💡 Key Takeaways
- Improves Longevity: Regular use of CPAP therapy significantly lowers your risk of dying, especially from cardiovascular conditions.
- Enhances Heart Health: CPAP therapy is linked to fewer new cases of heart failure and can reduce stress on your cardiovascular system.
- Aids in Mental Well-being: Consistent use of CPAP can ease symptoms of depression and anxiety, improving your overall mental health.
- Boosts Cognitive Performance: CPAP therapy can improve your attention span, problem-solving skills, and working memory, enhancing your daily productivity.
- Supports Weight Loss: Some people find it easier to lose weight when treating sleep apnea with CPAP, as it can improve metabolism and provide more energy for daily exercise.
While millions of people are living with the life-altering effects of sleep apnea, research shows the vast majority of these individuals are still going untreated. Usually, this is because they are unaware of their condition or because they’ve been turned off by stories of unpleasant CPAP side effects.
If you fall into the second category, you may be wondering whether CPAP is actually worth it. The truth is, it absolutely is! For many people with sleep apnea, CPAP therapy can be life-changing, thanks to the many CPAP benefits that arise once you start treating your sleep apnea effectively.
Today we’ll be discussing these positive effects of CPAP, which include a lower risk of death and improved physical and mental health. Let’s get started!
1. Lowers Your Risk of Dying
A CPAP machine may help you live longer! Sadly, people with sleep apnea have a higher likelihood of dying. This risk is increased for more severe cases, particularly those that have gone untreated or undertreated. An 18-year-long follow-up with the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study found that people with untreated severe sleep apnea were more than three times more likely to die when compared to the general population.
While sleep apnea is rarely the sole cause of someone’s death, it often contributes to the development of other life-threatening conditions, most commonly cardiovascular diseases. However, the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study found that people who used their CPAP machines on a regular basis had a much lower risk of dying, especially from a cardiovascular condition.
A few years ago, a team of scientists looked at the five-year survival rate of elderly people with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. The 2015 study found that 31% of participants with untreated sleep apnea died during that time. However, that number dropped to 6% for those who consistently used CPAP therapy to treat their sleep apnea.
2. Improves Heart Health
When you choose CPAP therapy, you’re protecting your heart! Sleep apnea can be pretty rough on your body as a whole, but especially your cardiovascular system. Some studies have shown that having untreated sleep apnea increases your risk of developing some form of cardiovascular disease by 71%. These conditions include things like heart attack, heart failure, Coronary Artery Disease, and Atrial Fibrillation.
Sleep apnea can also make your heart problems a lot worse. According to the American Heart Association, sleep apnea can cause existing heart failure to progress significantly, leading to more hospitalizations and more deaths.
While results vary on the degree to which Continuous Positive Airway Pressure improves sleep apnea side effects, CPAP therapy is believed to reduce the stress that sleep apnea puts on your heart.
A few years ago, Danish researchers released a population-wide study on sleep apnea-related heart failure. CPAP therapy was linked to fewer new cases of heart failure in adults of all ages. However, this pattern was much more significant in people over 60 years old.
3. Decreases Your Odds of Having a Stroke
If you have sleep apnea, using a CPAP machine may save you from a stroke! Strokes are another common life-threatening issue associated with sleep apnea. Some researchers have estimated that people with untreated OSA have an 86% increased chance of experiencing a stroke.
Evidence suggests this sleep-breathing disorder causes damage to your blood vessels after just one night without your CPAP machine. Experts encourage people with sleep apnea to remain consistent with their CPAP therapy, as it reduces your chances of having a stroke.
Related Article: Sleep Apnea and Stroke: What Is the Connection Between the Two?
4. Reverses High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure with sleep apnea, CPAP therapy may actually help to lower your blood pressure! Sleep apnea affects your heart and blood vessels. So it’s no surprise that it can cause high blood pressure, even in younger people. One report found that 89% of unexplained high blood pressure in young adults was caused by undiagnosed Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
Luckily, studies show that sleeping with your CPAP machine for more than four hours a night can reverse some of the damage done to your blood vessels and decrease your heart rate. Of course, CPAP is unlikely to completely improve your blood pressure, but in some cases, it may even help you cut back on blood pressure medications.
