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What is CPAP Therapy?

Posted by Blooms The Chemist on 19 May 2023

What is CPAP Therapy?

If you’ve been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnoea, your doctor or healthcare provider might’ve mentioned CPAP therapy being the gold standard of treatment.

We explore what CPAP therapy is, the history of CPAP and how it can help you with treating your obstructive sleep apnoea.

What does CPAP mean?

The word CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. This refers to therapy that allows a person to breathe consistently and comfortably throughout sleep, by providing mild air pressure to a person's upper airway.

CPAP machines are most commonly used to treat sleep apnoea, a sleep disorder which occurs when your throat is partially or completely blocked while you sleep.

As your throat is blocked, this results in thousands of pauses in your breathing every night while you’re sleeping 1.

This puts strain on your body, including your heart.

CPAP machines work to help avoid these pauses and stops in breathing.

By improving your breathing while you sleep, CPAP machines help you get more restful sleep and ease the pressure these pauses put on your body.

A short history of CPAP

Dr Colin Sullivan, an Australian physician, is credited with the invention of the CPAP machine in 1980.

It was created as a more effective and less invasive solution than the previous go-to treatment, a surgical procedure called a tracheotomy.

His invention has now become the ‘gold standard’ treatment for sleep apnoea 2.

His initial invention consisted of a breathing mask, hoses and a type of vacuum cleaner engine, which was designed to manage respiratory failure during sleep.

Since then, CPAP machines have evolved with improvements in technology and advances in research, resulting in the effective and versatile machines of today.

Some CPAP machines even come with humidifiers, which help add moisture into the air that is taken away from the CPAP machine, resulting in less dry mouth and more for patients.

How does CPAP therapy work?

The CPAP machine consists of two main components; a sleeping mask and a machine.

The machine pushes air through a tube, to the mask and into your lungs as you sleep.

CPAP masks come in various forms, including nasal, pillow, and full face masks.

The varied selection of mask types means that you are able to find a solution that is comfortable and effective.

When it comes to the machine itself, there are fixed pressure, auto variable pressure, and travel machines.

As with the varying forms of CPAP masks, these machine options allow for sleep specialists to decide on the most effective method of CPAP therapy for a particular person.

The most important part of CPAP therapy is sticking with it until you find a mask solution that works for you. Many people find CPAP therapy uncomfortable, don’t stick with it and their symptoms of sleep apnoea worsen 3.

Should You Look Into CPAP Therapy?

It is absolutely crucial to treat sleep apnoea effectively, as the condition can increase your risk of diabetes, stroke, memory lapses, and headaches.

CPAP is the most effective and most popular treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea. In some severe cases, sleep apnoea can briefly wake you up over a hundred times a night.

Sleep apnoea generally affects people who are overweight, snore, are middle aged and/or have a genetic predisposition 1.

It is estimated that sleep apnoea affects approximately 5% of the Australian population, with an estimated one in four men over the age of 30 affected 1.

The sleep disorder may be affecting your life if you feel any of the following 4:

  • Constant tiredness
  • Decreased cognitive function
  • Snoring is impacting your relationships
  • Health issues unexplained by physicians
  • Negative or inconsistent mood

These are just a few of the many symptoms associated with sleep apnoea.

If you think you might be at risk, take our free online sleep apnoea quiz to see whether you should book an at-home sleep apnoea test or visit your local Blooms The Chemist pharmacy for more information.


1Better Health Victoria, Sleep Apnoea, accessed 14 April 2023

2Australasian Sleep Association, Congratulations Colin Sullivan, accessed 14 April 2023

3National LIbrary of Medicine, Factors Affecting Patients’ Adherence to Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Therapy for Obstructive Sleep Apnea Disorder: A Multi-Method Approach, accessed 14 April 2023

4Healthdirect, Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, accessed 14 April 2023