Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

What is CPAP ?

CPAP (pronounced “see pap”) is used as a treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea and can also be helpful in some other situations.

How does CPAP work?

CPAP patient

CPAP works by blowing air at pressure into the back of the throat via a mask to keep the airway open during sleep. It prevents the airway from collapsing, allowing you to sleep better and helping to maintain correct oxygenation while you sleep.

There are several different makes of CPAP machine but they all work on the same principles.

There are several different types of mask system available.

You will be fitted with a suitable mask system or nasal plugs, and given information on how to clean and care for this equipment.

Nasal pillows are a system without a mask but using nasal plugs to deliver the air to your airway.

If you have any problems with your mask, eg ill-fitting, rubbing, air leaks etc, CPAP support teams are available to help you.

Telephone (01642) 282533 during office hours (8.30am – 4.30pm) and explain your problem.

Starting CPAP

CPAP mask

You will be admitted to the hospital for one to two nights, to a side ward off Ward 9 at The James Cook University Hospital. Specially trained staff will show you the equipment and how to use it.

You will be monitored overnight to allow the correct CPAP pressures to be determined.

Recordings will be made of:

  1. Pulse
  2. Oxygen saturation
  3. Chest and abdominal movements
  4. Body position via video / sensor

The information is downloaded onto a computer.

You can go home during the day, anytime after 6am.


CPAP machines

On leaving hospital after one to two nights you will either

  • be given your own machine already set with the correct pressure for you
  • be given an AUTOSET machine to take home and use for several days.

The AUTOSET machine automatically assesses the correct pressure each night it is used. After several days of use at home you will be asked to return to the hospital for the results to be analysed. The correct pressure for you will then be set on another CPAP machine for you to take home for long-term use.

People usually find that it takes several weeks to become used to using the CPAP machine and wearing the mask.

It is normal to have some difficulty adjusting to the idea of having to use this machine. You should find that if you were sleepy before, it soon makes you feel much more wide awake during the day.

You should sleep better when your sleep is no longer disturbed by obstructions to your breathing.

Further Information

Your CPAP machine comes with an explanatory booklet containing much helpful information on looking after and using your machine.

CPAP is a treatment – not a cure

It works while it is being used. You can take your machine away on holiday with you. You can take it abroad but you need to check the power supply of the country you are visiting. People take CPAP machines all over the world, eg, USA, India, Australia etc. CPAP machines can be used in boats and caravans if you obtain a suitable battery/connector.


If admitted to hospital for any reason it is very important that you inform the nurse/doctor about your CPAP treatment. Take your CPAP machine to hospital with you.

Useful Links


CPAP leaflet (520kb)
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