Related Article: How Sleep Apnea and High Blood Pressure Are Connected
5. Reduces Your Risk of Having Diabetes
One unexpected CPAP benefit is a reduced risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes and Obstructive Sleep Apnea have a unique relationship. Research shows that at least 18% of people with Type II Diabetes also have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Meanwhile, that number jumps to as high as 86% for Type II Diabetics that are obese.
The risk for diabetes is believed to be triggered by the decreased amount of oxygen and increased amount of carbon dioxide that builds up in the blood due to sleep apnea breathing interruptions. When this happens, the cells become less sensitive to insulin and are unable to take in glucose from your blood.
In the past, scientists have disagreed on whether CPAP therapy can truly reduce your risk of diabetes due to sleep apnea. However, recent studies do look more promising! A 2022 study found that sleeping with a CPAP machine improves your blood sugar.
Related Article: The Sleep Apnea and Diabetes Connection You Need to Know About
6. Makes Weight Loss Easier
You may be surprised to hear that one benefit of CPAP may be weight loss! While this doesn’t happen with everyone, some people find it much easier to lose weight while treating sleep apnea with continuous positive airway pressure.
Sleep apnea and weight have what is called a bi-directional relationship. This means that while being overweight can lead to both Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Central Sleep Apnea, sleep apnea can also cause weight gain because it slows down your metabolism.
In some cases, people who use CPAP have an easier time losing weight. A 2016 study found CPAP therapy improved participants’ metabolism after just three months. This research is still ongoing, however, so scientists are still untangling the complicated relationship between weight and sleep apnea. It’s possible the CPAP simply gives you more energy, making it a whole lot easier to take part in daily exercise and lifestyle changes.
7. Limits Daytime Sleepiness
If you have ever been diagnosed with sleep apnea, one of the first side effects you may have noticed is daily fatigue caused by the regular sleep disturbances that arise each time your breathing pauses. This can have serious impacts on your day-to-day life, including trouble working and being productive.
Luckily, researchers have found that CPAP therapy can cut down on sleep apnea-related exhaustion. In one study, scientists looked at the effects of sleeping with your CPAP equipment for more than five hours per night and discovered that daytime sleepiness was significantly reduced with regular CPAP therapy.
8. Reverses Sleep Apnea Brain Damage
Did you know that sleep apnea can actually cause brain damage? Luckily, CPAP therapy can reverse this! It’s no secret that severe sleep apnea results in periods of low oxygen and sometimes hundreds of sleep disturbances in a single night.
Research suggests sleep-disordered breathing may also cause the blood-brain barrier to break down, leaving you at risk for all sorts of serious issues. As you can imagine, this can really harm your brain. People who have untreated sleep apnea have an increased risk for conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s.
The good news is that much of this damage does not have to be permanent! People who remain CPAP compliant are not only at a lower risk of incurring serious long-term brain injuries, but research suggests that this sleep apnea treatment can actually undo a lot of previous damage!
9. Prevents Morning Headaches
If you tend to wake up with a headache after a night of loud snoring, CPAP therapy may be able to help! While a sleep apnea headache usually resolves itself by midday, no one enjoys starting off the day with a throbbing pain shooting through your head.
A 2014 data review found that up to 18% of cases involving middle-aged adults result in this unpleasant sleep apnea side effect. Health experts believe these headaches are likely the result of repeated periods of low oxygen that occur throughout the night, but they can occur in people with even mild sleep apnea.
CPAP targets the root cause of sleep apnea headaches by minimizing the number of sleep apnea episodes you experience each night, therefore reducing the number of times your body experiences low oxygen. One 2009 study found that CPAP therapy completely relieved Obstructive Sleep Apnea headaches in 90% of participants.
10. Boosts Cognitive Performance
A lot of people are unaware of how much sleep apnea impacts cognitive performance. In fact, many new CPAP owners say they had no idea how much sleep apnea was affecting their brains until they started sleep apnea treatment.
