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Why is heated humidification important in CPAP therapy?

Sleep apnea treatment Nov, 01 2023

An in-depth look at the technology and whether it's right for you

If you would like to understand why heated humidification matters when it comes to your CPAP* therapy, you have come to the right place!

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare has led the way in humidification technology for more than 50 years and was the first company in the world to produce a humidifier for CPAP devices.

Today, heated humidification is considered best practice when it comes to CPAP therapy, and for good reason. We will explain why in this article.


How heated humidification helps your body

Our upper airways heat and humidify each breath we take to prepare the air for the warm, moist environment in our lungs. This process enables the tiny hairs or cilia in our lungs to push mucus and contaminants out of our airways.

However, CPAP therapy can disrupt this natural airway-cleaning process as the dry air from the device can have a drying effect on our nasal passages and upper airway.1 Heated humidification can minimize the risk of this issue by providing us with the warmth and moisture we need.

Without heated humidification, CPAP users may experience sore and dry throats, sinus infections, runny noses and they can be compelled to breathe through their mouths as they sleep.1

The addition of humidity can make your therapy more tolerable. That is important because the more comfortable you are with your treatment, the more likely you are going to apply the consistency you need for it to succeed.


How does heated humidification work?

A heated humidifier is a chamber filled with water that sits on a heater-plate. The air from the CPAP device passes over the warm water in the chamber before it is delivered to your airways. The higher the CPAP pressure is set, the higher the temperature on your humidifier will be and more water will be used. 

Should I use a humidifier?

There are several reasons why you should consider using a humidifier, but people who could benefit most from heated humidification include:

  • Those who experience a dry mouth or a runny and stuffy nose because of CPAP therapy.

  • Therapy users who have cold symptoms, a postnasal drip or who experience persistent sneezing.

  • Patients who sleep in a cooler bedroom because they are likely to experience condensation with heated humification.

  • Those who experience sneezing, a dry mouth, burning nasal passages, stuffy noses, or mucus in the mouth and throat when they wake up.

  • People aged over 60: The American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) says CPAP patients aged 60 years and older are five times more likely to experience dry or irritated airways from their treatment.2

  • Therapy users who are taking two or more prescription medications that can dry their sinuses. People in this group are six times more likely to experience dry or irritated airways, ASAA says.2

When do I not need to use a humidifier?

  • If you do not experience any discomfort, such as a dry mouth or stuffy nose, you may not feel the need to use humidification.

  • If you use a humidification system that is not built into your device, you may consider leaving it at home when you are traveling. 

  • If you already sleep in a humid enviroment, the extra humidity may be unnecessary.


What type of heated humidifier should I use?

There is a selection of humidifier types to choose from, and the one you choose will come down to personal preference and compatibility with your CPAP device. Always seek advice from your equipment provider. The top styles of humidifiers are:

Integrated or built-in: This is the term used for humidifiers built to fit specific CPAP devices, such as F&P Healthcare's SleepStyleTM. They plug into the CPAP machine they are intended for and will only work with that machine. The humidifier water chamber is removable for cleaning and filling.

Standalone: These humidifiers are designed to work with many CPAP devices. They have power cords and a tube that you connect to your CPAP machine. Compatible with a variety of different machines, standalone humidifiers take up a little more space.

How much water should I use in my heated humidifier?

You should refill your water chamber daily, even though there may still be water left over from the night before. Never fill water past the maximum water-level mark on your water chamber. The amount of water you use can vary each night and from one person to the next.

What type of water should I use?

Distilled water should always be used in CPAP humidifiers. Tap or filtered water may contain bacteria and chemicals that you will not wish to be breathing in as you sleep. Distilled water will also make your humidifier easier to clean and therefore protect its longevity.

Can you use essential oils in a CPAP humidifier?

Essential oils are not recommended for use in a CPAP humidifier as they may irritate your lungs.

Should I use my humidifier year-round?

It is advisable to use your humidifer throughout the year, but it should be adjusted to meet seasonal change, e.g., humidification is typically increased during winter and reduced in summer, depending on the climate you live in. Ask your healthcare provider what settings you can set your humidifier to so you optimize your therapy performance year-round without compromising on your comfort.3,4

What features do I need to look for when buying a humidifier?

Factors you should consider when choosing your CPAP humidifier include compatibility with your device, durability, the manufacturer’s recommendations, and price. We will expand on these considerations below. The final decision will come down to personal preference but do check with your doctor that the humidifier you select is suitable for your needs.

Compatibility with your machine: If you are buying a standalone humidifier, you will need to check whether it is compatible with your CPAP device.

Durability: The average lifespan of a CPAP humidifier is between two to five years, but longevity varies between manufacturers. It is recommended water chambers are replaced every six months. Undertaking a regular cleaning regimen will ensure the equipment will last longer.

Manufacturer’s recommendations: The manufacturer is likely to suggest compatible products and these suggestions are designed to protect the performance and lifespan of the equipment.

Price: Prices vary between equipment providers. The overall cost of your CPAP device is likely to be more if you are opting for an integrated or built-in humidifier.


Other considerations for using a humidifier

If you are new to CPAP therapy, you may find using a humidifier that is not built into your device adds another layer to the complexities of your therapy. However, these considerations, which we have outlined in this section, are minor compared with the considerable benefits heated humidification can deliver to the success of your CPAP therapy.

Humidifiers need regular cleaning 

Your CPAP humidifier water chamber needs to be washed daily and given a thorough clean at least every fortnight. Doing so may safeguard your health, prolong the lifespan of your device and maximize the effectiveness of your treatment.

Go to,
How to thoroughly clean your CPAP equipment. 

Humidifiers must be cleaned and refilled nightly

It is advisable to refill your humidifier water chamber with fresh distilled water daily to protect the air you are breathing into your lungs and clear the chamber from any allergen or pathogen buildup. 

Humidifiers can cause rainout 

Rainout occurs when heated air condenses into water drops in your CPAP tubing. This means you may hear a gurgling sound in the tube and the droplets may reach  your mask and wet your face. Using heated tubing can resolve this issue by keeping the air warm enough until it reaches your CPAP mask. F&P Healthcare's ThermoSmartTM breathing tube has been created with this issue in mind. A copper coil runs through the breathing tube, heating the wall of the tube and allowing the air temperature to be maintained all the way to the mask.

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