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Do CPAP Machines Really Work?

If you have sleep apnea or know someone who does, chances are you’ve heard of a CPAP machine. CPAP stands for “continuous positive airway pressure,” and it’s designed to keep your airway open while you sleep. People with sleep apnea stop breathing temporarily during the night because their airway closes off. A CPAP machine prevents that from happening.

Though using a CPAP machine remedies the many health issues that come along with sleep apnea, it does take some effort on the front end. Finding the right settings, choosing the right accessories, getting used to sleeping with the mask on — it definitely takes some adjustment. It’s an investment of your time in the short term for the long-term goal of better health. Understandably, if you’re considering using a CPAP, you’ll want to know if it will be worth it.

To find out whether a CPAP machine is likely to be effective for you, we can observe how successful it has been for others with your same condition.

CPAP therapy is by far the most effective non-invasive sleep apnea treatment.

CPAP therapy has shown to be entirely successful when the patient is able to follow the treatment plan fully. The problem is that patients often struggle to persevere through the uncomfortable adjustment period.

“The gold-standard treatment for sleep apnea is the CPAP machine. If you can wear it, it’s 100% effective. If you can sleep with a CPAP machine, it can provide a 100% correction,” says Dr. Katherine Green, sleep apnea expert and medical director of the Sleep Medicine Clinic at the University of Colorado Hospital.1

Unfortunately, the adherence rates for people using CPAP machines are not nearly as high. Studies show that about 30-50% of people prescribed CPAP therapy either abandon the treatment or never actually fill the prescription.2 Of course, a CPAP cannot be effective if it is not used properly or consistently.

CPAP machines are largely successful for people who stick with it.

For people who struggle to use a CPAP machine consistently, there are several ways to make adjustments and keep trying, including:

  • Adjusting mask size
  • Adjusting air pressure
  • Utilizing the ramp feature to gradually increase pressure
  • Trying a nose-only mask 
  • Practicing wearing the mask during the day (i.e. while watching T.V.)

Finding the right combination of pressure, mask size, mask style and other contributing factors may take time, but if you persevere, a CPAP can be life-changing.

Patrick Gaertner is one of those people. After unknowingly suffering from severe sleep apnea for years, the CPAP machine improved his sleep literally overnight.

“This is changing my life. I was having to use sleeping pills every night. I don’t need anything and I have a little app on my phone that gives me results. I sleep soundly every night. I’m a lot more alert. I’m not dragging anymore,” he told UCHealth.

For most people with sleep apnea, a CPAP can allow for a drastic improvement in quality of life if they are able to adjust to the treatment.


 1 UCHealth, The benefits of CPAP for sleep apnea include better sleep and less snoring 
 2 Kaiser Health News, I’m A CPAP Dropout: Why Many Lose Sleep Over Apnea Treatment 

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