Studies show that people with sleep apnea have significantly more problems with working memory, attention span, problem-solving, and more. A 2005 study found that 95% of participants with moderate to severe sleep apnea experienced attention issues when asked to perform cognitive tests in the morning hours.
While scientists are still working to understand the relationship between sleep apnea and cognition, there have been several small studies that suggest CPAP therapy does improve cognitive performance. Research suggests that this CPAP benefit may arise after only one night of treatment. This 2015 study also found that people who remained compliant with their CPAP therapy for at least three months saw the greatest improvement.
11. Improves Your Mental Health
CPAP therapy gives many people a new lease on life, even after years of struggling with the mental health effects of sleep apnea. If you have ever had a baby, you likely know that your mental health is closely tied to your sleep quality, which is why repeated sleep disturbances can totally wreck your mental health.
Sleep apnea is no different. One 2014 study found that over half of participants with airway obstruction had anxiety, while 46.1% experienced depression. However, it is believed that CPAP therapy can improve your sleep apnea-related mental health woes. According to a 2017 report from Chinese researchers, regularly sleeping with your CPAP machine eases depression and anxiety caused by this sleep-breathing disorder.
12. Enhances Productivity
It’s no secret that when your mental health and cognitive performance get better after CPAP, so does productivity! Untreated sleep apnea causes many people to struggle with concentration, task performance, and problem-solving.
Left unaddressed, these issues can mean trouble in the workplace. A recent report suggests that having mild sleep apnea increases your risk of losing your job by 85%, while those with at least moderate sleep apnea were nearly one and a half times more likely to be let go.
The good news is CPAP solves a lot of issues related to productivity! During a presentation at the 2013 Sleep and Breathing Conference in Berlin, researchers described how employees who underwent CPAP therapy to treat sleep apnea showed significant improvement in their work performance.
Despite being a small study, Sleep Apnoea Europe spokesperson Dan Smyth had this to say following the presentation, “[This study] confirms that the symptoms of the condition can be controlled and that the patient can remain an effective member of the workforce.”
13. Helps You Sleep Better
We’d be lying if we said people didn’t worry about losing sleep while wearing a CPAP mask. But the truth is CPAP therapy actually boosts sleep quality and helps you sleep longer! Depending on your sleep apnea severity, you can experience anywhere from a couple dozen sleep disturbances per night up to a hundred times in a single hour in some of the most serious cases.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure significantly cuts down on the number of sleep apnea episodes and, therefore, sleep disturbances you experience each night. There is evidence to suggest these CPAP benefits only get better with time.
In a study published by Sleep and Breathing, people with Obstructive Sleep Apnea who stayed consistent with their CPAP therapy for at least six months reported significantly better sleep quality, including fewer complaints of restless sleep.
14. Relieves Snoring
Loud snoring is considered to be the tell-tale sign of sleep apnea. In fact, researchers estimate that 94% of individuals with sleep apnea snore. While snoring in and of itself isn’t usually considered harmful, it can become a problem if you sleep with a bed partner.
Studies show that the majority of sleep apnea partners experience loss of sleep. These interruptions are largely attributed to snoring. However, the few studies that exist on partner experience with sleep apnea and CPAP have found that the non-snoring partner also gets better sleep once the underlying cause is addressed with CPAP.
Related Article: What’s the Difference Between Snoring and Sleep Apnea?
15. Reduces Your Risk of Accidental Injuries
One of the most interesting benefits of CPAP therapy includes a lower risk of accidental injuries! We’ve talked a bit about the brain fog and mental side effects of sleep apnea, but did you know that these issues increase your chances of being involved in an accident?
During the year 2000, there were over 800,000 sleep apnea-related car accidents! And while this number has not been tracked regularly, it’s safe to say that this sleep apnea statistic has remained steady over the years.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, having sleep apnea makes you 2.5 times more likely to be the driver in a car accident! They also stated that these events are most likely caused by excessive daytime sleepiness and poor sleep quality that is associated with sleep apnea.
