounts. So here are our suggestions; we hope they will help.

Find ways to talk confidently about CPAP

First, remind yourself why you use a CPAP device and what it brings to your life. Without CPAP treatment, you’d be at higher risk of suffering serious illnesses like hypertension1, stroke2 or type 2 diabetes3. With it, you probably have more daytime energy4 and are less affected by symptoms like headaches5, low mood6, weight gain7, fatigue5 and night sweats8. It’s probably safe to say that CPAP is a positive force in your life.

Second, feel proud: establishing a regular CPAP habit is a real achievement. Most people find it difficult to start therapy and stick with it over the long-term but you have, so well done. You’ve taken an important step to improve your health and you’ve persevered, even when it wasn’t the easy option.

Third, try putting those thoughts together in words and saying them out loud (try practising in the shower!). Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • “I use a CPAP device because I have sleep apnoea. Without therapy, I’d be exhausted all the time. Therapy isn’t my favourite thing, but I love that it gives me energy to enjoy life and time with friends.”
  • “I have sleep apnoea and I need to use CPAP therapy to sleep well and stay healthy. I need to sleep now so I’m going to put on my mask and switch on my device. Goodnight!”
  • “This is my CPAP device and my mask. I was diagnosed with sleep apnoea a few years ago and CPAP therapy has made a huge difference to my daily life. Do you remember how tired and grumpy I used to be? That’s because I would stop breathing dozens of times a night! I found it hard at first but I’ve got used to it now. Starting therapy was the right decision for my health and I’m pleased that I’ve stuck with it.”

Find a way to tell your CPAP story, because CPAP is part of your story and you should be proud of what you’ve achieved. And if someone asks more questions than you’re comfortable with, always remember that “No.” is a full sentence too!

References:

  1. Navarro-Soriano, C., et al., The HIPARCO-2 study: long-term effect of continuous positive airway pressure on blood pressure in patients with resistant hypertension: a multicenter prospective study. J Hypertens, 2021. 39(2): p. 302-309.
  2. Bassetti CL et al. Sleep-disordered breathing and acute ischemic stroke: Bassetti, C.L.A., et al., EAN/ERS/ESO/ESRS statement on the impact of sleep disorders on risk and outcome of stroke. Eur J Neurol, 2020. 27(7): p. 1117-1136.
  3. Einhorn D, et al. Prevalence of sleep apnea in a population of adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Endocr Pract (2007): 355-62.
  4. Sánchez AI, Martínez P, Miró E, Bardwell WA, Buela-Casal G. CPAP and behavioral therapies in patients with obstructive sleep apnea: effects on daytime sleepiness, mood, and cognitive function. Sleep Med Rev. 2009;13(3):223-233.
  5. Osman, Amal M., et al. ‘Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Current Perspectives’. Nature and Science of Sleep, 2018. 10: pp. 21–34
  6. Lundetrae, R.S., et al., Effect of continuous positive airway pressure on symptoms of anxiety and depression in patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep Breath, 2021. 25(3): p. 1277-1283.
  7. Lyytikainen P, et al. Sleep problems and major weight gain: a follow-up study. International Journal of Obesity, 2011. 35,109–114.
  8. Arnardottir Erna. S, et al. Nocturnal sweating—a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnoea: the Icelandic sleep apnoea cohort. BMJ Open, 2013.

 

This blog post contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such. You must not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.
If you have any specific questions about any medical matter, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website. The views expressed on this blog and website have no relation to those of any academic, hospital, practice, or other institution with which the authors are affiliated and do not directly reflect the views of ResMed or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates.