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

Not using your continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine for one night isn't likely to lead to any serious consequences. However, there are still risks associated with doing so.

While you may experience some continuing benefits for a while from previous CPAP use, consistent use is better for your overall health. It prevents or reduces serious concerns associated with sleep apnea, such as heart disease and high blood pressure.

This article discusses what happens if you don't use your CPAP machine, including potential outcomes and risks.

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

Long-Term Health Consequences

The risk of sudden death, stroke, or heart attack associated with one night of failed CPAP machine use is likely very small.

Instead, sleep apnea is a long-term risk factor for these medical consequences. It is a condition that is usually present for years and it’s the cumulative exposure to the adverse effects of sleep apnea, like untreated high blood pressure, that may lead to serious health concerns.

Benefits Continue When Sleeping Without CPAP

In the short term, previous CPAP machine use may provide you with a residual benefit, even if you don't use it for a couple of days.

Sleep apnea and snoring can cause inflammation of the tissues that line the airway within the nose and throat. With CPAP therapy, this symptom can be reduced. Research suggests this reduction in inflammation occurs when individuals use their CPAP machine for around five days a week for a little over six hours or more per night.

This may indicate that having previous, consistent CPAP use will allow you to still experience some residual benefits, even if you skip a night of use.

If you take a break from your CPAP machine for several days, it may take time for the airway inflammation to return to its previous level of severity. However, for many individuals, symptoms may return within a night or two.

Prioritizing Consistent CPAP Machine Use

If you need to take a break from using your CPAP machine, keep in mind that your symptoms will likely resurface within a day or two. Before sleeping without your CPAP, it's best to speak to your healthcare provider first. While the risks associated with skipping a night or two tend to be small, it's in your best interest to avoid any treatment interruption.

To help avoid treatment interruption, you may consider:

  • Using a full-face mask if you have a cold, so you still receive oxygen even with nasal congestion
  • Taking an additional CPAP battery with you if you go camping
  • Taking a travel CPAP with you on trips

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 use your device each and every night so you can maximize treatment benefits and improve your well-being.

5 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.
  1. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. What is CPAP Therapy?

  2. Masa JF, Corral-Peñafiel J. Should use of 4 hours continuous positive airway pressure per night be considered acceptable compliance? Eur Respir J. 2014;44(5):1119-1120. doi:10.1183/09031936.00121514

  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine, Johns Hopkins University. The Dangers of Uncontrolled Sleep Apnea.

  4. Tichanon P, Wilaiwan K, Sopida S, Orapin P, Watchara B, Banjamas I. Effect of continuous positive airway pressure on airway inflammation and oxidative stress in patients with obstructive sleep apneaCanadian Respiratory Journal. 2016;2016:1-7. doi:10.1155/2016/3107324

  5. American Academy of Physiological Medicine and Dentistry. Taking your cpap on a trip. Don't leave home without it!

By Brandon Peters, MD
Brandon Peters, MD, is a board-certified neurologist and sleep medicine specialist.