What is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy?

If you are reading this article then you are probably doing some preliminary research in treatment options for sleep apnea. You have probably heard about CPAP therapy but you have no idea exactly how it works. This article is a brief but extremely detailed outline on CPAP therapy that will help you have a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of CPAP therapy as a treatment regimen for sleep apnea.

What is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy?

This is a common and highly recommended treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. It involves the use of a CPAP machine which is a small device that supplies steady and constant air pressure. This machine also features a mask or nose piece and a hose.

Step by step guideline on how the CPAP machine work in treating obstructive sleep apnea

In a nutshell what the continuous positive airway pressure machine does is gently blowing pressurized air to a patient’s airway at a consistent pressure; this keeps the airway from blocking. Contrary to common misconception, CPAP machines are not complicated, they are actually very basic and extremely easy to use.

These three main parts of the CPAP device will help you understand how it works in relieving sleep apnea;

  1. CPAP motor

    This is essentially a small compressor that draws in room temperature air then slowly and gently pressurizes this air to deliver a perfect amount of pressure that a patient needs to clear an obstruction and keep the airway open throughout the night.

    The air intake portion of the CPAP device features a replaceable filter that effectively screens out impurities and particulates. Newer models feature a built in humidifiers that are suitable for patients residing in arid and dry climates. These small motors are extremely quiet and barely register a noticeable sound above a whisper.

  2. CPAP hose

    This is simply a device that transports pressurized air from the CPAP motor to the mask. While the standard length of a CPAP hose is 6 feet, the diameter varies depending on the brand.

  3. CPAP mask

    The masks come in a variety of shapes and sizes because every individual has unique needs and specifications. While the shapes and sizes may vary to fit different preferences and face shapes, they are typically three mask types in the market; full face masks, nasal pillow masks and nasal masks. Finding the right mask for you is dependent on personal preference and level of comfort. The last thing any patient with sleep apnea needs is a mask they dread wearing.

How patients get set up with a CPAP machine

CPAP therapy is a systematic treatment regimen that begins with a polysomnogram (sleep study) conducted by an expert at a sleep clinic. The results of the sleep study help the specialist understand the severity of your condition so that they can recommend the best treatment options.

CPAP Machine

CPAP Machine

If ascertained that the CPAP device is the best treatment option then a the specialist will most likely conduct a follow up sleep titration study wearing different CPAP masks so that the specialist ascertains the specific air pressure needed to clear your airway without causing any discomfort or disturbance.

In order to relieve sleep apnea, you will need to wear the machine on a nightly basis. If you discontinue use then be sure that your symptoms will return immediately. Using the CPAP machine is not a permanent cure but rather a therapy making compliance essential in getting you treated.

Pros of CPAP therapy

  1.  Patients who begin using CPAP therapy begin to experience positive results immediately. Some of the positive results you will experience instantly include;
    •  Elimination of breathing obstructions and snoring
    •  Quality of sleep will improve significantly
    •  Reversal of detrimental health complications such as stroke and other cardiovascular ailments
    •  A boost in alertness during the day
    •  Significant reduction in drowsiness during the day
  2. The CPAP sleep apnea machine is effective because it is preferable than other nonsurgical method since the results are instant and have no detrimental or irreversible side effects that can further complicate a patient’s health.
  3. Reliable research has ascertained that CPAP therapy is very effective in lowering blood pressure in persons with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea.



Although CPAP therapy is very effective, it does not come without its own set of frustrations. Some of the cons include;

  1.  Some patients experience nosebleeds during early use but this is very rare
  2.  There have been reports of sneezing, nasal congestion, sore throat, dry nose and even nasal congestion
  3.  If not well-fitted, the leaks around the mask can result in discomfort and inefficiency
  4.  It takes some time to get accustomed to wearing the mask so patients can expect some mild discomfort in the morning. Talk to your doctor if the discomfort is too much or if it persists for too long because you should be able to get used to the mask after some time.


Although it has its own set of frustrations, CPAP therapy is a reliable and effective treatment regimen for obstructive sleep apnea