Continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) uses a machine to help a person who has obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) breathe more easily during sleep. A CPAP machine increases air pressure in your throat so that your airway doesn't collapse when you breathe in. When you use CPAP, your bed partner may sleep better too.
You use CPAP at home every night while you sleep. The CPAP machine will have one of the following:
See a picture of CPAP.
It may take time for you to become comfortable with using CPAP. If you can't get used to it, talk to your doctor. You might be able to try another type of mask or make other adjustments.
CPAP is the most effective nonsurgical treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. It is the first treatment choice and the most widely used.
Overall, CPAP is effective for moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea:
Problems that may occur with CPAP include:
Nosebleeds are a rare complication of CPAP.
You can expect mild discomfort in the morning when you first start using CPAP. Talk with your doctor if you don't feel comfortable after a few days.
You may be able to limit or stop some of the side effects:
When you are using CPAP, you need to see your doctor or sleep specialist regularly. You may also need more sleep studies to adjust the CPAP machine and check whether the treatment is working.
The machines are expensive. You may be able to rent a CPAP machine before you buy it. In some cases, you may be able to rent-to-own a CPAP machine. BiPAP and APAP machines are usually more expensive than CPAP machines.
The most common problem with CPAP is that people don't use the machine every night. Or they take off the mask during the night because it becomes uncomfortable. Even one night of not using the machine can make you sleepy the next day.
You might not use the machine daily, or you might even stop using it because:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved some brands of portable CPAP machines. You may be able to take a smaller CPAP machine on vacations or other types of trips.
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Last Revised: January 20, 2012
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