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Skipping CPAP Therapy? Here’s What Happens If You Don’t Use Your CPAP Machine

Table of Contents

Image of a woman deciding what to do when skipping therapy

💡 Key Takeaways

  • Short Breaks Are Generally Safe: Missing a night or two of CPAP therapy usually won’t cause significant issues. However, it’s crucial to resume therapy as soon as possible to prevent cumulative negative effects on your health.
  • Long-Term Absence Is Risky: Skipping CPAP therapy for weeks or months can lead to the return of sleep apnea symptoms and associated health risks, such as high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar levels.
  • Immediate Side Effects Are Minimal but Cumulative: Skipping just one night may result in minor metabolic and cardiovascular changes. These effects become more pronounced and harmful if CPAP therapy is regularly skipped.
  • Keep Breaks Brief and Infrequent: If you must skip CPAP therapy, aim to keep the break as short as possible to minimize the risk of sleep apnea symptoms returning and affecting your well-being.
  • Consult Your Healthcare Provider: Before taking any extended breaks from CPAP therapy, consult your healthcare provider to understand the potential risks and how it could affect your treatment plan.

Whether you’re traveling without your equipment, are feeling congested, or are struggling to sleep with CPAP and want to catch up on some ZZZs, at some point, you will probably end up not using your CPAP machine for at least a short period.

Sometimes, this happens due to circumstances outside of your control. Other times, you just need a break from your CPAP. If you’re considering skipping or even stopping CPAP therapy, it’s important to understand what happens if you don’t use your CPAP machine so that you can make an informed decision.

Missing a few days here and there probably won’t cause any serious issues, but sleeping without your CPAP for multiple weeks or even months at a time can be detrimental to your health and well-being.

What Happens If You Don’t Use Your CPAP Machine?

In most cases, taking a short break from your CPAP machine is relatively safe. However, if you don’t use your CPAP machine for an extended period, it can cause your sleep apnea to return in full force, along with its unpleasant side effects and concerning health risks.

Side Effects of Not Using Your CPAP Machine

The effects will be minimal after the first couple of days without your CPAP machine, but within a couple of weeks, you will start to notice the impact of sleep apnea more and more. These effects are primarily caused by the regular sleep disruptions that occur when your sleep apnea returns.

Eventually, you will begin to feel much like you did before you started CPAP.

Risks of Not Using Your CPAP Machine

CPAP therapy has many benefits, including reversing much of the damage caused by sleep apnea. Unfortunately, not using your CPAP machine for an extended period will eventually lead to the return of various health risks related to untreated or undertreated sleep apnea.

Here is what can happen if you don’t use your CPAP machine for long periods of time:

Skipping CPAP for a Night

While it’s best to use your CPAP machine every time you go to sleep, most people can safely skip a night of CPAP occasionally. However, you should resume using your CPAP as quickly as possible and avoid turning it into a regular habit, as the minor effects of missing CPAP therapy add up over time.

Side Effects of Not Using Your CPAP Machine for a Night

The damage caused by untreated sleep apnea is cumulative, meaning it becomes more of a problem as time goes on. Studies also suggest that many of the effects are reversible. So, as long as you resume CPAP therapy within a few days, you probably won’t notice any negative effects from not using your CPAP machine.

That said, skipping CPAP for just one night can impact your body in minor ways and may leave you feeling less energized the next day. A 2017 study found that participants with moderate to severe sleep apnea experienced minor metabolic and cardiovascular changes within hours of falling asleep without their CPAP machines.

Their results included increased levels of:

  • Blood Sugar
  • Stress Hormone (Cortisol)
  • Blood Pressure

While their findings may sound concerning, these effects were relatively small and really only cause harm if you decide to skip CPAP therapy regularly or quit treatment altogether.

Can You Skip a Night of CPAP?

Most experts agree that missing a night or two of CPAP isn’t a problem as long as you don’t do it regularly. Knowing you can take a short break from CPAP therapy if needed may even help some people remain compliant with their treatment plan.

