wikiHow to Acquire a CPAP Machine

Two Parts:Acquiring a CPAP MachineDiagnosing Sleep Apnea

You may suspect that you have sleep apnea because of your loud snoring and how tired you feel every day. You probably have heard a lot about this condition which causes your breathing to become shallow or actually stop for short periods of time while you sleep. If you do have sleep apnea, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine will open up your airway and help you to breathe better. See a doctor who can diagnose you and help you figure out if this treatment is best for you.[1][2]

Part 1
Acquiring a CPAP Machine

  1. Image titled Acquire a CPAP Machine Step 1
    Make an appointment with your doctor. You will have had a sleep study (called a "polysomnogram") to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, and your doctor will use the results of this sleep study to help you pick out a CPAP machine and adjust the settings to be right for you.[3]
    • Your doctor will discuss the results of the sleep study with you, and write a prescription for a CPAP machine.
    • Your doctor can also help to answer any questions you may have about where in your community to obtain a CPAP machine.
  2. Image titled Acquire a CPAP Machine Step 2
    Check with your insurance company. You will need to order the CPAP machine from a company that sells home medical equipment. You want to make sure the home equipment provider you use is covered by your insurance.[4]
    • Most people's insurance does cover CPAP machines.[5] However, it never hurts to verify your coverage prior to making the purchase.
  3. Image titled Acquire a CPAP Machine Step 3
    Learn about CPAP machines before you make a purchase. Go to websites where CPAP users discuss what they like and dislike their masks and machines. Look up the official website for the machines you are thinking about buying. Talk to your doctor or a representative at the company selling you the machine.
    • You already had a trial run with the help of an experienced technician at the sleep center. Think back to what mask worked for you at that time.
    • The CPAP machine has three main parts: a mask that sits over your nose or your nose and mouth, straps to keep the mask in place on your face, and a tube which connects the mask to the machine’s motor. This motor blows air through the tube and out of the mask; this constantly blowing air applies mild pressure which keeps your upper airway open.[6]
    • A nasal pillow can take the place of the mask. It has two short plastic-like tubes that fit into your nostrils. There is a strap to hold it in place and a tube connecting it to the machine motor.[7] Decide whether you prefer this option, or a full mask. It will depend how well the mask fits your face (there are a variety of mask options available), and which option feels best to you. This part is very subjective and varies from person to person.
    • The CPAP machine is small, lightweight, and generally quiet. The noise the machine makes while it is working is soft and rhythmic. It should not interfere with your ability to sleep.[8]
    • Consider getting a CPAP machine with a variable warming humidifier.This helps a great deal if you have sinus issues; the extra moisture may make the blowing air less irritating.[9] If in doubt, CPAP machines with humidifiers included have been shown to be more successful for most people.
  4. Image titled Acquire a CPAP Machine Step 4
    Follow-up with your doctor regularly. After purchasing your CPAP machine and trying it out at home, let your doctor know if your family or spouse is hearing snoring, or if you are feeling tired during the day again. He or she may need to adjust the settings on your CPAP machine to help it work better for you, if you encounter any problems.[10]
  5. Image titled Acquire a CPAP Machine Step 5
    Do not stop using your CPAP machine. Call your doctor if you cannot tolerate the machine while you sleep. The doctor can help you find a different type of mask or therapy. Remember the benefits of treating your sleep apnea.
    • CPAP keeps your upper airway open during sleep, improves the quality of your sleep, makes you feel more rested in the morning, allows you to be more productive throughout the day, lets others living with you get some sleep, and can decrease or prevent high blood pressure.[11]
    • The health benefits of using your CPAP machine regularly are enormous, even if you don't always notice the difference yourself. It will pay off years down the road in avoiding health complications that can otherwise arise from sleep apnea.[12]

