Starting CPAP therapy for sleep apnoea
If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnoea you might be anxious about your health or about starting CPAP therapy. Try not to worry: treating your sleep apnoea is a great investment in your health and happiness and plenty of help is available. Let’s get started!
What are the benefits of CPAP therapy?
The benefits of effective CPAP therapy for sleep apnoea include a more positive mood1, more daytime energy2 and a lower risk of accidents3 . Remember: to enjoy the benefits, you should use your CPAP device every night, for as many hours as possible4.
How does CPAP therapy work?
CPAP is an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). During CPAP therapy, you wear a mask over your nose and/or mouth. While you sleep, your CPAP device delivers a steady flow of pressurised air through the mask. This treatment keeps your upper airway open and limits the number of apnoeas, hypopneas and arousals that would otherwise disturb your sleep. Instead of CPAP therapy, you might be prescribed APAP or BiPAP therapy (scroll down for details). APAP and BiPAP work in a similar way to CPAP but the flow of pressurised air is variable rather than constant.
Which CPAP mask should I choose?
Your mask is a really important piece of CPAP equipment. It needs to:
So you’re happy wearing it night after night
So air doesn’t leak out and reduce the quality of your therapy
So it doesn’t shift if you move in your sleep
Be easy to put on and take off
Especially if you often need to get up during the night
Match your lifestyle
So you can read, wear glasses, chat or cuddle with your partner if you wish
A mask that’s badly fitting, uncomfortable or impractical could make your therapy less effective and stop you enjoying the benefits of treatment. Take the time to find the right CPAP mask for you and don’t be afraid to ask your doctor or sleep technician for help trying out different options.
What if I struggle to adjust to CPAP therapy?
Some people struggle to adjust to CPAP therapy: it’s a significant lifestyle change. Take your time to get used to therapy and don’t give up. Using sleep apnoea treatment regularly each night could have a really positive impact on your health and wellbeing. Here are our suggestions for making the experience a little easier:
Optimise your experience
Find ways to make CPAP easier, more convenient and more ‘you’. Practical accessories, travel solutions and even small things like a different style of mask strap can make a difference.
Visit our support section
If you’re struggling with a specific problem, why not visit our support pages to see if you can find a solution?
Ask for help
Your doctor or sleep therapist might be able to adjust your device or your mask to make it more comfortable. Find your local sleep clinic. They’ll probably be glad to help you adjust your equipment and make the most of your treatment.
Ask about an MRD
If CPAP just isn’t your thing, ask your doctor about an effective alternative treatment such as the Narval MRD. Learn more about MRD therapy here.
Sleep apnoea therapies
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): an effective and commonly used treatment for OSA. A CPAP machine delivers a steady flow of pressurised air, via a mask over your nose and/or mouth, to prevent your upper airway from collapsing or constricting during sleep. This enables you to benefit from sleep that is undisturbed by apnoeas, hypopneas and arousals. CPAP machines have one pressure setting that remains consistent throughout the night. For greater comfort, many models offer a ramp feature that starts with a lower pressure setting and gradually builds to the prescribed pressure.
Automatic positive airway pressure (APAP): similar to CPAP, but APAP machines vary their pressure setting to reflect changes in your breathing. CPAP delivers a continuous flow of air at a steady pressure but an APAP machine uses algorithms to automatically deliver a pressure level that is optimised for your needs at that time.
BiLevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP or BPAP): similar to CPAP, but BiPAP machines offer different pressure settings for inhalation and exhalation, among other features. The dual settings make it easier for some people to exhale fully and also makes BiPAP a more suitable choice for treating people with certain medical conditions.
Oral appliances: devices that can be used to treat mild or moderate obstructive sleep apnoea as well as snoring. One popular type of oral appliance, a mandibular repositioning device (MRD), works by moving the lower jaw forward slightly. This tightens the soft tissue and muscles of the upper airway to prevent obstruction of the airway during sleep and reduce vibration, a common cause of snoring. Oral appliances look similar to a sports mouth guard and are custom fitted to your mouth by a dentist.
- McEvoy, R.D., et al., CPAP for Prevention of Cardiovascular Events in Obstructive Sleep Apnea. N Engl J Med, 2016. 375(10): p. 919-31.
- Wimms, A.J., et al., Continuous positive airway pressure versus standard care for the treatment of people with mild obstructive sleep apnoea (MERGE): a multicentre, randomised controlled trial. Lancet Respir Med, 2019.
- Findley L, Smith C, Hooper J, Dineen M, Suratt PM. Treatment with nasal CPAP decreases automobile accidents in patients with sleep apnea. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2000;161: 857-9.
4. Weaver, T.E. and R.R. Grunstein, Adherence to continuous positive airway pressure therapy: the challenge to effective treatment. Proc Am Thorac Soc, 2008. 5(2): p. 173-8