A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine is one of the most common treatments for sleep apnea. It keeps your airways open while you sleep so you can receive the oxygen you need for optimal function. CPAP machines can significantly improve sleep quality and reduce your risk for a number of health issues, including heart disease and stroke.
A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine is used in the treatment of sleep apnea. This device delivers continuous pressurized air through tubing into a mask that you wear while you sleep.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
CPAP machines are used to treat both obstructive and central sleep apnea. In both disorders, your breathing is interrupted during the sleep cycle. This can occur hundreds of times in a single night, leading to a lack of oxygen and a higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other health concerns. A CPAP machine helps keep your airways open by delivering continuous air through your nose and mouth.
A CPAP machine is just one type of PAP (positive airway pressure) device. While CPAP is the most common among these machines, there are other types as well. These include:
There are a few different types of masks available. The kind that’s best for you depends on your comfort level, breathing habits and the type of sleep apnea you have. CPAP mask types include:
A CPAP machine takes in room air, then filters and pressurizes it before delivering it through a tube and into your mask. The continuous flow of air gently keeps your tongue, uvula and soft palate from shifting too far into your airway. This stabilizes your breathing and improves your overall sleep quality.
Keeping your CPAP machine clean helps you avoid bacteria and mold exposure. For optimal hygiene, you should clean your tubing, mask and water chamber daily. If this isn’t possible, make an effort to clean your CPAP machine at least once a week. You should always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning your CPAP machine, but here are some general guidelines:
Note: Don’t use external cleaning devices that aren’t included in the manufacturer’s instructions, as many of these products haven’t been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
CPAP machines prevent breathing interruptions caused by sleep apnea. These devices also eliminate harmful sleep apnea side effects. Notable CPAP machine benefits include:
It may take time for you to become accustomed to your CPAP machine. Some people find them cumbersome or uncomfortable. Drawbacks include:
As you get used to your CPAP machine, most of these side effects will diminish. If your device feels uncomfortable, ask your healthcare provider about different mask or equipment options.
Yes. While CPAP machines are the most common sleep apnea treatment, there are other alternatives. These include:
People with sleep apnea may not realize they have the condition because so many symptoms occur during slumber. However, your partner may hear you snoring or gasping for air during your sleep cycle. You may also notice tiredness, morning headaches, insomnia, dry mouth or irritability. If you experience any of these symptoms, schedule a consultation with your healthcare provider. They can help determine if a CPAP machine is right for you.
Yes. Though CPAP machines are safe and pose little risk for abuse, a formal prescription from your healthcare provider is necessary for purchase.
Overall, CPAP machines last approximately five years. However, masks will need to be replaced several times a year. Additionally, your headgear, tubing, filters, humidifier chamber should be checked routinely and replaced when necessary.
While older CPAP models were noisy, newer ones are especially quiet. In fact, the average CPAP noise output is rated at 30dB (decibel) — which is about as loud as raindrops or a whisper.
Research shows that CPAP machines are incredibly effective in the treatment of sleep apnea. CPAP is often the first line of defense against the condition because it yields excellent results.
There is no indication that CPAP can damage your lungs. Some people report a burning sensation in their lungs following CPAP use. However, this is usually the result of inhaling cold, dry air. To correct this problem, use warm humidified air instead.
CPAP machines and ventilators both help people breathe better. However, these two devices cannot be used interchangeably. Unlike a CPAP machine, a ventilator is used to treat people who are in intensive care situations. Ventilators push air in and out of the lungs through a tube, which is inserted in the mouth or nose.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
CPAP machines are one of the leading treatments for sleep apnea. Left untreated, sleep apnea can have a negative impact on your health and quality of life. If you have symptoms of sleep apnea, such as daytime tiredness, loud snoring or interrupted sleep, talk to your healthcare provider about your options. A CPAP machine could offer significant benefits for your overall wellbeing.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/09/2021.
Learn more about our editorial process.