Part 2
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

  1. Image titled Acquire a CPAP Machine Step 6
    Discuss sleep apnea with your doctor. If you have not yet been diagnosed with sleep apnea, but suspect you may have it, it is important to talk with your family doctor. Until you have received an "official diagnosis" of sleep apnea (including undergoing a sleep study called a "polysomnogram"), you will not be eligible for medical coverage for a CPAP machine.[13]
  2. Image titled Acquire a CPAP Machine Step 7
    Understand what causes sleep apnea. You breathe in air through your upper airway. Normally, air goes in through your nose and mouth then it flows past the back of your throat into your lungs. If you think about your body as a machine, it is busy throughout the day using energy to keep you running smoothly. The lungs pull oxygen, an energy source, from the air into your blood. But, your lungs can do more than one thing at a time; carbon dioxide, a form of waste, moves out of your blood into the same air. The end of this cycle is when you breathe out this air.[14]
    • When you have obstructive sleep apnea, your breathing is slowed or maybe even stopped. If you have severe sleep apnea, you may stop breathing hundreds of time in one night. This is because all of the muscles in your body, including your upper airway, relax as you sleep. This allows the tissues in the back of your throat to hang loosely and block the easy flow of air into your lungs. Your brain and the rest of body are not getting enough oxygen. Your body’s answer to this problem is to wake you up just a little. This tightens up the tissues in the back of your throat just enough to allow you to breathe better. You will not remember waking up over and over again, but your sleep is not restful.[15][16]
  3. Image titled Acquire a CPAP Machine Step 8
    Talk to you doctor about your sleep. The people around you, such as your spouse and/or family, will have to tell parts of your story (such as reporting about any snoring and/or sudden nighttime awakenings from the fact you have stopped breathing). They likely know more about what really happens when you are sleeping than you do. However, you can tell your doctor about symptoms such as not feeling rested, falling asleep during the day, or perhaps even falling asleep for a moment while driving (note that this is one of the biggest dangers of undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea).[17][18]
  4. Image titled Acquire a CPAP Machine Step 9
    Undergo a thorough physical examination by your doctor. Your doctor will look for things which may put you at risk for sleep apnea. He or she will also ask about your health in general.
    • Your doctor will look in your mouth to look at the size of your tonsils and/or adenoids; these tissues found in the back of your throat can block your upper airway if they are large. Your large tongue could fall back into your throat and block the flow of air.[19]
    • Obesity is the strongest risk factor. The prevalence of OSA progressively increases as the body mass index increases. Having a large neck size (17 inches or greater in men and 16 inches or greater in women) increases your risk.[20]
    • You are at higher risk if you are over the age of 40, but even a child can have sleep apnea — the prevalence of OSA increases from young adulthood through the sixth to seventh decade. The doctor will take note of your sex and race. You are at a higher risk if you are male (men are two to three times more likely to have OSA) and African-American, Hispanic, or a Pacific Islander. Having a small jaw or abnormalities in the upper airway are other risks factors your doctor will look for during the examination.[21][22]
    • Nasal congestion increases sleep apnea twofold. Smoking increases the risk of sleep apnea by aggravating preexisting symptoms. Menopausal and postmenopausal women are at an increased risk of sleep apnea. Family history of snoring is also a risk factor. Alcohol, narcotics, and benzodiazepines may increase the risk for sleep apnea.
    • Other medical conditions that increase the risk of sleep apnea include pregnancy, CHF, End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), chronic lung disease, asthma, stroke, transient ischemic attacks, acromegaly, thyroid disease, and PCOS.
    • Finally, if the clinical examination and symptoms you share with your doctor are suspicious for sleep apnea, he or she will order a sleep study for you. This is how the definitive diagnosis is made. When the diagnosis of sleep apnea is confirmed via a sleep study, you will then be eligible to proceed with getting a CPAP machine for treatment.


  • CPAP machines are not the only option for treating sleep apnea. Ask about mouth devices (such as mandibular advancement device or MAD) and other options.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (19)

Article Info

Categories: Sleep Disorders