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CPAP Side Effects

CPAP side effects

If you have sleep apnea and were prescribed a CPAP machine, you may have noticed some of the CPAP side effects that come along with wearing it. Recognizing what these problems are can help you to find solutions so you can wear your CPAP comfortably and get a good night’s sleep. 

Common CPAP Side Effects

Although CPAP therapy is one of the most successful methods for treating and reducing the symptoms of sleep apnea, there are a host of CPAP side effects that may follow after constant use of sleep apnea equipment. If you wear a CPAP mask and use a CPAP machine, these issues might sound familiar to you.


This is the medical term for eating or swallowing air. This generally occurs when the CPAP pressure is too high for you and can result in gas and bloating.


Wearing a CPAP mask can sometimes cause discomfort when trying to sleep. The mask can feel bulky and constrictive, and the hose can get in the way of trying to sleep in positions other than your back. Exhaling can also be uncomfortable if the pressure of the sleep apnea equipment is too high.


Many people feel claustrophobic while wearing a CPAP mask because the mask fits snug around your nose. The feeling of claustrophobia can be even worse for those who wear a full-face mask that sets around your mouth and nose.

Mask Leak

If your CPAP mask does not fit properly or isn’t properly cleaned, it can cause leakage. When there is a leak, there is a high probability that your CPAP machine isn’t able to reach its set pressure.

Dry, Stuffy Nose or Nosebleeds

Having a dry or stuffy nose is a common side effect of CPAP because air from the machine is being blown into your airway. This constant flow of air can also cause nosebleeds to occur.

Skin Irritations

Because CPAP masks fit snug against your face and are worn repeatedly, your skin can become irritated. This CPAP side effect can result in skin irritations such as rash or pressure sores. 

Dry Mouth

Suffering from a dry mouth is yet another common CPAP side effect for those with a full-face mask, as well as patients with a nasal mask who breathe out of their mouths. 


If a CPAP machine or CPAP mask isn’t properly cleaned on a routine basis, infections, such as lung or sinus infections, can occur.


Although headaches are not a common CPAP side effect, they can occur if the machine’s pressure is set too high or if you have a blockage in your sinuses.

Lung Discomfort

Some patients who use CPAP therapy complain of a burning sensation in the lungs. This is often a result of dry or cold air being inhaled from the CPAP mask. This CPAP side effect can possibly be reduced by using warm humidification.


Some complain of dizziness after wearing a CPAP mask. While the mechanism for this symptom is not clearly known, some believe that this might be due to the pressure change in the middle ear. The symptom should be short lived if due to CPAP therapy.

Shortness of Breath

While another common CPAP side effect is the complaint of shortness of breath, this feeling is usually sensorial. It is merely the sensation of not getting enough air because a functional CPAP machine never reduces the amount of air that can be inhaled.

Even though there are side effects related to using sleep apnea equipment, it’s important to be compliant with continuing to wear it. Not using your CPAP mask and machine as prescribed can cause larger, more severe health problems such as fatigue, high blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, heart failure, heart attack, or stroke.

Woman confused about CPAP side effects

How to Prevent CPAP Side Effects

If you’re experiencing any of the CPAP side effects mentioned above, don’t give up on the treatment just yet. There are solutions to these common problems. Try these different strategies to reduce or completely halt your CPAP side effects.

Clean Your CPAP Regularly

Make sure that your CPAP mask and machine are clean. It is important to make cleaning your mask, tubing, and water chamber a regular habit to avoid any bacteria or fungi buildup. The CPAP mask and humidifier chamber should be cleaned daily with mild soap and water. On top of this, you should soak all of the parts in vinegar and water, using one part vinegar to three parts water. Follow this routine once a week. There are also sanitizing machines, like a CPAP cleaner, that you can purchase if you are having trouble keeping up with this cleaning schedule. 

Avoid Using Oily Products

Oily products like makeup or moisturizer can be a major cause of CPAP side effects. Remove any of these products from your face before applying your mask. Otherwise, the oil can build up on the mask if not cleaned daily.

Make Sure You Have The Proper Mask

CPAP masks are available as nasal masks, full-face masks, and nasal pillows because one type of mask isn’t suitable for everyone. Before choosing a mask, there are a few factors you should consider. Mouth breathing, claustrophobia, sleep position, and machine pressure are important areas to evaluate. These should be discussed with your doctor before choosing which type of mask you should be wearing.

