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Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) 

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or CPAP (pronounced “see – pap”) is a treatment used for breathing problems where mild air pressure flows constantly into the patient’s mouth and/or nose to keep airways open. A machine works in conjunction with a mask to provide a stream of air while the patient sleeps.

Conditions Treated with CPAP

CPAP is considered the gold standard of therapy for obstructive sleep apnea, where a patient suffers from repeated episodes of stopped breathing, and startling or gasping for air during sleep. CPAP can also be used for premature infants with underdeveloped lungs.

How It Works

A CPAP machine consists of a mask that fits over only the nose or the nose and mouth. The machine is electrically powered. Tubing attaches the machine to the mask. The patient wears the CPAP mask when going to sleep, and the machine emits a stream of constant air pressure that prevents the collapse of airways during sleep.

What to Expect

It may take some time to get used to the feeling of the mask and the airflow. You may remove the mask in the middle of the night without realizing it. With consistent use, most patients become accustomed to the feeling and it does not interfere with comfortable sleep. You may wake up with a dry mouth and nose. This can be alleviated with a nasal saline spray at bedtime.

Benefits of Treatment

  • You may immediately notice a decrease in daytime sleepiness, and an increased feeling of alertness
  • Lack of snoring from partially-obstructed airways can help you and your partner to sleep better
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • A decrease in the incidence of serious conditions associated with sleep apnea, such as heart disease, stroke, and depression


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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit