According to the FDA, CPAP machines, or continuous positive airway pressure machines, fall into Class II of safety categories, meaning there is a medium amount of risk associated with using them. The FDA categorizes medical devices into three different classes depending on the risks of using the device, the safety, and the effectiveness.

Class I is the lowest amount of risk, while Class III is the highest. Classes II and III require prescriptions because they can be risky to use without guidance and advice from a practitioner.  Unfortunately, you cannot legally buy a CPAP machine without a medical doctor because the use of one requires a CPAP prescription.

CPAP machines work based on different pressure levels that are customized to you and how you breathe, which is why a physician needs to prescribe the treatment to you. They can also help you find the right CPAP mask and walk you through different options for accessories, such as a humidifier.

Sleep apnea is not just trouble sleeping, it is a dangerous sleeping disorder that can cause you to stop breathing, and it should be treated as such. Our post will go over the importance of talking to a doctor about your sleep apnea and getting a prescription to treat it.

The Importance of Sleep Studies and a Doctor’s Guidance When Treating Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is different for every person. Some people have mild cases while others have it more severe; some people suffer from central sleep apnea while others are affected by obstructive sleep apnea or OSA. So what does all of this mean? It means the CPAP therapy and pressure levels one person needs are not the same as what another person needs.

Pressure levels, comfort settings, and even the types of machines are different based on the individual, and you’ll need to talk to a doctor and go through a sleep study to determine what pressure levels will help you treat your sleep apnea. Additionally, your doctor can talk to you about caring for your CPAP machine, such as changing the filters, finding a trustworthy manufacturer, and going over when it’s time to get a new CPAP machine.

After talking to your doctor about your troubles with sleep apnea, they will schedule your sleep study and give you instructions about the process. During the sleep study, you will be under the supervision of sleep specialists, but your doctor will be the one to explain your results and discuss your personalized pressure settings with you. There are multiple tests that can be done, but the initial test is an overnight sleep study where specialists will determine if you have sleep apnea or not.

Sleep Study

A sleep study is ideally done in a sleep disorder center where sleep specialists electronically record your physical activities as you sleep. These recordings get analyzed to determine if you have sleep apnea or some other sleep disorder. The testing is completed where technicians can monitor you, or portable equipment is now available for home sleep studies.

If they determine you have sleep apnea, other tests will need to be performed. The good news is you’ll only have to complete these tests once because most prescriptions don’t have an expiration date, meaning they will last a lifetime. However, there are some prescriptions that list a certain number of refills, meaning you’ll need a new prescription once you reach that number.

Once you’re done with your sleep study, doctors and specialists may ask you to participate in other tests so they can get a more thorough understanding of your sleep apnea and how to treat it. These additional tests are not always necessary, but they can be valuable in treating your sleep apnea quicker because they help your doctor determine how much respiratory support you need to start breathing normally while you sleep.

Each test records different metrics while you sleep, such as how much airflow you’re getting into your throat with each breath or how often you twitch your leg.


This test is noninvasive and it uses electrodes placed on your scalp to measure and record your brain wave activity while you sleep.


This test is done with an electromyograph which is placed on your hands and wrists near your pulse to record muscle activity while you sleep, such as twitching, teeth grinding, and leg movements.


This test places electrodes on your forehead and around your eyes to record their movements as you sleep.


This test uses about 10 electrodes placed on your chest to record your heart rate and rhythm while you sleep.

Nasal Airflow Sensor

This test has a nasal sensor similar to a tube that is placed in your nostrils to record your airflow as you sleep and determine how much air you’re getting with each breath.

Snore Microphone

This test uses a small microphone at the base of your neck to record your snoring activity while you sleep.

Common Questions

What can you use to treat sleep apnea instead of a CPAP machine?

There are other alternatives to CPAP machines that can help with your sleep apnea. The most common are oral appliances, such as a mouthguard or headgear. A mouthguard holds your tongue in place to keep your airways open, and mouthguards can be purchased without a prescription. Oral surgery is also an option you can discuss with your doctor.

An adjustable bed frame or a wedge pillow can also help alleviate symptoms of sleep apnea. Lifting the head to a 35 to 45-degree angle opens up the airways and makes breathing more comfortable. The best mattress suited to your sleep position and body type can also eliminate uncomfortable sinkage, which can make symptoms of sleep apnea worse.

Will sleep apnea go away if I lose weight?

Losing weight can help lessen obstructive sleep apnea, with studies showing that a significant amount of weight loss can get rid of it completely. Obstructive sleep apnea is often correlated to excess weight, and losing just 10% of body fat can make a big difference in your sleep apnea and its side effects.

What if I can’t fall asleep during my sleep study?

Some people may find it difficult to fall asleep during their sleep study because they are in an unfamiliar place with strange equipment, but most people tend to fall asleep eventually. If you can’t seem to fall asleep after a while, the sleep specialist may offer you a sleeping pill.

Can I go to the bathroom during a sleep study?

You can absolutely go to the bathroom during a sleep study, you just have to notify the sleep physician so the extra activity doesn’t get recorded in your results.

How long does a sleep study test take?

The short answer: a sleep study test will last all night. The hookup procedures typically start 30 minutes after your scheduled appointment time, normally between 7:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.

It takes about 30 to 45 minutes to get everything set up, and the testing normally starts around 10:30 p.m. The sleep study lasts the entire night, ending around 6:00 a.m. This way, the sleep specialists can get a thorough understanding of how often you wake up or stop breathing throughout the night.


Buying a CPAP machine without a doctor is illegal and dangerous. Plus, the cost of a CPAP machine is considerably more when purchasing one without insurance.

While there are technically ways around buying a CPAP machine with a doctor’s guidance and prescription, we do not recommend it. A doctor will help you determine if you need a CPAP or a BiPAP machine, and ensure you get the pressure levels and treatment specialized just for you.

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.