Check Your Humidifier

If you’re having CPAP side effects relating to respiratory irritation, dry mouth, dry nose, or nosebleeds, check your humidifier to make sure it’s working properly. Also, as previously mentioned, make sure you’re cleaning it regularly.

Try Switching to Heated Tubing

Heated tubing warms the air traveling through the CPAP and can improve its temperature. The tube, filter, and mask are part of the CPAP supplies.

Consider Sinus Medication

If your sinuses are blocked, talk to your sleep doctor to see if you need a sinus medication to let your CPAP work more effectively and reduce your CPAP side effects.

Try Using Mask Barriers

Creating a barrier between the CPAP mask and your skin can help with skin irritations such as sores and rashes. There are barriers you can purchase that are sometimes made with gel or cloth. A hypoallergenic tape can also work to create a barrier.

Make Sure Your Strap is Secured

If your mask is strapped on too tight it can cause skin irritations. If it is too loose, it can cause a leak. Take the time to ensure your CPAP mask strap is secured properly to avoid any unnecessary CPAP side effects.

CPAP mask and machine

Adjusting CPAP Pressure to Avoid CPAP Side Effects

If the other methods don’t work to relieve your CPAP side effects, it may be time to adjust your CPAP machine’s pressure. Here are a few notes to remember when it comes to perfecting your CPAP pressure.

Make Sure You’re Using the Correct Pressure

Make sure the pressure on your CPAP machine is the pressure that was prescribed to you. If it is and you’re still having trouble with discomfort while exhaling, swallowing air, or feel the pressure may be too high, you may want to talk to your doctor to see if your pressure setting needs to change.

You May Need a New Pressure  

If you’ve gone through recent lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking or drinking, weight gain or loss, or changes to your underlying medical condition (such as diabetes), some of the original symptoms of OSA may reappear, due to residual sleep disorderd breathing.  These changes to your lifestyle or medical condition may require a new pressure setting for your CPAP or BiPAP.  With advances in technology, an FDA cleared OSA test that can be done in your home, with the results interpreted by a certified physician, remotely.  If you think you may be suffering from residual sleep disordered breathing, click here to find a home sleep apnea test provider.  

Try Using the Ramp on Your Machine

When you use the ramp on your sleep apnea equipment, your CPAP machine starts out at a lower pressure and gradually increases until it reaches your set pressure. Using this gradual technique can increase your comfort level, as well as help you get used to wearing your mask each time you put it on.

Always make sure to talk to your doctor before making any changes to your CPAP routine. Since the side effects of sleep apnea outweigh the CPAP side effects of using a CPAP mask and machine, it’s important to find a solution so you can wear your CPAP comfortably and consistently.

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80 comments on “CPAP Side Effects”

  1. When I first started with my cpap, 15 years ago, I had terrible ear infections and headaches.
    Now several years later I am deaf in one ear and use a hearing aid.
    Has anyone experienced the same?

  2. I have had machine 8 yrs and I seem to be continually having chest problems like ashma wondering could it be the machine usually clean wkly driving me insane

  3. I have vestibular syndrome and after using my cpap for the first time last night I’m feeling very dizzy and lightheaded, is that ok? I’m eyes are tearing up too.

    1. Yes that is usually the case and experts state to gradually go deeper until you fully have it back far enough to stick out your tongue and reach the stems base .

  4. With CPAP, my breathing and fatigue during the day is debilitating. I feel short of breath and too tired to do anything. By 4 in the afternoon it disappears and I have energy and normal breathing. Adjusting the ramp and pressure makes no difference. I’ve told my sleep doctor that nothing is working and asked for a different type of machine. He keeps advising the same advice, fiddle with the pressure. This has been going on for 5 years.

  5. Jeff made what sounds to me to be an excellent point. “Aren’t you breathing in your own co2?” when you exhale you do so into your mask and breathe it back in again.
    I suffer from lightheadedness all day long after using my CPAP all night, Jeff’s question is about the only thing which may account for my issue.
    Any thoughts?

  6. If you have a fresh brain blood and it is thought to be a stable brain bleed, will the cpap with a very high 25 lb pressure cause more blessings in the brain, if one goes back to it using it when home from the hospital?

