What is a CPAP Machine and How Does it Work?

CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. It is a machine that provides forced air pressurized using a motor to make OSA patients breathe during sleeping. It delivers continuous pressurized air through a tube into a mask that patients wear while sleeping.

That’s the basic function of the machine but if you dig deeper, it is a kind of complex machine with more than one moving part.

In basic terms, it is a small box with a motorized fan inside. And when the fan moves it draws air from the room, pressurized it, and delivers at the specific settings as per the needs.

The CPAP machine air intake comes with a filter on it to eliminate the intake of dust, smoke, and other impurities.

Another moving part of a CPAP machine is its humidification chamber.

This chamber humidifies the air by warming up the water before it is delivered.

There is an added advantage of humidified air. It not only soothes your nasal airways and soft mouth tissues but prevents swelling and discomfort occurs during the time of therapy.

You can turn off the humidifier, it is optional but many patients like to use it due to the relief, comfort, and soothing experience they get in.

Especially those who live in dry or arid climates, or wake up with a dry mouth.

Its hose too is an important moving part and is as important and vital in making the whole function works smoothly.

The hose connects the box to the mask. The hose design as well as the material used is important.

The hose is especially heated to prevent condensation during the process especially when the humidifier is in use.

Its length is important, it should at least be 6 feet to make it error-free for the sleeper to move easily while sleeping.

The last but not least, one of the vital parts, often called the success of a CPAP machine lies on the mask.

It is important that the mask should be comfortable and well-fitted. It comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and fitting. The size or fitting would be accordingly array of the facial landscape.

We have learned what OSA is, as well as CPAP. But how CPAP helps in OSA and makes patients breathe in while sleeping.

How Does A CPAP Machine work?

What is CPAP Machine And How Does It Works?

We have seen that people suffering from obstructive sleep apnea find it hard to breathe in while sleeping.

The mouth’s soft tissues, pharynx, and other parts that take part in breathing partially or fully collapse when sleeping.

That makes it hard for the patients to breathe in, and that leads to a pause in the breath, in other words, the oxygen supply to the brain is halted.

The brain senses that and forces awake the patients. A patient can face more than 100 times such pauses and awakenings per hour.

That’s why persons with sleep apnea feel sleep deprived, and fatigued because they can’t get the rest their bodies require.

The CPAP machine delivers pressurized air through tubing that connects to a mask.

This pressurized air prevents the collapsing of inner mouth soft tissues, nasal soft tissues, pharynx area, and other parts of the breathing system.

This pressurized air helps in opening the airways and makes it easier for the patients to breathe in through the night without any issue.

Setting up this CPAP machine is one of the biggest issues. First-timer users or beginners don’t find the CPAP machine comfortable because they don’t get it set up right. Let’s help you in setting up the CPAP machine to make it as useful as it is.

Instructions to setup and use the CPAP machine

As I mentioned, for a first-timer, it can be hard to get used to the CPAP machine, or sometimes due to the wrong setting, the experience can be a little different.

Good space and stand for the machine

First thing first, in your bedroom you should find the corner near enough to your bed where you could put the CPAP machine.

Keep in mind, that the machine should be placed on an even table or stand, to provide you even breathing experience.

The space where you are putting the machine should be near to your bed so that the hose could reach you easily.

The space should be easier to access because during installation many times you may have to plug and unplug the machine.

The power outlet should be near to it for easier plugging in

The installed space should give you an unobstructed ability to turn on and off the device, and get access to the filter, and humidifier.

You can buy a dedicated stand for the CPAP machine, you can find it around, and you will find a good stand with all the features and specs.


The filter is one of the most important parts. As the CPAP machine takes air from the room, if there is some dust or other particulates in the air, the air it blows can have those dust particles too.

The most machine comes with replaceable filters, but the type can be different with the machine, it depends on your device.

So, check the filter first, if it is the first time, there will be a filter snuggly fitted installed in the machine. If there is no filter, you will have to buy one and install it.

The second step is to attach the hose. The hose comes with special connectors to the machine, the

the hose should be easy to attach and stay its place with no exerting pressure.

Attach the hose to the mask. The mask as I mentioned comes in various sizes, shapes, and face landscapes. You will have to check the mask and see what fits you right.

Set up the humidifier

CPAP machines come with a humidifier. The humidifier works as regular humidifiers we use in our homes.

The attached humidifier can be turned off if you don’t want to use it, and turn it on at any time. It moisturizes the air so that it becomes less likely for the sleepers to get a dry mouth or throat, especially in dry weather.

So, check the humidifier, and its water level. The reservoir of the humidifier should have a clear max fill line, it should not exceed the level, which can cause water to enter the hose.

Now plug the CPAP machine and see the power cords are properly attached to the device.

Now put on the mask. Again, the mask comes in various sizes and shapes. Some cover your entire face and others only the nose area and go underneath.

It’s your doctor who recommends the right type of mask based on several factors including your breath and pressure, as well as your sleeping position.

One more thing, whatever mask you buy, the type or design, in the first days of using it, you will find it a little irritating. It’s because of the straps that go around the top of your head.

So position the mask on your face, and then pull the straps to secure it. It should form a sealing against your face so that while sleeping you could not remove it, or it slips off the face.

Turn on the device

With you set up the mask on your face with all the straps pulled, now turn on the CPAP machine.

Don’t tweak the pressure and other settings, these are all set up by your doctor or health care team.

With the machine turned on, you will notice pressurized air coming through the mask and helping in breathe easily.

If you doubt the air is escaping from the mask through your nose or mouth, adjust the mask again and make the sealing tight.

Most modern CPAP machines come with a function that helps you learn the air is escaping and you need to adjust the mask on your nose.

As I mentioned, it is hard to use a CPAP machine and gets used to it. We have a few recommendations for you to get easily used to it.

How do get used to the CPAP machine?

Even if you buy one of the most expensive and comfortable CPAP machines, the first days will be crucial, and there are chances that you will try to get off of it.

The sensation of the pressurized air might not be as comfortable and soothing in the first days as it should be. So, follow these methods to get used to it.

First thing first, take in your mind, that how uncomfortable it may be, you would not give up and give it time for at least a few days.

It will make you easily tackle the uncomfortable feeling that comes with using a new machine.

Give yourself some extra time for sleeping, as well as for setting it up. Like filling the humidifier reservoir, getting the mask rightly set with the right pressure, and making the right adjustments for the mask.

It’s actually the mask that makes it uncomfortable, you sleep like an alien with a helmet on. So, to get used to that extra thing, you can try using it without turning on the CPAP machine.

For some users maybe it is the pressure that makes using the CPAP uncomfortable. If it is the pressure, you can consider using the RAMP function, this function starts the machine at minimum pressurized air and then increase the pressure gradually.

Use relaxation exercises before you wear the mask. It helps you stay calm and relax for some time and put your mind at ease. You can use deep breathing exercises before wearing the mask.

Lily Roberts

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