Do You Have to Use a CPAP Machine Forever?

While an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) at night can be annoying.

It's certainly not set in stone that everyone must use a CPAP machine forever, but stopping isn't in the cards for everyone. Those who may be able to eventually retire their CPAP typically have modifiable factors contributing to their condition that need to be better managed.

This article explains why CPAP isn't a permanent cure for OSA. It also discusses alternative methods that may be available to you to help manage your sleep apnea.

Man with a CPAP machine in bed
AndreyPopov / Getty Images

Does CPAP Cure Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is improved by CPAP as the device creates a constant airflow that keeps the airway from collapsing during sleep. While it's used, sleep apnea can fully resolve.

However, CPAP is not a cure in the sense that a limited period of use will not result in structural changes that can lead to discontinuation of therapy.

Like a pair of glasses, which only improve your vision when you wear them, a CPAP only helps you to breathe and sleep better if you use it. Put it aside, and your condition will return, as the predisposing factors never really went away.

Interestingly, many people will note a few days of residual benefit when they stop using CPAP or take a break. This is due to decreased swelling along the airway. As snoring and sleep apnea resume, the swelling returns and so do the symptoms of the condition.

Is a CPAP Machine Forever?

When asked if CPAP is forever, the short answer for most people with sleep apnea is that CPAP is the most effective treatment that currently exists.

Many people with sleep apnea will put up with the inconvenience. Using the device for a few minutes per day and using it through the night leads to significant benefit.

The nuisance is often worth the trade-off of better quality sleep, improved daytime alertness and function, and decreased risk for long-term health problems.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you'll have to use CPAP forever, though, if it bothers you.

There are numerous underlying causes of OSA. Some of these are reversible or temporary, and some are not.

Reversible causes include being overweight and allergies. OSA in pregnancy is temporary.

Some people only experience sleep apnea or snoring during certain scenarios. Alcohol and sleeping on your back (in a supine position) often make these conditions worse.

If OSA is a result of your anatomy (the structures within your nose and throat and the position of your jaw and tongue), these predispositions may be present from birth and persist throughout life. Aging (and menopause in women) are other irreversible causes.

In people who are overweight, losing weight can have a significantly positive effect on sleep apnea.

Alternatives to CPAP

Technology is advancing in every aspect of life, including the treatment of health conditions like sleep apnea. CPAP devices are getting smaller, quieter, easier to use, and less intrusive.

Alternatives to CPAP exist, including oral appliances and surgical options, and more are being developed all the time. You may not have to use CPAP for the rest of your life if something better comes along.


CPAP therapy is an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, but it is not a cure for the condition. It only works while you are actually using the CPAP device.

If your OSA is caused by a reversible factor, such as drinking alcohol or carrying too much weight, resolving those issues may eliminate the need for the CPAP. If not, long-term use of a CPAP machine may be necessary.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Brandon Peters, MD
Brandon Peters, MD, is a board-certified neurologist and sleep medicine specialist.