  7. I have Aerophagia from my cpap device and although my physician does not agree I believe the air pressure is too high causing horrible side effects. Periodically I wake up with dizziness, vertigo, loss of taste, swallowing difficulty’s and I’m lethargic with little control over my arms/hands and a terrible headache than I just have to sleep most of that day than those symptoms will last almost 24 hours.
    Is there anyone who suffers from sleep apnea and using a cpap machine gone through this or similar symptoms. I just know it’s the device the pressure is too high but I can’t convince my doctor to change the pressure SO I stopped using it in November 2020 and I have not had any episodes since I discontinued using my cpap. Please if you have or know of someone who has experienced these same symptoms respond back with your story.

    1. I have similar problems. I have terrible headaches after 8 months use. Have blocked ears all the time for already 3 weeks.zIts affecting my hearing.Seen my GP twice since then for my problems.

    2. I'm a new patient on a cpap machine. I'm swallowing air and choking, too. Dr is changing me to an apap machine. Hoping this helps w/ choking. Also, I have a nose mask, but think a full mask might serve me better.

  8. I have been using the ResMed AS 10 for about 8 months. after a couple of months, I developed a fairly acute shortness of breath ,exacerbated by any vigorous physical activity. I had a complete medical checkup to see what the problem might be. I got a clean bill of health along with some medication for very mild asthma. My condition still persists. Is this just a coincidence, or do other cpap users complain of this?

    1. This is exactly what is happening to me! My doctor has ran so many different tests and when I told her the problem wasn't as bad when I went a few days without my machine, she was more worried about me not using my machine and had me do an echocardiogram. I'm currently looking at seeing another doctor to get a second opinion since the one I have now doesn't seem to want to listen.

    2. Hi , I have the same symptoms, I find that I wake up in the morning short of breath with a bad dry scratchy throat, Iv been going to the doctor for help but he says I’m fine.
      Iv noticed thou when I clean my machine and mask regularly I’m not as bad. I’m not a doctor but try washing your mask and tube daily and then let it hang to dry outside on a hot day. It helps kill the bacteria. What we could be suffering is.. bacteria build up and dry throat combined.
      I hope that help solve your answer

    3. Yes i have been having what I thought or think is ashma but now I am wondering if it my machine it is about 8 yrs old but sometimes I have breathing problems and cough so I understand

    4. Just came up with shortness of breath. I have been using a c pap for the last ten years. I haven't had this issue previously, wondering if using the machine is causing it. Have to admit it does not get cleaned everyday, but at least weekly.

    5. I had a similar thing happen when I had a cold. I had trouble breathing during the day, and was lethargic, could barely speak. I went off the machine for a couple of nights and it cleared up. Talking to my CPAP provider, they said that if you have a cold, turn off the humidity (kind of like adding moisture to pneumonia). I did go back to humidity after a while and haven't had any issues.

      I do need the machine and if I go too long without it my fingertips loose circulation and deep ridges appear in the middle fingernails. The next machine I get will be a travel machine with a separate humidifier.

  9. 8 years using my nasal pillows, recently I wake with an awful burn way back in my nose that will cause me to sneeze all day. Tomorrow might be nothing, next day might be on other side. Trying to find the cause and possible med to relieve the burn.

    1. Have you tried using ayr nasal gel. It helps keep more moisture in my nose, than just the humidifier alone.

  10. I was introduced to Herbal HealthPoint and their successful COPD Herbal treatment, i immediately started on the treatment for my 6 years long Emphysema condition. The herbal treatment is incredible, my severe shortness of breath disappeared within the first month. Go to HealthPoint official web page w w w. herbalhealthpoint .c o m. This treatment improved the quality of my life and i am Emphysema free!  

  11. To Commenter: "Soul be Free" I laughed my head off at your comment but am also concerned.

    Are you okay? Your comment just made me laugh!

    I have red eyes from my CPAP. I got a proper fitting but the red eyes are just hard to clear up.
    Using refresh but feel better but still red.

  12. My biggest concern of using a cpap mask is: when you exhale aren't you breathing your CO2 (carbon dioxide) right back in? I suspect this is what causes dizziness, a chief complaint, as well as some of the other side effects? I don't see anyone else bringing that up, but it would stand to reason that when you have that mask on, it's forcing air into you, but when you exhale you are blowing it back into the hose, but then it blows back into you... all night or until you take it off. You aren't really getting any fresh air! At least that's how I see it, I don't see any valves for air you exhale to escape to allow only fresh air in.

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