What Is A Cpap Machine?

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation


Everything you need to know about this sleep apnea treatment.


After being diagnosed with sleep apnea, there’s a chance that your doctor may give you a CPAP machine as a form of treatment. It's a little more unusual than, say, popping a pill, so understanding how it works may answer any questions that you might have and/or ease any concerns.

Q: What is a CPAP Machine?

A: CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. The machines help people with sleep apnea breathe more easily and regularly every night while they are sleeping. A CPAP machine increases the air pressure in your throat to prevent your airway from collapsing when you inhale. It also decreases snoring (which will help your partner snooze better at night, too!). The machine has a filter and small tank of water, which essentially works as a humidifier. There is a tube that connects the unit to a mask that you place over your face while you sleep, and a chin strap keeps it in place.

Q: What Type of CPAP Machine Will I Get?

A: Most have a mask that covers your nose and mouth, but other options include a mask that covers only your nose (called nasal continuous positive airway pressure, a.k.a. NCPAP), or prongs that fit into your nose. After your doctor prescribes CPAP, a home equipment provider will help you select the best option, and your doctor will decide the right machine settings. Your doctor may also recommend undergoing an overnight sleep study in a lab to help determine what, exactly, you will need from your CPAP machine. Adjustments can be made until you feel comfortable in it.

Q: What are the Benefits of Using a CPAP Machine?

A: Well, it's the most effective nonsurgical treatment for sleep apnea, and it’s also the most popular. With use over time, it reduces daytime sleepiness, lowers blood pressure during the day and night, and reduces heart problems for those with heart disease.

Q: Are There any Side Effects?

A: Using a CPAP machine can potentially lead to a dry nose and sore throat, increased dreaming and nightmares, abdominal bloating, nasal congestion, sneezing, and irritation on the skin and in the eyes. It can also simply take time to simply feel comfortable sleeping with a mask on your face. However, if you don't treat sleep apnea, the condition can have serious and sometimes fatal complications, including high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and car accidents due to drowsy driving. So be sure to weigh all the pros and cons with your doctor.