What is a CPAP Breathing Machine?

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  • Written By: Emma Lloyd
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2018
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A CPAP breathing machine is a piece of equipment which is used to manage sleep apnea symptoms. Sleep apnea is a common breathing disorder that can potentially lead to serious health problems if left untreated. By using a CPAP breathing machine, a person with sleep apnea can avoid the harmful consequences of the disorder.

The CPAP breathing machine is used by people with chronic obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder which causes airways to close up during sleep. People with obstructive sleep apnea stop breathing while sleeping. When breathing stops the individual is suddenly jolted awake, gasping for air. People with sleep apnea often do not remember these episodes, but instead experience chronic fatigue that they have no explanation for. Over time, sleep apnea can increase the risk of hypertension, heart failure, heart attack, and stroke.

Obstructive sleep apnea may be caused by obesity, or by factors which have nothing to with weight, such as a physically smaller airway. CPAP machines can be used as a treatment for sleep apnea in either situation. By using a CPAP machine, a person with sleep apnea ensures he or she has a continuous supply of oxygen while sleeping.


CPAP is short for continuous positive airway pressure. This machine provides a continuous supply of air which is positively pressurized, which keeps the airways open. Many CPAP machines are adjustable so the amount of pressure can be modified to suit the needs of the person using the machine. Some machines can even sense the pressure needs of the individual as they sleep and adjust accordingly.

The machine includes a CPAP mask connected via a long tube to the machine itself. Within the machine unit is a motorized air pump to provide pressurized air, as well as an air filter and a humidifier. The filter removes air impurities to ensure a supply of clean air, while the CPAP humidifier adds moisture to the air to prevent the mouth and throat drying out during sleep.

People using a CPAP machine to manage sleep apnea have a number of options for CPAP masks. The three most common options are a nasal mask, a nasal pillow mask, and a full face mask. The CPAP nasal mask is the first mask most people will try, and is a half-mask which fits over the nose, leaving the mouth unobstructed. People who sleep on their front or side may have better results with a nasal pillow mask, which fits more snugly around the nostrils than a traditional nasal mask. The full face mask, which covers the mouth as well as the nose, improves the efficacy of the CPAP unit, as it prevents pressurized air escaping from the sides of the mask.

A prescription is required to obtain a CPAP machine, so anyone who suspects they have sleep apnea or another sleep disorder should consult their doctor about treatment. When a CPAP machine has been prescribed, the individual can work with a provider to choose a unit. In most cases, the benefits of using a CPAP breathing machine will be felt within a few days of beginning treatment.


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Post 1

will the cpap be useful when breathing problems are there during the waking period of a person, or is it helpful only during sleep.

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