I’ve recently been diagnosed with sleep apnea and my dentist gave me this CPAP machine. I usually travel a lot, especially by air. I can’t imagine they’ll let me take this on the airplane. Is it possible to travel with a CPAP when you have sleep apnea?
Though sleep apnea can be a bit of a nuisance, you will find that once your treatment is going regularly and you’re getting to breathe all the way through the night, you’ll wake up much more refreshed and energetic.
You are able to travel by air with a CPAP, but it does take some preparation ahead of time. When you purchase your ticket, you’ll need to be sure they give you a seat by an outlet for your CPAP. It’s hard to get the distilled water through security because of the limitations on liquid these days. However, you can get a prescription for pharmacy grade distilled water and that will allow you to take it on board. You will also need to have some disinfectant wipes with you. The security scanners aren’t exactly what we’d call sterile, so you’ll need to wipe everything down again before you use it.
Be aware, TSA regulations change all the time. It’s in your best interest to check their site and see if they’ve made any other regulations that have hoops you need to jump through to get on the plane without a nice pat down by some stranger in a uniform.
Sleep Apnea Alternatives to CPAP
I don’t know if your dentist mentioned that there are now alternatives to a CPAP machine. These will allow you travel without all those complications. Using an oral appliance, you can breathe freely without needing a machine to help you.
Many patients fall in love with their oral appliance and find it so much more comfortable that they use it full time instead of just when they’re traveling. You may want to schedule an appointment with your dentist well ahead of your next trip and get fitted for a device. This way you can try it out at home where you have your CPAP as a backup to see if it works for you. It may change your life. You can read Dr. Bader’s Sleep Apnea Page to learn more.
I was sent to a heart doctor because my heart rate has jumped significantly. I’ve had tachycardia on a regular basis. After a consultation, he said the first thing he want’s me to do is get a sleep study. He feels certain I have sleep apnea. What does that have to do with heart problems?
Believe it or not, a great many heart problems are caused by untreated sleep apnea. With sleep apnea, the tissue in the back of your throat relaxes while you sleep. In the process, it blocks your breathing passage, depriving you of oxygen. Your body realizes you’re no longer breathing and wakes you up. You wake up with a start (just enough to get a breath) and generally fall back asleep without even realizing you’d stopped breathing and woken up. This cycle can repeat many times throughout the night, sometimes hundreds of times.
You can imagine the type of stress this puts on your heart. It has to pump significantly more in order to make up for the lost oxygenation to your body. If you deal with the sleep apnea, you give your heart the needed rest, which should bring your heart rate back to normal.
A sleep study can tell you a lot. If sleep apnea isn’t the problem, there are other reasons for tachycardia, so there are other things for your cardiologist to look out. But, you always want to eliminate the least invasive solutions first, if they seem like a possibility. One symptom of sleep apnea is snoring.
Why do a heart ablation if a simple orthotic device, while you’re sleeping, will solve the problem?
I have mild sleep apnea and have been using a CPAP device for a few years. I really don’t like it. The sound scares my wife. It’s bulky, invasive, and uncomfortable. Are there options or is my wife stuck sleeping with Darth Vader?
Ben H. – Colorado
You’re not alone in your dislike of a CPAP. We’ve heard from quite a few patients seeking an alternative.
Before your wife starts threatening you with a Jedi battle, I’d talk to a dentist familiar with sleep apnea and all the treatments available.
There is an oral device that can be used. It looks a little like a sport’s mouth guard and doesn’t make any sounds. However, it is only viable for patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea.
I’m assuming, because you have a CPAP, that you’ve already had a sleep study done. That will help your dentist determine if alternative treatments will work for you.
If you haven’t had a study done. I’d highly recommend it. You can often get your insurance to cover it with a note from your doctor.
I’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea. My dentist expects me to wear a CPAP machine. I’m still young and such a contraption is very unattractive, especially since I am a woman. Isn’t there some other treatment for sleep apnea?
Virginia S. – Long Island, NY
I understand the desire to be attractive. That being said, breathing is quite important as well. I would venture to say more important that attractiveness. Before you get too frustrated with my response, I will tell you that there is another alternative.
Sleep apnea can also be treated with a mandibular advancement appliance. It is similar in structure and appearance to a mouthguard, which you will find much more discrete than a CPAP.
The effectiveness of either treatment, really depends on each individual case. You can try the mandibular device and see how it works for you.
I have to fly. It’s an all night flight and I have a meeting the following morning. I’ll need sleep, which means I’ll need my cpap. How in the world will I work that out on a plane?
Rob T. – Atlanta
It can be difficult to travel with a CPAP machine, but not impossible. First, I want to ask if you’ve tried an oral appliance. They’re much easier to travel with and are just as effective in treating sleep apnea as what you’re currently using.
However, if you want to stick with your CPAP, I’ll give you some pointers.
You’ll need to check it as a carry on.
Bring sanitary wipes, because those security bins are pretty disgusting and it will get contaminated.
Get your doctor to write you a prescription for the distilled water. It’s the only way you’ll be able to get the amount of water you need past security.
Arrange with the airline to have your seat near an outlet.
If you do all that, you should be able to manage this travel.
I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and was given a cpap machine. Outside of sounding like Darth Vader, I cannot sleep with this machine on my face. Please tell me there is an alternative????!
Mark A. – Little Rock, AR
Lucky for you there is. Sleep apnea is treatable and there are several types of treatments available. Dr. Bader prefers to start with the most conservative treatment available.
Most people prefer a mandibular advancement appliance to a CPAP machine. Talk to your dentist and see if that gives you the help you need. If not, there are other treatments available as well. But, it’s always best to start with the most simple and least invasive.