How Does A CPAP Machine Work?

Do you experience breathing pauses or interruptions during sleep that frequently wake you up at night, leaving you tired and uncomfortable? If you are, you may have the symptoms of a condition called sleep apnea, which is caused by the airways becoming too relaxed and narrow during sleep. Millions of Americans experience obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) considered the first-line treatment.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look on how CPAP actually works.

cpap machine

What Is A CPAP Machine?

A CPAP machine provides steady oxygen flow into the nose and mouth during sleep. CPAP machines keep the airways open to help a person breathe normally.

Patients can achieve the following benefits from using a CPAP machine:

  • Breathing comfortably at night
  • Better quality of sleep
  • Reduction in the risk of heart disease
  • Fewer instances of walking up due to breathing issues during sleep

How A CPAP Reduces Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Now that you know what a CPAP machine is and its benefits, it’s time to take a look how it addresses some of the factors the cause sleep apnea. This is how a CPAP machine does its job:

  • Negates Negative Pressure: During inhalation, the muscles and diaphragm between the chest ribs contract, which creates a vacuum or negative pressure inside the chest cavity. This negative pressure pulls the air a person breathes into the lungs. However, excessive negative pressure may cause sleep apnea, which can be reduced by using a CPAP machine.
  • Reduces Pressure OnThe Heart: According to research, OSA can increase a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular problems, like heart disease. CPAP machines can help reduce cardiac preload to lower blood pressure and decrease your likelihood of suffering from heart problems.
  • Supports Respiratory Pump: The muscles that make up the respiratory pumps includes the rib cage muscles, the diaphragm, and the abdominal muscles. When there is excessive pressure in the lungs, the respiratory pump is greatly challenged during sleep, causing sleep apnea. A CPAP machine helps to support your respiratory pump, allowing you to sleep sound at night.

 How CPAP Machines Work

CPAP machines work through the following steps:

  • The compressor of a CPAP machine generates pressurized air in a continuous stream.
  • The pressurized air travels through a flexible tube’s air filter, delivering purified air into a sealed mask through the nose or mouth.
  • The CPAP machine’s stream of air pushes against respiratory blockages to open the airways, helping the lungs to receive plenty of oxygen.
  • Breathing will not pause because the flow of oxygen is unobstructed, which prevents repeated awakening at night.

CPAP Machine FAQs

  1. What is included in a CPAP machine?

CPAP devices are composed of a motor, a cushioned mask, a headgear frame, a tube connecting the mask and the motor, adjustable straps for a customized fit, and elbow pieces (which act as joints). It is advisable to talk to your doctor before buying a new CPAP device. Your healthcare provider will confirm the right settings of targeted oxygen to be provided by the CPAP machine before bringing it home.

  1. What are the different mask types applicable for CPAP devices?

There are different mask styles suitable for CPAP machines, including nasal mask, nasal pillow mask, and full mask. The choice of mask depends on the person’s breathing habits, comfort level wearing the mask, and the type of sleep apnea. Nasal pillow masks have a small cushion and prongs capped over the nostril area. It allows easy wearing of glasses. Full masks cover the mouth and nose, which is especially helpful for patients with severe symptoms.

  1. Where should you place a CPAP machine?

A good space for a CPAP machine should be close to an electrical outlet. The area must provide stable support for the CPAP base and allow the hose to reach the bed. The location should not obstruct your ability to turn on the CPAP machine, add water to the device humidifier, and open the filter.

  1. How do you attach the hose to the device?

The CPAP machine has a special hose connector that should attach and remain in place without considerable effort. Attach the mask to the hose at the other end, creating a tight connection before clicking it into place.

  1. How do you set up the CPAP machine humidifier?

Many CPAP devices have a humidifier built in, which prevents the air from drying out the mouth and throat. Fill the humidifier with distilled water to prevent mineral buildup that can result when tap water is used.

General Tips When Using CPAP Machines

Here are some helpful tips when using a CPAP machine:

  1. Make sure that the CPAP device is properly connected to the power cord before plugging it in the electrical outlet.
  2. Regardless of the mask, secure it in place using one or more straps going around the top and back of the head. Position the mask and pull the straps, adjusting and securing it in place. The mask must form a seal and not press deeply or pinch into the facial skin.
  3. If an air stream is heard while using the mask, it means that a secure seal has not been made. Adjust the mask to create a tighter seal.
  4. It can involve a little trial-and-error, but try to find a comfortable sleeping position while using the CPAP machine. It should not interfere with wearing the mask, nor the ability of the hose to deliver air.


A CPAP device works by countering excessive negative pressure in the lungs, supporting the respiratory pump and reducing heart workload. Using this machine, a targeted amount of air is delivered into the lungs, opening the airways and providing adequate oxygenation into the heart and the entire body.

Using a CPAP machine involves attaching a hose from the machine to a mask. The mask is sealed to the nose and mouth to avoid air from escaping. Consult your health care provider before buying one to ensure you are properly assessed for sleep apnea and to get expert advice on the best CPAP machine to buy.