CPAP Guide

What is CPAP?

patient sleeping in a sleep lab with a CPAP device

Your doctor has prescribed CPAP for you. CPAP (pronounced “see-pap”) is short for “continuous positive airway pressure.” CPAP systems consist of a flow generator, air tubing, and a mask. The flow generator pushes air through the tubing and nasal mask. The air passes through your nose and into your throat, where the slight pressure keeps your upper airway open.


Getting Started

  • Place the CPAP unit on a level surface (night stand) near your bed and close to a properly functioning electrical outlet.
  • DO NOT place the machine at a level higher than your head.
  • Keep the CPAP unit at least 12 inches away from any sources of airflow obstructions, such as drapes, bedspreads, papers, etc. Plug the unit into a properly functioning electrical outlet.
  • Attach one end of the 6 ft CPAP tubing to the outlet on the CPAP.
  • If using a humidifier, assemble as instructed by your representative and manufacturer guidelines, fill with distilled water (tap water can be used when distilled water is unavailable but over time will create mineral deposits on equipment and chlorine may be irritating); attach the CPAP tubing to the outlet of the humidifier.

Getting to Sleep

  • Wash your face. Properly adjust your mask and headgear to your face as instructed by your representative and manufacturer’s guidelines. Mask should be snug, small leaks are okay as long as the air does not blow in your eyes. DO NOT over-tighten your headgear.
  • Attach the other end of the CPAP tubing from the CPAP unit to the mask.
  • Turn the CPAP unit ON as instructed by your representative and manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • You will feel air coming through your mask. Breathe normally through your nose, keeping your mouth closed.
  • Check for leaks in your mask. Is air escaping into your eyes? Around your lips? Adjust mask if needed and activate the “Ramp”feature on your unit (if available). The ramp feature allows for a lower pressure to be delivered at the beginning, gradually “ramping” up to the prescribed pressure, allowing you to fall asleep easier against less pressure.

CPAP Steps

  1. Wear the CPAP mask or nasal pillows at home while awake in the evening and performing normal evening acitivities, for about one hour.
  2. Connect the mask and tubing to the CPAP machine. Turn on the machine and breathe through it at home and at rest, for one hour.
  3. Wear the entire CPAP apparatus for a scheduled one hour nap.
  4. Wear the entire CPAP apparatus for 4 to 5 hours of sleep each night.
  5. Use CPAPfor your entire night’s sleep.

CPAP Usage

  1. Be patient with the therapy: using the machine as little as four hours per night will be beneficial.
  2. Gradually increase usage until you can wear it all night. If you experience a dry throat during the night, you may need a chin strap to help hold your mouth closed.
  3. Follow this gradual CPAP desensitization. When you can do a step without anxiety or concern for several days, or when you feel comfortable, move onto the next step.
    When patients report no difficulty using CPAP in the laboratory, we recommend beginning at Step 2, then progressing quickly to Step 5.

Waking Up

  1. Remember to turn OFF CPAP unit when not in use. Please refer to your representative and manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. If using oxygen, turn oxygen OFF first, then the CPAP unit.

Safety Considerations

  1. Use your CPAP as directed by your doctor and DO NOT try to adjust your pressure settings.
  2. Keep the area around the CPAP unit clean and do not allow the vents on the CPAP to become blocked. Keep filters clean.
  3. Plug the compressor into a properly functioning outlet. Avoid the use of extension cords and DO NOT operate multiple devices from a single outlet.
  4. DO NOT block the exhalation port or valve on your mask.
  5. If using a heated humidifier, allow unit to cool before cleaning and/or refilling.
  6. If oxygen equipment is being used, follow oxygen safety guidelines. Always turn the CPAPunit ON first, then the oxygen, and turn the oxygen OFF first, then the CPAP.
  7. If you have a medical emergency, contact your doctor or emergency personnel.