This same report found that your risk of getting into a car accident decreases by 70% if you consistently use a CPAP machine for at least four hours per night.
16. Reverses Sexual Dysfunction in Men
CPAP may prevent or reverse sexual dysfunction in men diagnosed with sleep apnea! While this is a relatively newer topic, experts now believe that sleep apnea can cause low testosterone in men and may even impact male fertility.
According to a 2021 study out of Taiwan, men with untreated Obstructive Sleep Apnea were 80% more likely to struggle with infertility. This same study revealed that CPAP therapy significantly reduced participants’ chances of being infertile.
It is believed this issue is probably the result of low testosterone, which can be a side effect of sleep apnea. While research into this topic is still ongoing, new evidence suggests that CPAP therapy may improve sexual dysfunction in men with Obstructive Sleep Apnea, including low testosterone, erectile dysfunction, and semen quality.
Related Article: Does Sleep Apnea Affect Sex Drive?
17. Supports Healthier Pregnancy
Some women may benefit from using CPAP during pregnancy! Growing a baby changes your body in dozens of ways, and unfortunately, it also predisposes you to sleep apnea due to the hormonal changes that occur during this process.
Similar to sexual function in men, this topic is still being explored. As a result, there aren’t many studies focusing on the use of CPAP to treat pregnancy-related sleep apnea. Nevertheless, the research that does exist supports the idea that pregnant women who develop sleep apnea do benefit from CPAP therapy.
18. Improves Your Relationships
Due to the effect that loud snoring can have on your partner, plus the mental and emotional issues that often arise with untreated sleep apnea, sleep apnea can take a toll on your relationships. And for good reason! It’s easy to become withdrawn or moody when you’re struggling with poor sleep night after night.
This stress isn’t just felt by the person with the sleep-breathing disorder. Sleep apnea partners also report feeling as though sleep apnea has a negative impact on their relationship. However, these frustrations seem to improve once their loved one starts CPAP therapy.
If you remain CPAP compliant for the long term, you will likely see improvements in your social interactions, daily functions, and emotional regulation. Luckily, these things all play a role in boosting your relationships with other people!
Frequently Asked Questions About CPAP Benefits
What Are the Pros and Cons of CPAP Therapy to Treat Sleep Apnea?
People who use CPAP therapy to treat their sleep apnea experience many benefits from CPAP, including better physical, mental, and emotional well-being. That said, there are some unpleasant side effects to CPAP as well. Common complaints include skin irritation, claustrophobia, and trouble adjusting to the noise, but these can usually be improved with trial and error!
How Long Does It Take to Start Feeling Better After Starting CPAP Therapy?
Studies show the benefits of CPAP therapy start almost immediately, but your experience will likely depend on how severe your sleep apnea is, plus how much your health and well-being have been impacted by your condition. Many people say they feel better after just one night of CPAP therapy, while it may take others a few weeks to really notice significant improvement.
Does CPAP Really Make a Difference When Treating Sleep Apnea?
CPAP makes a huge difference when treating sleep apnea. Most people report better sleep quality early on, which we know boosts mental health. Additionally, it reduces the impact that sleep apnea has on your physical health in both the short and long term. For example, studies show CPAP impacts your cardiovascular health within hours of starting treatment!
Does CPAP Therapy Help You Live Longer?
While sleep apnea may not directly lead to death, it does contribute to the development of many other life-threatening conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes. However, treating sleep apnea with CPAP improves your life expectancy significantly.
What Are the Treatment Options for Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
There are several options for treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea! While CPAP therapy is considered the top choice for most cases, people with OSA can also benefit from Oral Appliance Therapy, Positional Therapy, lifestyle changes, and in some cases, surgery.
Once your sleep apnea is under control, you can experience a whole lot more than better sleep! CPAP therapy reduces your risk for serious conditions, both physically and mentally. And in the process, it lowers your chances of dying, increases your productivity at work, and boosts your relationships. With all of these CPAP benefits, it’s easy to see why Continuous Positive Airway Pressure therapy is often considered a life-changing treatment for people living with sleep apnea!