CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) is used as a first-line treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. It has been proven to be effective at reducing symptoms and risks associated with the condition. It has only one problem: it fails up to 80% of people that are prescribed it.

The failure is simple: CPAP gives no benefit if you don’t use it, and many studies show that the majority of people don’t use it. However, it’s hard to say which people will actually be able to get the benefit of CPAP, and which won’t. Here are some of the factors that research shows will influence whether you will comply with CPAP or whether you will abandon it.

Your Sleep Apnea Symptoms and Relief

Thus, a person with very visible symptoms like morning headaches, daytime sleepiness, and lack of interest is more likely to comply with CPAP than someone who is developing coronary artery disease as a result of sleep apnea, even though the latter person may be at a greater risk.

Also important is whether you see the benefits early. People who experience the benefits of CPAP during early trials are more likely to stick with the treatment than those who may take more time to see benefit.

Psychological Factors

CPAP compliance is also impacted by many psychological factors. Studies have highlighted the following reasons for low compliance, but there are many others:

  • Not seeing benefit (which is why visible symptoms play such an important role)
  • Being told to get treatment by someone else rather than seeking it out yourself
  • No cosleeper to enforce compliance
  • Low income or social position
  • Anxiety or depression

Although it’s been said that people who don’t comply with CPAP do so because they’re just bad at taking medicines or following doctor’s orders, several studies have tested this and it doesn’t seem to be true. Many people who are good at taking other medications and following structured routines just don’t get used to CPAP.

Side Effects

About 70% of CPAP users experience one or more side effects. These include:

  • Inconvenience
  • Skin irritation and breakouts
  • Poor mask fit
  • Dry airways
  • Airway irritation
  • Awareness of the pump and awakening due to the sound
  • Claustrophobic feelings due to the mask

Although these can lead to poor compliance, they don’t always. It’s often possible for people to overcome these side effects to have a good experience with CPAP.

If CPAP Isn’t Right for You

Fortunately, CPAP isn’t the only obstructive sleep apnea treatment available. If you try CPAP and find you can’t comply with it, or, based on the factors above you don’t think you’d be able to comply with it, oral appliance therapy offers a good treatment alternative.

Whether you’re looking for a treatment alternative or just want to know about all the options available, we can help.