Thumbnail image of: CPAP Machine: Illustration

CPAP Machine

What is a CPAP machine?

A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine uses pressure to send air into your nose and throat and keeps your airway open. It helps you breathe better while you sleep.

When is it used?

A CPAP machine is used to help treat obstructive sleep apnea. During normal sleep, throat muscles relax. If you have sleep apnea, Your airway closes down when this happens. The closing of your airway slows or stops the movement of air, and the amount of oxygen in your blood drops. The drop in oxygen causes your brain to send a signal for you to wake up and start breathing again. This cycle of not breathing and then waking up to breathe may happen as often as 50 or more times an hour. This condition may also cause you to snore loudly.

The pressurized air from the CPAP machine keeps your airway open when your throat muscles relax, and makes it easier for you to keep breathing while you sleep.

The benefits of using a CPAP machine are:

  • You will have more restful sleep and be less tired during the day.
  • You will stop snoring or will snore less.
  • You will lower your risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.

How does it work?

The CPAP machine has 3 main parts:

  • A mask or other device that fits over your nose, or over your nose and mouth. Straps keep the mask in place while you sleep.
  • A tube that connects the mask to the machine.
  • A motor that blows air into the tube.

It may also have a heated humidifier.

Whether you need a CPAP, and how much pressure you need from the machine, is determined by a sleep study. The sleep study may be done in 1 or 2 nights, either in a sleep lab or in your home. It can measure how many times a night you stop breathing.

Possible problems with using a CPAP machine are:

  • You may need to try several masks to find one that is comfortable for you.
  • You may not like the feeling of the forced air or the air may be cold.
  • The machine may be noisy.
  • You may get a dry mouth, stuffy or runny nose, or a sore throat.

How do I get a CPAP machine?

There are several types of CPAP machines. Your sleep specialist can advise:

  • Which machine will work best for you
  • How many hours per night you should use it
  • How to use it

If you need a CPAP machine, you should contact your health insurance to see what type of machine your insurance will cover. CPAP machines can be bought at a medical supply store, online, or through a sleep specialist’s office.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-05-29
Last reviewed: 2014-05-28
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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