Why Do I Need a Humidifier For My CPAP?

Most CPAP machines now include a fully-integrated (top image is the newest ResMed CPAP with a built-in humidifier) or easily-attached humidifier (second image is an earlier device with a detachable humidifier with the water chamber removed).

In this post we’ll explain the benefits of humidification and tips for making your CPAP therapy as comfortable and effective as possible.

Why do I need a humidifier for my CPAP?

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, you are more likely to suffer from dry or irritated airway or even nosebleeds (epistaxis) if:

1. You live in a dry climate
2. You are over 60 years old (5x more likely)
3. You are taking medications that dry the sinuses (6x more likely)

Nasal resistance can promote mouth breathing

Interestingly, many people think they breathe through their nose at night because they are born that way; however, it could be due to either dry airways or untreated sleep apnea.

If your nasal passage is dry and congested from CPAP, you may end up breathing through your mouth at night, which can cause additional dryness and discomfort. Depending on the type of mask you are using, you may also have substantial air leak if you end up breathing through your mouth and not your nose while sleeping.

Some people become mouth breathers as they develop sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea causes you to stop breathing at night for 10 seconds or longer. When this happens, your oxygen levels drop, triggering your brain to force you to breathe, usually resulting in a loud gasp or snore to get in as much oxygen as possible. Overtime, you may start sleeping with your mouth open to accommodate the need for more oxygen.

Humidification has been shown to increase CPAP compliance

By warming and moistening the air you’re breathing, humidification reduces dry nose and throat and can help you keep your mouth closed while you sleep. Using a humidifier can improve comfort.

Research has shown that CPAP compliance is enhanced when heated humidification is used with therapy, most likely due to the reduction in irritation and feeling more refreshed when waking up.

Tips for Using Your Humidifier Effectively:

How much and what kind of water should I use with the heated humidifier?

Most humidifiers come with a water chamber that has a maximum water level mark on them. Do not pour water past this mark.

The water used with the humidifier should be distilled water and must be changed daily. Please refer to your user manual for more information.

What happens if my water chamber runs out of water during the night?

Your device will function normally and safely without water in the water chamber, but it will no longer provide humidification.

Do I need my humidifier when I travel?

Some people will try to reduce the bulk and wait of their baggage by leaving their humidifier at home.

Depending on your travel destination, you may find that the ambient air is humid enough that you’ll be comfortable without your humidifier for a couple of nights.

If you do travel with your humidifier, make sure the water chamber is empty and dry before you pack it.

Read our post on what to pack when you travel with your CPAP here.

Do you have questions about your therapy? Is it time to order replacement CPAP supplies?

Contact us today and get the help you need.

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  1. Carolyn Riley Reply

    This is my first time using a CPAP machine I can my doctor diagnosed me with sleep disorder I had a little problem last night but I’m going to try it again for the rest of the night any kind of help you can give me just leave it on my email address thank you

  2. michael deluca Reply

    my cpap works good for approximately 5 hours but then my nostrils get stuffed up especially 1 side. This forces my mask to leak air and wakes me. Do you think i need more humidification ? or something else ?

  3. mary lou hilger Reply

    I have severe sinus congestion and allergies . A lifelong struggle with many allergic reactions. After using the cpap my nose gets more congestion than ever. Makes me weak all day lon.

    • Greg Dixson Reply

      Hi, I have started having a problem with allergies blocking up my nose at night when I’m using my CPAP with the humidifier. I wear a chin strap so my mouth doesn”t open, so I suddenly wake up covered in sweat feeling like I”m choking to death. Were you able to resolve your problem? If so, how?

  4. John Stewart Reply

    Is it OK to submerge the heated hose in warm water to clean it.
    Also I have owned a Resmed machine for nine years and to my knowledge nothing is written about renewing the Humidifier every 6 months.
    John from Sydney Australia.

  5. David Norriss Reply

    I like how you advised that when traveling people should dry and empty the water chamber before packing their humidifier for CPAP. This way they can safely and effectively bring their humidifier with them in case they need it. Thanks for helping people know how to travel with their humidifier for CPAP.

  6. Diana Reply

    I am told CPAP works better with out water. Less noise and sleep better is that true

    • James Reply

      I only use the humidifier when needed.

  7. Patty Reply

    I’m traveling in 9 months is it ok to just take my machine no humidifier? I’m cruising to Alaska. Portable machines are expensive

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