What Happens If I Don't Use CPAP One Night?

Once you are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea and treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), you may wonder: what happens if I don’t use CPAP one night? Whether you need a break because of a cold or you plan to take a vacation without it, you may occasionally want to interrupt your treatment. Learn what risks, effects, dangers, and consequences you might face if you miss a night and what residual benefit may occur even when you don’t use it.

Man sleeping and snoring, overhead view
Tim Kitchen / Getty Images

Benefits Persist When Taking a Break From CPAP

There are many reasons that you may decide to take a night off from using your CPAP, whether you are sick with a cold, taking a trip camping in the woods, or flying off to vacation and not wanting to drag the machine along, you may be motivated to not use it temporarily. Much like a pair of glasses, you may imagine that CPAP will work only when you wear it, but this may not be the complete story.

In fact, CPAP may actually provide you a residual benefit, even when you aren’t using it for a few days. Sleep apnea and snoring can cause swelling of the tissues that line the airway, both within the nose and throat. With CPAP therapy, this swelling can be reduced. This might make it easier to breathe, even when you aren’t using it, such as during the day. If you take a break for several days, it may take time for the condition to incite the swelling that was previously present. Therefore, the symptoms or signs of sleep apnea may also be slow to recur.

Long-Term Health Consequences Take Time to Develop

Many people worry that not using CPAP for one night may put their health at risk. The risk of sudden death, stroke, or heart arrhythmia due to sleep apnea that occurs during one night of failed use is likely vanishingly small. Instead, sleep apnea is a long-term risk factor for these medical consequences. It is a condition that is usually present for years. Much like the fact that one cigarette doesn’t necessarily kill you, but smoking for 30 years just might, it’s the cumulative exposure to the adverse effects of sleep apnea that harm health. Struggling to breathe, night after night can lead to these problems.

Sleep apnea has a long-term risk model, and not using CPAP for one night is unlikely to provoke these issues.

Getting Back to CPAP Therapy Is Recommended

Therefore, if you need to take a break from using your CPAP, don’t worry about the risks associated with it. Your breathing will simply return to your untreated tendency, and it is likely that you will initially derive a residual benefit from your recent use. As soon as possible, get back to your CPAP treatment and reap the rewards for your long-term health.

If you are interested in avoiding an interruption of your therapy, you may consider the use of a full-face mask with a cold, a CPAP battery with camping, or a travel CPAP on a trip.

A Word From Verywell

If you need help with your CPAP therapy, reach out to your board-certified sleep medicine specialist to ensure your treatment is optimized. Simple changes or additions may help you to use your device each and every night. This will maximize the benefit of the treatment and improve your well-being without any unnecessary risk.

3 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.