Traveling With Sleep Apnea: Everything You Need to Know
If you’ve been diagnosed and are being treated for OSA, chances are that you have a CPAP machine. While these are great devices for home use, traveling with them can be tricky. Here are some helpful tips for traveling with sleep apnea and CPAP machines.
Around 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. This condition causes sufferers to stop breathing in their sleep and limits the supply of oxygen to the brain and body.
The most common way to treat sleep apnea is with a CPAP machine, where CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. This device, along with a CPAP mask, uses pressurized air to deliver oxygen to the airways during sleep.
But, while a CPAP machine is ideal to get a restful night’s rest in the comfort of your own home, what about when you want to travel?
Luckily, sleep apnea aids are more portable than they used to be. While increased awareness of sleep apnea makes traveling with the condition less of a headache for sufferers.
Read on to find out more about traveling with sleep apnea and how to stay healthy and rested on your travels.
Choosing a Travel CPAP Machine
Depending on the CPAP machine you have, you may want to invest in a portable CPAP machine for traveling. These are lighter, smaller, easier to carry and more discreet, making them a great option for frequent travelers in particular.
Also, advances in design and technology have made it possible to benefit from the same performance with a portable CPAP machine as with a home-based device.
That said, not all travel CPAP machines are equal. Make sure to look for a machine with comfort therapy settings, quiet operation and features that are similar to your home unit. You also need to bear in mind that while some devices look small, they need many added components to work well.
Some factors to consider when choosing a travel sleep machine include:
Weight – Compare the weight of different CPAP machines to get an idea of how much weight you can save when attempting to travel light.
Tubing – Look for devices with smaller tubes. These are easier to pack away and allow for more freedom of movement while you sleep.
Components – An easy-to assemble device with fewer components makes packing and travel a lot easier.
Added Features – Extras such as built-in USB charging ports for cell phones frees up other outlets for devices such as beside lamps.
Advanced Planning Tips for Traveling with Sleep Apnea
Traveling with your CPAP machine shouldn’t take too much advanced planning. But you will need to make sure that you’ve factored in certain considerations before heading off to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible:
Talk to Your Travel Carrier Beforehand
Whether you’re traveling by air, land or sea, every company has specific rules and regulations. For peace of mind and ease of travel, contact your carrier at least two weeks in advance to find out what you need to know, bring and do to abide by your carrier’s rules when traveling with your CPAP machine.
Packing Your CPAP Machine
Before packing your CPAP device, make sure the humidifier chamber is empty and dry. This will prevent spillages and potential damage to your machine in transit.
If your trip involves airplane travel, you may decide to pack your CPAP machine in your checked luggage. But most travelers with sleep apnea prefer to bring their devices on the plane.
The Americans with Disabilities Act considers CPAP machines as medical devices so they don’t count as one of your carry-on items. It’s also a good idea to have your CPAP machine with you in case your luggage goes missing. After all, you wouldn’t want to be without your CPAP machine at your destination, even if your luggage is only delayed for a day or two.
CPAP Machine Security Checks
If you’re bringing your CPAP machine as a separate carry-on item, it’s best to label the CPAP case with a medical equipment luggage tag. Most TSA agents should be familiar with CPAP machines and will recognize them as medical equipment. But playing it safe avoids the possibility of confusion or hold ups.
Your CPAP machine will also need to undergo X-ray screening. To ensure a smoother process, take the machine out of the carry case as you would with a laptop and place it in an individual screening tray.
If you’re worried about sanitation, place your CPAP machine in a clear plastic bag before putting it in the tray. Your CPAP device may also need to be swabbed by a TSA agent to check for explosives residue. If so, you are within your rights to request that the agent uses a fresh pair of gloves and an unused swab to perform the checks.
Always Carry Your Prescription
Even if your CPAP machine is with you while you travel, there’s always the possibility that it might get damaged or stolen. Or, that some part of your equipment might fail when you’re miles from home.
To keep mishaps like these from interrupting your therapy, ask your doctor for a copy of your prescription and keep it safe with your travel documents.
Having your prescription with you will make it far easier to access new equipment if you end up needing extra supplies while you’re away. Plus, TSA agents may need to see your prescription for confirmation of your equipment when processing your luggage.
Plugs and Adapters
International travel shouldn’t be a problem if you have a newer CPAP machine as they tend to have universal power supplies which can adapt to various voltage settings. But you will need to make sure to have all the correct adapters and plugs for where you’re traveling.
Packing an extension cord in with your CPAP machine is a super useful tip. This way you don’t have to worry about plug sockets being located near the bed or how many power outlets the bedroom has. And, you can charge all your devices from the same lead without having to bring multiple adaptors when heading abroad.
You may also want to consider buying a back-up battery pack. These are great if you plan on camping, sleeping on forms of transport, or just as a precaution against power outages.
Like the batteries that power other devices, CPAP batteries have become smaller and lighter in recent years, making them ideal for ensuring uninterrupted therapy while you travel. But you will need to make sure the portable battery is designed specifically for your CPAP machine and that it’s charged and working well before you leave home.
You Don’t Have to Give Up Comfort when Traveling with Sleep Apnea
By following the advice above you should be able to use your CPAP machine without problems once you reach your destination. But if you plan on sleeping while you travel, you also want to make your journey there as comfortable as possible.
Check the Airline’s Policy
If your trip involves plane travel and you plan on using your CPAP machine during the flight, you will need to check with your airline first.
Airline policies relating to the in-flight usage of CPAP machines vary. But many require at least 48 hours’ notice to check that your model meets FAA standards and regulations. Many airlines also need your machine to be correctly labeled as FAA-approved for use on an aircraft.
Ask About Power Outlets
While you’re inquiring about using your CPAP machine on the plane, it’s worth asking whether your seat has power outlets and whether you may need an adaptor. This way you can plug in your device while you fly for uninterrupted sleep therapy on a long or overnight flight.
Pack a Back-Up Battery
Whether your seat has power outlets or not, it’s a good idea to bring a back-up battery pack with you onto the flight just in case. This way if there’s a change to the flight or the information is incorrect, you can be sure that you have some form of power for your CPAP machine.
Consider Alternative Sleep Apnea Aids
Heavy snoring is one of the warning signs of sleep apnea. If you don’t plan on sleeping while you travel but you’re worried about dozing off and subjecting other passengers to your airplane snoring then you might want to pack an alternative sleep apnea aid.
Stop-snoring devices such as a mouthpiece or mandibular advancement are ideal discreet travel aids. These are also good back-up devices for those times when using a CPAP machine isn’t convenient or permitted, or if unforeseen circumstances stop you from using your CPAP machine as planned.
Traveling with Sleep Apnea
Traveling with sleep apnea might take a bit of extra planning but there’s no reason that sleep apnea means you can’t enjoy your trip away as much as anyone else.
That said, it’s important to consider how a change in your daily routine can disrupt your sleep schedule.
Whether you’re traveling for work or pleasure, it might be tempting to sacrifice sleep for other activities. But restful sleep is crucial for ensuring that you’re at your best every day of your trip. After all, you don’t want to be tired or irritable as a result of a poor night’s sleep when you’re on your dream vacation.
For more advice about traveling with sleep apnea and how to manage your condition, contact us today.
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