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What To Expect While Using CPAP

CPAP is a long-term treatment. Many people have questions when they first start using CPAP.

Talk with your sleep specialist about how to handle followup questions. He or she can answer some questions, but your home equipment provider may need to address others. Ask your sleep specialist to recommend a home equipment provider that has a lot of experience with CPAP.

To achieve the full benefits of CPAP, use it every time you sleep—during naps and at night. Most people should use CPAP for at least 7.5 hours each night for the best results.

The CPAP Machine

Adjusting to the CPAP machine can take time. You may feel strange wearing a mask on your face at night or feeling the flow of air. Some people feel confined by the mask. If you feel this way, slowly adjusting to the mask may help.

First, hold the mask up to your face for short periods during the day. Next, try wearing it with the straps for short periods. Then, add the hose.

Breathing with a machine doesn't feel natural. If your machine has a "ramp" feature, you can use it to slowly "ramp up" from a lower air pressure to the pressure that's needed to keep your airways open during sleep. Once you're comfortable using CPAP during the day, try using it at night while you sleep.

Relaxation exercises help some people adjust to using CPAP. Talk with your doctor about whether relaxation exercises might help you.

If you're having trouble adjusting to the mask or the CPAP machine, contact your home equipment provider. Your provider may have staff who can help you adjust to CPAP. Also, you may want to try a different mask that has fewer straps or less contact with your skin.

Followup Care

Your sleep specialist may ask you to schedule a followup visit about a month after you begin using CPAP. He or she will want to see how well you are adjusting to treatment. After that, you may have followup care every 6 or 12 months.

Your sleep specialist might need to adjust the air pressure setting of your CPAP machine if:

  • You gain or lose a lot of weight
  • Your symptoms, such as daytime sleepiness, persist or recur
  • You have another treatment for sleep apnea, such as upper airway surgery or a mouthpiece

Benefits of CPAP

CPAP has many benefits. It can:

  • Keep your airway open while you sleep
  • Correct snoring so others in your household can sleep
  • Improve your quality of sleep
  • Relieve sleep apnea symptoms, such as excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Decrease or prevent high blood pressure

With CPAP, you may fall asleep faster and wake fewer times during the night. The pauses in breathing that are typical with sleep apnea won't disrupt your sleep.

Studies also show that treatment with CPAP is linked to a decrease in reported car accidents and near accidents. Some studies have shown that CPAP improves reaction time, concentration, and memory in people who use the treatment.

Many people who use CPAP report feeling better once they begin treatment. They feel more attentive and better able to work during the day. They also report fewer complaints from bed partners about snoring and sleep disruption.

You may feel better after the first night of using CPAP. You may wake feeling refreshed, alert, and in a better mood. You also may feel less tired during the day.

However, it can take a week to a month to adjust to CPAP. Some people have trouble falling asleep when they first start using CPAP. This problem usually is short term and goes away as you adjust to the treatment.

Even if you don't notice a change right away, stick with the treatment. The benefits are worthwhile. Once you adjust to using CPAP, you'll sleep better.

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December 13, 2011 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.

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