CPAP therapy is widely considered to be the gold standard1 for treating all three types of Sleep Apnea. CPAP therapy provides a constant airflow as you sleep, keeping your airway open so that you can get through the night without interruptions. The level of airflow needed varies person to person, which is why participating in a sleep study is usually recommended.
But once you’ve done all that, how do you know if your CPAP therapy is even working? And what can you do if it isn’t? This article covers ways to check and evaluate if your therapy is working, and provides some helpful things you can try if it isn’t.
Finding the Right CPAP Mask Will Improve Your CPAP Therapy Compliance
When CPAP therapy is prescribed, you’ll also need to consider the CPAP masks available and which accessories you might need. For example, if you breathe through both the nose and mouth while sleeping, you may need a full-face mask. Someone who sleeps on their side should look into flexible masks, with comfortable nasal pillows. Even with all of these factors figured out, you might still be wondering: is my CPAP therapy actually working?
Signs That Your CPAP Therapy is Working
The goal of CPAP therapy is to give your body a continuous stream of oxygen to end restless nights and lapses in breathing. Below are some tell-tale signs of successful CPAP treatment:
- You feel more rested during the day
- You don’t get headaches in the morning
- You can focus on tasks more clearly
- You don’t snore as much
- You don’t wake up in the night as much
- You don’t find yourself waking up and gasping for breath
- Your breathing while sleeping is more continuous
These are all good signs and show that your CPAP therapy is working.
Know for Sure – Tracking Your AHI
Most CPAP machines have some way of telling you what your AHI readings for each night are. AHI measures the effectiveness of CPAP therapy. The lower the score; the better you slept. Lower AHI readings often correlate to a reduction of Sleep Apnea symptoms and will make you feel better overall. If your nightly AHI readings are looking good, it’s a sign that your therapy is working. If your AHI numbers are not so good, you may need to make some changes to your routine.
CPAP therapy can have a cumulative effect for some people, and it may take a while for you to notice the benefits– even if your treatment is working.
Signs That Your CPAP Therapy is NOT Working
While we all hope for perfect treatment, this isn’t always realistic. Let’s look at how to tell if your CPAP therapy is not working, and what to do about it.
You’re still snoring and experiencing symptoms
Just when you thought your sleepless nights were over, you’re snoring again. Snoring is a sign that you’re not getting continual and constant air pressure from your CPAP machine. This is either due to your CPAP mask leaking or the air pressure on your machine not being high enough.
You’re tired during the day
The most common problem that Sleep Apnea sufferers encounter is lethargy during the day, which may cause them to take long naps and lack the clarity they need to perform simple daily tasks. This could be due to an unrecognized mask leak or an inadequate treatment pressure. Weight gain, increased alcohol use, and aging may spark the need to increase CPAP pressures.
Check in with your doctor to see how your CPAP therapy can be improved by adjusting your pressure setting.
You’re breathing cold air
If the air coming from your CPAP machine is anything but a comfortable lukewarm, there may be something wrong with your humidifier. The hot plate that heats the water may not be working properly. This also applies if the air feels excessively dry. In this case, your humidifier may not be working.
To assess how well your humidifier is working, notice how quickly the water in its chamber goes down. The chamber should be refilled every 2 or 3 days.
Your CPAP machine isn’t working properly
Like with all technology, CPAP machines don’t work forever. If your machine is making odd noises, there isn’t consistent air pressure, or it won’t turn on, it’s time for a replacement. Upgrading your CPAP machine will ensure you’re getting the best Sleep Apnea treatment possible.
CPAP Therapy Isn’t Working: What Can You Do?
If your therapy isn’t working, there are a few things you can try. As a Sleep Apnea patient myself, I recently went through something similar. I moved across the country to a different climate and my AHI levels skyrocketed. For one, the humidity was greater than the place I left. It was also much warmer during the summer. Night after night, my AHI levels were out-of-control and my sleep was terrible. To get my therapy back on track, I did two things:
- I trained myself to sleep on my side. Sleeping on your side uses gravity to help open the airway while sleeping on your back uses gravity to close it. While naturally a back-sleeper, it was initially very hard to change my sleeping position. But after repeatedly doing it, I was eventually able to stay on my side all night long. My AHI levels dropped by as many as 3 – 4 points as a result of making this one change.
