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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:
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 non-surgical treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. It is the first treatment choice for adults and the most widely used.
CPAP is effective for treating 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.
For best results, keep the machine clean. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning the equipment.
The machines are expensive. Check to see if your provincial health plan or private insurance covers the cost. 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. If you feel like you want to stop using CPAP for any reason, talk to your doctor. There may be other treatment options for you.
Health Canada 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.
CitationsLam B, et al. (2007). Randomised study of three non-surgical treatments in mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnoea. Thorax, 62(4): 354–359.Giles TL, et al. (2006). Continuous positive airways pressure for obstructive sleep apnoea in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (3).Hensley M, Ray C (2009). Sleep apnoea, search date May 2008. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.Weaver TE, et al. (2012). Continuous positive airway pressure treatment of sleepy patients with milder obstructive sleep apnea: Results of the CPAP Apnea Trial North American Program (CATNAP) randomized clinical trial. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 186(7): 677–683.Bouloukaki I, et al. (2014). Intensive versus standard follow-up to improve continuous positive airway pressure compliance. European Respiratory Journal, 44(5): 1262–1274. DOI: 10.1183/09031936.00021314. Accessed February 5, 2015.Barbe F, et al. (2010). Long-term effect of continuous positive airway pressure in hypertensive patients with sleep apnea. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 181(7): 718–726.Marin JM, et al. (2012). Association between treated and untreated obstructive sleep apnea and risk of hypertension. JAMA, 307(20): 2169–2176.
Adaptation Date: 8/18/2021
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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