Heard about the new corduroy pillows and sleeper sheets for drivers? No? They’re making headlines everywhere.
I typically write about DAC and PSP reports, MVRs, and FMCSA regulations; the need to be proactive with your career by knowing, correcting, securely storing, and using your information to ensure against work-less times; or getting a better job. However, my last couple of articles have dealt with sleep—how it is crucial to decision-making, how OTR driving is a career that makes it hard to get good sleep, and finally, sleep apnea and my personal experiences with it.
In other words, for the past few articles I’ve been writing about sleep instead of my usual topics that put you to sleep. The articles did result in me being contacted by Bob Stanton, an over the road driver who has been on a CPAP machine since 2002. I appreciate Bob for offering the following advice on living with your CPAP in a truck.
Power Supply Issues
CPAP machines have been engineered for use in a home setting. Some newer CPAP can be run directly from 12-V cigar plug outlets. Be careful about running CPAP in optimized idle equipped trucks. Voltage drop during the starting cycle will scramble compliance data. Operating on battery alone can also scramble compliance data with drained batteries in cold weather. If a 12-V power cord is not available, you will need to use a 12-V DC – 110V AC power inverter. Check with the CPAP manufacturer about pure versus modified sine wave power. Most inverters sold at truck stops create modified sine wave power. Pure sine wave power inverters are available for running electronics in 12-V systems. The number one CPAP failure problem encountered with truck drivers is improper power supply to the CPAP.
Wattage needs for inverters will vary with pressure and amount of humidification. Use a wattage capacity inverters and battery capacity for a worst case scenario. Inverters are more efficient when not run at or near their wattage capacity. In general a 400 Watt inverter properly wired directly to the truck’s battery with a low voltage cut out is the best way to go.
Heat and Humidification
Using heat and humidity greatly changes the electrical requirements. Some drivers on CPAPs do not need heated humidified air and others do. While pass over humidification can help, most drivers find they need heated humidified air to tolerate CPAP on a long terms basis. There are prepackaged sterile saline nasal sprays that you can use. Large volume nasal irrigation is not practical in an over the road situation. Without heated humidified air it feels like someone took a bottle cleaning brush and ran it up and down through your nose.
Turning the heat-humidification up too high can cause condensation to form in the CPAP hose. Called “rain out” getting a slug of water blown up your nose in the middle of the night is not pleasant. You can insulate the supply hose with either homemade or commercial insulating sleeves
Learning to balance enough heat-humidification to not get “bottle brush nose” with not having too much and causing “rain out” is part of learning to adjust to long term CPAP use.
Reasonable Climate Control in the Cab
Even with heat and humidity you can get a large amount of cold air blown directly into your lungs. This quantity of air can overwhelm your body’s ability to preheat the air. I have woken up shivering uncontrollably with hypothermia when trying to sleep in an unheated cab on a CPAP. Using a CPAP in an unheated sleeper below 55 degrees risks CPAP induced hypothermia.
The same problem happens with using a CPAP in very hot cab conditions. The larger than normal quantities of hot air blown down your airway can overwhelm your body’s ability to cool itself.
Where to Place the CPAP
You need to keep the CPAP water chamber below the level of your head. A rare but possible complication is drowning when the CPAP is placed higher than your head and it is accidentally pulled over. With team drivers the situation of the water sloshing in the humidification chamber while your partner drives is also an issue. Water in the chamber can be forced into the supply tube, blown down your lungs causing drowning.
Setting up a loop in the hose with some bungee cords to prevent this is a simple but common sense precaution.
Maintenance, Cleaning, & Spare Parts
There will be a filter on the air intake for the blower. This filter needs to be replaced or cleaned on a regular basis. Be ready to “fight” with your durable medical equipment provider (the people you get your CPAP from) if they are not used to over the road truckers. You will go through many more filters than a normal CPAP user. Clean and replace the filters on your trucks HVAC system on a more frequent schedule and do your best to practice good housekeeping to keep down dust in the cab
Use distilled water in the humidification chamber. Dump out any water remaining in the humidification chamber in the morning. Tap water will over time leave mineral build ups in the humidification chamber. It also can result in excess bacteriological growth in the humidification chamber water. Normal tap water may have a couple of little “bugs” swimming around in it. Our bodies can tolerate this. But taking tap water, putting it in a jug, letting it sit in a truck for a couple of days, then putting it in a nice warm humidification chamber that is not hot enough to kill off the little bugs is just looking for trouble.
You also need to regularly clean your mask and supply tube. Check the manufacturer’s information on the methods and types of cleaning products they suggest. I take my CPAP mask and supply tube into the shower with me. I have a rig not unlike a shotgun cleaning kit to swab out the inside of the mask and supply tube. If you don’t clean your mask and tube regularly you will find “funky” things growing inside them.
Plan to carry an extension cord, spare mask, supply tube, filters, and humidification chamber. Checking into a motel on the road and finding the only plug is on the wall opposite the bed is a nightmare.
I would again like to thank Bob Stanton for the above first-hand information. In next month’s blog, anti-idling laws, The Americans with Disabilities Act, and CPAP use will be discussed.
, Trucking Life