- I made sure my mask was tight before going to bed. If your mask leaks, you won’t get the benefits from your therapy. Tightening the mask can help resolve issues with leaks. Avoid over-tightening as you can hurt yourself. You might want to consider opting for some products designed to stop mask leaks as these can help improve your sleep.
Taking these steps allowed me to get my therapy back on track, and today my AHI is less than 2 every night.
Talk to Your Doctor
After undergoing CPAP therapy for a few months, assess your condition. Are you feeling less tired during the day, or are you still needing that lunchtime nap? Are you getting a full night’s sleep, or still waking up too much?
The above signs will help you determine whether or not CPAP treatment is working for you. Always contact your doctor with concerns.
For the latest CPAP treatment news, discounts, and deals– subscribe to the CPAP.com newsletter and never miss a sale.
American Association of Sleep Technologists. 5 Alternative Sleep Apnea Treatment Options. Published on the official online magazine of the American Association of Sleep Technologists on August 14, 2017. Accessed on October 17, 2018.
Daniela has researched and published over 60 articles covering topics that aim to inform and empower people living with Sleep Apnea. As an avid reader and researcher, Daniela continues to grow her knowledge about Sleep Apnea and CPAP therapy everyday with the help of coworkers, CPAP.com customers, and members of other CPAP communities online.
22 thoughts on “How To Tell if CPAP Therapy is Working for You”
My Dreamstation provides an AHI accounting each morning for the night before. If the AHI is less than 3 wouldn’t that indicate I am receiving proper therapy.?
An AHI less than 5 is really good! I find I get the best sleep (I’m a CPAPer too) when my AHI is right around 2.5. I find if I lay on my side, gravity helps keep my airway open, and my apnea is not as bad as when I’m on my back.
My Resmed Airsense 10 APAP gave me a warning that the Heat Function was not working. I did a power off reset. Still not working. I then took the plug and turned it 180 degrees like it was a bladed plug. Powered it up and it was fine. Not sure if the power supply should have a bladed plug or not, but rotating the plug has worked fine.
Hey Greg, we are glad to hear that you managed to get your machine to work properly. If you experience the problem again, please feel free to reach us at: 1-800-356-5221 for over the phone troubleshooting.
Have a great day!
I started CPAP 10 weeks ago,adapted pretty quickly changed from dream wear mast to nasal but I still wake up a lot. Mostly cause I feel I need to turn over I think or turning over wakes me up. I’m trying to sleep on my side from being a back sleeper, which Iknow is the worst position. Is this normal to still.be waking up 3-5 times a night? I don’t think my mask is leaking, at least my dream station says it is not and my 30 day AHI is 4.7. Thank you.
Hi Belinda, my apologies for the delayed response. Waking up during the night is not extremely common, however it can be a side effect with CPAP Therapy. The waking could be caused by mask, or hose leaks, if your using an APAP, a change in pressure may even wake you. What I have found is that over time the waking during the night usually improves over time.
Since you are fairly new to CPAP Therapy, I would say allow more time to become acclimated with wearing the mask and getting use to the machine. One of the most important tips I can give to achieving good therapy, is to make sure you have a mask that is sized correctly and is comfortable for you.
I have posted a link below so that you can see what some of our other CPAP users are saying about waking up during the night. I would also recommend that you speak with your doctor about your concerns with waking during the night to see if they may provide you with medical advise.
Please feel free to reach us at: 1-800-356-5221 with further questions, or concerns.
Enjoy your day!
I have used the soap mach in ne for a couple of months now. I have 1 or 2 event per hour I used sleep I get up 2 or 3 time during the night to go to the bathroom, most if the time I fall asleep again fast.
I am wondering if I really need this CPAP machine still connected every night.
I usually don’t sleep during the day not now and not before. I am not sure if get any benefit.
Hi Margaret, your doctor made a medical decision to prescribe CPAP therapy. If you have concerns regarding the benefits you are receiving from your therapy, I would recommend you speaking directly with your doctor, as they may suggest a new sleep study to confirm your Sleep Apnea diagnosis.
If you have further questions, or concerns, please reach us at: 1-800-356-5221, or you may e-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We wish you the best!
