What is a CPAP Machine?

If you are wondering what is a CPAP machine, you’re not alone – most people only become aware of these machines when they or someone they know have to get one.

In sleep apnea patients, breathing is interrupted during sleep which deprives the brain and body of oxygen.

As the brain and body become more oxygen deprived, normal sleep cycles are disturbed when you fall out of restorative deep sleep into a lighter sleep.

The goal of CPAP therapy is to apply mild air pressure to keep breathing airways open for better oxygen flow and more restful sleep.

CPAP machines are used to maintain positive airway pressure which prevents the throat from collapsing during sleep.

This treatment is currently the gold standard for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea.

So, what is a CPAP machine?

It consists of three things:

  • a motor to blow air
  • a mask with straps that fits over your nose or both mouth & nose
  • a tube to connect the blower to the mask
What is a CPAP Machine - Picture showing the basic machine parts

Curious about how these machines work?  Learn more here.

How do you get a CPAP machine?

To get a CPAP machine, you will first need to be diagnosed for a sleep-related breathing disorder by a doctor.  Diagnosis can involve a review of medical and family histories, risk factors, and a physical exam.  (Get a quick overview of how sleep disorders are diagnosed here.)

If you have symptoms of sleep apnea, your doctor will refer you for a polysomnogram (PSG), an overnight sleep test that is used to confirm sleep apnea.  It tracks brain activity, heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen, air movement, and snoring.

Once your diagnosis is confirmed, your doctor can prescribe CPAP therapy.  There are different types of CPAP setups, so your doctor and a technician from a medical device company will work together to find a setup that works best for you.

The machine will be setup with pressure settings prescribed by your doctor.  However, these settings may be fine-tuned over time depending on your comfort and how well your sleep apnea responds.

There may be growing pains as you get use to sleeping with your CPAP setup.  You may have to try different masks, adjust the machine settings, or try a different CPAP machine.

Senior Adult Man adjusting CPAP headgear in Bed

Some people see improvements right away such as less snoring and better sleep quality.  For others, it may take longer to get used to a CPAP machine or see improvements.  However, the time and effort is often worth it given the many life-changing health benefits.

CPAP machines are expensive but are covered by most health insurance providers if your symptoms have been documented by a doctor.  You can learn more about Medicare coverage here.

If you are unable to get a CPAP machine through medical coverage, you may be able to rent one or in some cases rent-to-own.

Need more options? 

Check here to learn about how to get a free sleep screening, a free or discounted overnight sleep study, and discounted CPAP equipment.

Pros and cons with balance scales

What are the advantages and disadvantages of CPAP?

CPAP has many advantages including life-changing health benefits:

  • most effective non-surgical treatment for sleep apnea
  • reduced snoring
  • more restful sleep
  • improved daytime alertness and concentration
  • reduced health risks for heart diseases, stroke, and diabetes
  • improved mood

Common problems may include:

  • machine noise
  • mask irritation of eyes or skin for some people
  • side effects which may include congestion, runny nose, dry mouth, or nosebleeds
  • excessive gas or bloating
  • some patients cannot tolerate CPAP and abandon it over time

Many of these problems can be remedied with equipment adjustments, off the shelf or over-the-counter products, or with accessories such as a humidifier.

For more in depth information about common CPAP problems, go here.

Recap:  What is a CPAP machine?

  • A machine used to treat sleep breathing disorders
  • It consists of a motor, hose, and air-breathing mask
  • It’s currently the gold standard for treating obstructive sleep apnea

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Important:  BetterSleepSimplified.com is for informational purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Always consult a physician for sleep and health concerns.  See additional information.

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