Can I travel to high altitude locations with a CPAP machine? Does it work at such a high altitude?
Living and traveling at high elevations to those who should use CPAP machines should not be a problem if the machine is well calibrated and used in accordance with its properties.
Causes of sleeping disorders like apnea
Because low oxygen levels can directly impact the part of the brain that controls sleep, being at a high elevation might create sleep disruptions. The most significant issues include frequent awakenings, light sleep, and a reduction in the overall amount of time spent sleeping; however, these issues typically resolve after a few nights as your body adjusts to the new environment. Additionally, breathing may become more challenging at higher altitudes for individuals who already have sleep apnea.
Few studies have been conducted to determine whether or whether the CPAP treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is beneficial for persons who live or travel at high elevations.
According to the findings of a study, individuals who had moderate to severe OSA and lived at higher elevations had an increased risk of developing central sleep apnea as well. Those individuals, however, who had developed central sleep apnea at higher altitudes did exhibit notable improvements in their condition if they utilized PAP equipment that was appropriately adjusted.
How does CPAP therapy work at high elevations
People who suffer from high-altitude pulmonary edoema, a particularly severe form of altitude sickness, have also been shown to benefit from CPAP therapy as a short-term treatment option (HAPE). Even in healthy people, the quick ascent to a higher altitude can cause HAPE, which is characterized by fluid accumulation in the lungs. Patients with altitude sickness are provided with CPAP as a stopgap measure until they can descend to a lower elevation and receive supplementary oxygen.
Because there are fewer oxygen molecules in the air at higher elevations, people sometimes refer to the air as “thinner.” Because there are fewer oxygen molecules in the air, the pressure has decreased. Even when it is adjusted to the pressure level that was recommended by your healthcare practitioner, the pressure that is delivered by the machine is still lower than the pressure that you should be receiving.
The pressure that is given by a CPAP machine is exactly proportional to the difference in air pressure that occurs at different elevations. The CPAP-delivered pressure will decrease more dramatically as you ascend higher and higher up the mountain. To put it another way, because the air pressure around you is lower, the CPAP machine will apply a lower amount of pressure to open the airway. Because you are now 11,000 feet above sea level, the pressure on your CPAP machine will need to be adjusted accordingly.
False leak detection is another issue that can occur with some CPAP devices at higher altitudes. This is obviously caused by the low ambient pressure at this high altitude. This alarm is caused by the pressure sensor, which causes the CPAP to turn off automatically every few seconds. If you have a reliable machine, there is a good chance that this won’t occur to you.
How to calibrate your CPAP at high elevations
Fortunately, the new CPAP devices can automatically adjust their pressure settings to account for changes in altitude. Despite this, it would be best to discuss the automatic pressure adjustment for your altitude with the company that provides your CPAP or with a sleep specialist. You may need to modify your CPAP manually if it doesn’t have an automatic feature, but you should discuss this with your healthcare provider first. For the manual adjustment, there are a few calculations that need to be completed.
On the other hand, given the significant shifts in altitude and the relatively little shifts in pressure, making adjustments on one’s own could be a potentially hazardous idea. Fortunately, most contemporary CPAP systems come equipped with a feature known as “auto-altitude adjustment,” which enables the device to automatically detect variations in elevation and modify the therapeutic pressure to correspond with those changes.
You may still experience difficulties with the CPAP even when it is set to adjust automatically for changes in altitude. Everything has to do with the fact that the air is thinner. Hence there are fewer molecules of oxygen in it. Even with the use of CPAP, it is possible to experience episodes of central apnea because the brain does not get the signal to breathe. One treatment option is to alter your blood pressure. However, this should only be done under the supervision of a medical professional. Utilizing supplemental oxygen is another treatment option.