In fact, most health insurance plans even let you take occasional breaks per their CPAP compliance agreements, which usually require you to use your machine for a minimum of 4 hours per night, 21 nights per month.

Not Using CPAP for a Week

A night or two without CPAP isn’t usually a big deal, but the effects of not using your CPAP machine become more evident as time goes on. Going one week without CPAP may not lead to lasting damage, but some of the unpleasant sleep apnea side effects will start to return.

Side Effects of Not Using Your CPAP Machine for a Week

After a few days, sleeping without your CPAP machine will begin to affect you in more noticeable ways. At this point, your sleep apnea will have returned, but the physical effects are still relatively minimal and reversible. The main concern is poor sleep.

Studies have shown that it takes just a few days for those sleep apnea events to return in full force after you stop using your CPAP machine. Naturally, this increases sleep disruptions, which will soon begin to take their toll on your daily life.

Most people begin to notice that they feel unusually tired after about a week or two. However, it was reported that most cognitive and motor skills remained normal even after people began reporting fatigue.

Researchers from these studies also noted increased physical effects after a week/two weeks without using CPAP, including:

  • Episodes of Low Blood Oxygen Levels
  • Morning Blood Pressure
  • Morning Heart Rate
  • Stress Hormone

Can You Skip a Week of CPAP?

If you are going to take a break from CPAP, it’s best to keep it to no more than a couple of days. Taking a week off from your CPAP machine will most likely cause your sleep apnea to return with the same severity you experienced before seeking treatment.

While you may only notice the fatigue caused by the return of sleep apnea, research suggests that the damage to your body will begin to build up. Some physical effects may be harder to spot, but after a week or two without CPAP, you are likely to notice impacts on your mood and performance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I Have to Use CPAP Every Night?

It’s best to use your CPAP machine as often as possible. For some people, that is every night, but others may need to take a CPAP break occasionally. If you’re considering a CPAP break, keep it to no more than a day or two and avoid making it a regular habit.

What Happens if I Don’t Use My CPAP for a Week?

Not using your CPAP machine for a week will lead to the return of your sleep apnea, resulting in poor sleep that will probably leave you feeling tired. During this time, your body may also experience a slight increase in blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate, and stress levels.

Should I Bring My CPAP Machine on a Weekend Trip?

Technically, it’s okay to miss a couple of days of CPAP therapy while you’re away for the weekend. However, it’s always best to take your CPAP machine with you whenever you leave for a trip, just in case you run into unexpected travel issues and need to extend your trip.

What Happens if I Stop Using My CPAP Machine?

After about a week, you’ll feel more tired than usual. As the effects of untreated sleep apnea begin to build up, you will once again experience the full-blown side effects of sleep apnea, including irritability and brain fog. Eventually, this can cause damage to your body and lead to serious health risks.

Final Thoughts

We hope we’ve helped you better understand what happens when you don’t use your CPAP machine. The bottom line is that you’re probably safe to skip a night of CPAP therapy or even two every once in a while. But eventually, the side effects of not using your CPAP machine will start to add up, and your sleep apnea will return. So, keeping these CPAP breaks brief is important to avoid any risks to your health and well-being.

As always, speak with your healthcare provider about the benefits and risks before making any changes to your CPAP treatment plan, especially if you’re considering taking a break from CPAP therapy.

  • Kenzie Dubs

    Kenzie is a science-based content writer who has a passion for educating the public on the healing powers of sleep! She graduated with a bachelor's degree in biology in 2016 and went on to earn a second degree in nuclear medicine shortly after. She has several years of professional experience in healthcare, including emergency medicine, radiology, and general care. Along with her unique background, Kenzie also has personal experience with sleep apnea, including loved ones who have recently begun their own CPAP journeys. With each article, she aims to provide our readers with honest, accurate information that they can use to improve their health and wellness!

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