I’ve been using the CPAP resmed for over 10 months. Started with full mask, quickly transitioned to nose. I wake up in the middle of the night tossing and turning for about an hour if it’s around 5 I just get up. I almost always feel sluggish and tired when I get up. Feeling rested and fresh are days I celebrate cause they’re so rare. Sleep score is less that 3x each night, so CPAP therapy is “working” for me. My question: when will I start feeling it?
Hi Andrea, there isn’t a for certain answer to your question, but most CPAP users are able to notice some improvements in sleep and energy levels within a few months.
What is your leak rate? If you have a poor mask seal, or an uncomfortable mask, your CPAP therapy isn’t effective and in turn, you would feel tired and sluggish.
If you would like to speak with us further about your CPAP therapy, or need assistance with selecting a different mask that may allow you to sleep better, please feel free to contact us at: 1-800-356-5221, or e-mail us at: email@example.com.
We hope to hear from you soon!
I use a redsmed 10 but still feel like congestion and drainage down my throat and a funny noise, why
Hi Danny, I’m sorry to hear that your having problems with your CPAP therapy. I would recommend you increase the setting on your humidifier to help with the congestion. Once, the humidity has been increased, you may notice an accumulation of water in your hose, if this happens you may try a heated hose, or a hose insulator.
If congestion persists, try using a Sinus Rinse before going to bed and after you wake in the morning. Please see the link below of a product we have in stock.
What type of noise are you hearing? Does it sound like air escaping your mask, or hose? Is it a gurgling noise, whistling, or some other noise?
Please feel free to contact us at: 1-800-356-5221, ask for Carol, or you may e-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org Attn: Carol.
We hope to hear from you soon!
I have been using bipap for 3 days. My throat is very sore and I am now having issues with swallowing. I’m also expecting a lot of phlegm. It this normal till use to it?
Hey David, we’re sorry that you’re having some problems with your BiPAP therapy. It will definitely, take some time to become acclimated with your therapy.
Are you currently using a heated humidifier? If not, I would recommend, you try adding one in conjunction with your machine. Also, what type of mask are you currently using? If not a full face mask, you may try switching to one.
Also, please follow-up with your doctor your concerns, as the symptoms you are experiencing may not be related to your therapy at all.
For further questions, or concerns, please feel free to reach us at: 1-800-356-5221.
We wish you the best!
How do you adjust the humidifier? I’m having cold air blowing.I also have to fill everyday.
Hi Jenelle, in order for me to provide you with specific information on how to change your settings, I would need to know the name of the machine that you have.
Usually, the humidifier setting change can be made in the Patient Menu, under Comfort.
Please reach us at: 1-800-356-5221, or you may e-mail us the name of your machine at: email@example.com.
We wish you the best!
I keep wakeing up gasping for air a few time a night. I keep adjusting my mask even Went to the doctors three times to try different mask and have them adjusted it. Feels like I stop breathing and when I wake up myself up mask is full of air and Inhale rapidly to fill my lungs up again. The doctor acts like they never heard of this before but I see online a lot of people gas for air while using her CPAP mask??
Hi Debra, i’m sorry to hear about the trouble with your CPAP therapy. Please confirm in your machine settings, if you have your ramp on. If so, please turn the ramp off and see if that works better for you.
How long has it been since you last had a Sleep Test? You should speak with your doctor to see if you would benefit from having a new Sleep Study, as your settings may have changed.
Also, if you are currently using a CPAP machine, your doctor may suggest you try using an APAP machine so that your pressure will adjust on it’s own to what you need on a breath-by-breath basis.
Please see the link below to our CPAP Forum: cpaptalk.com, as other users have experienced the same problem that you’re having.
For further questions, or concerns, please feel free to reach us at; 1-800-356-5221, or you may e-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We wish you the best!
When I take a 2 hour nap during the day I find Ly air ap does not register that nights longer sleep time.
Hey Harold, your therapy data, would only be recorded if you sleep four, or more consecutive hours.
For further questions, or concerns, please reach us at: 1-800-356-5221.
Have a great day!
Why don’t I see a AHI on my CPAP. It’s a ResMed
I’ll be happy to look into this for you, but I need additional information. Resmed, is the manufacturer of the machine, what is the name of your machine.
I hope to hear from you soon!