A CPAP machine is a medical device used in sleep therapy to improve breathing during sleep. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, and it is most often used to help obstructive sleep apnea patients. Sleep apnea makes it difficult to get air into your lungs and potentially stops your breathing altogether. CPAP devices make sure your lungs are getting oxygen by pushing air through your throat so your airways don’t collapse, allowing you to breathe and sleep normally.

You wouldn’t think a device with a mask and tube would be comfortable to sleep with, but most users get used to it within a few weeks and start getting more restful sleep within just a few days. Our post will explain how a CPAP machine works, the different types of CPAP masks, and the benefits of using one.

How CPAP Machines Work

CPAP machines use pressure to get air into your lungs. The constant flow of air ensures your airways won’t collapse and nothing gets in the way of your breathing. CPAP machines are made up of three main parts: the motor, the tube, and the mask.

  • The motor takes air from the room and pressurizes it into the tube to provide a continuous stream of oxygen. It’s quiet, and so won’t keep you up at night.
  • The tube is connected to both the motor and the mask, and it allows the oxygen to travel. It’s also flexible so you can still move.
  • The mask covers your mouth and nose and ensures you’ll get the right amount of pressure delivered into your airways. The pressure settings won’t be effective if the mask is the incorrect size. For example, if the mask is too big, the air can escape and you could end up receiving less pressure than you actually need to breathe normally. Fortunately, there are a few different kinds of masks so you can find one that feels comfortable and fits well.

Kinds of CPAP Masks

The most important thing to consider when choosing a CPAP mask is the size. A too-small mask can make you feel uncomfortable and actually make it harder to breathe, while a mask that’s too big can let the air escape and defeat the purpose of using a CPAP machine in the first place. Everyone has a different face shape, so a mask that fits one person well might be uncomfortable for another. That’s why it’s important to shop around and try on different masks until you find the one that’s right for you.

There are 3 different kinds of CPAP masks and each one has its own benefits.

Nasal Pillow Mask

This mask only covers the tip of your nose and can sometimes have prongs that fit into your nostrils. This mask is great if you get claustrophobic easily because it covers less of your face. It’s also a good option if you have a lot of facial hair or wear glasses. This mask is the smallest of the three and can be a great starting mask as you get adjusted to using a CPAP device.

Nasal Mask

This mask covers your entire nose and delivers more pressure than the others. This mask is great if you move a lot in your sleep because it won’t shift with your movement. Some nasal masks have two head straps, while others have only one, and some masks wrap around your head, while others loop behind your ears.

Full Face Mask

This mask covers both your nose and mouth and is the biggest of the three. This mask is great if you tend to breathe through your mouth, or if you tend to have a stuffy nose. They also have added straps for people who move a lot in their sleep. People usually feel less air pressure with these types of masks because they are bigger, meaning the pressure is less concentrated into one area.

Benefits of CPAP Therapy

CPAP therapy has been used for a long time and thus has a lot of evidence proving its effectiveness.

Common Questions

Why use a CPAP machine?

CPAP machines are most often used to treat sleep apnea, but even more specifically, they work best to treat obstructive sleep apnea, which is when your throat blocks your airway and you can’t get air into your lungs.

In addition to a CPAP machine, those with sleep apnea can also benefit from a wedge pillow or an adjustable bed frame. Elevating the head to a 35 to 45-degree angle during sleep can help open up the airways and make breathing more comfortable. It is also important that you sleep on a supportive, high-quality mattress.

What does a CPAP machine do when you stop breathing?

The CPAP machine pushes air to the back of your throat, preventing the muscles in your throat from narrowing and causing restrictions to your airway.

What are the side effects of using a CPAP machine?

There are a few common side effects that come along with using a CPAP machine, including a runny nose, dry mouth, skin irritation from the mask, and feelings of confinement or claustrophobia. However, we suggest adding a humidifier to your room to mitigate most of these problems.

Does using CPAP weaken the lungs?

CPAP does not weaken your lungs. The purpose of a CPAP machine is to help your breathing, and while it uses pressure to get oxygen to your lungs, it does not weaken them. However, not cleaning your CPAP machine often enough can cause illnesses such as pneumonia or bronchitis, and these can weaken your lungs.

Can you suffocate from a CPAP machine?

The masks on CPAP machines have a valve that allows you to breathe even if the machine were to stop working. So while the mask may feel a little suffocating at first, you cannot suffocate from a CPAP machine.


CPAP machines are a common and safe treatment option for sleep apnea and they work by pushing air through any blockages in your airways. While they can take some time to get used to, they are effective and have other health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and regulating your sleep schedule. CPAP masks can be a little overwhelming at first, but with so many different options, you’ll be able to find one that fits you comfortably and get on your way to easier breathing.

If you are considering CPAP therapy, it is best to first talk to your doctor about a CPAP prescription. Purchasing a CPAP machine without a doctor or insurance can be costly.

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