Ear, Nose & Throat

How Do You Know If You Need a CPAP Machine?

written by Becki Andrus
How Do You Know If You Need a CPAP Machine?

Some people are reluctant to start using a CPAP machine, but this one change in your sleep habits can have a ripple effect to improve many other areas of your life.

Before jumping to conclusions about whether or not you need a CPAP machine, it’s worth taking the time to talk to medical experts and learn about the potential benefits.

Why Treatment is Important for Sleep Apnea

When a person has sleep apnea, it means that their breathing temporarily stops while they are sleeping. The airways collapse, blocking the ability of the air to move through.

The problem with sleep apnea is that it cuts off oxygen in the body. As a result, the body wakes up, so the breathing is restored to normal. Unfortunately, some people experience this loss of oxygen as often as 30 times an hour.

Not only does sleep apnea interfere with the quality of your sleep each night, but the reduced amount of oxygen and poor sleep quality can cause many other long-term health risks, such as:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Depression
  • And more

If you want to improve the quality of your life, then it starts by improving the quality of your sleep. A CPAP machine might help.

How a CPAP Machine Helps with Sleep Apnea

CPAP stands for “continuous positive airway pressure.” This machine increases the air pressure in the throat, reducing the risk of an airway collapse when you inhale while sleeping.

CPAP machines are designed with different attachments, depending on your unique needs:

  • Prongs that fit in the nose
  • A mask that covers the nose
  • A mask that covers both the nose and mouth

Using a sleep apnea machine provides a non-surgical solution for treating obstructive sleep apnea. The goal is to keep the airway open so you can stay asleep at night while also protecting oxygen levels by preventing airway blockages.

When you are wearing a CPAP, it delivers a consistent flow of pressurized air while you are asleep. As a result, your airway stays open, and you can breathe normally.

How Do You Know If You Need a CPAP Machine?

The only way to know if a CPAP machine is right for you is by consulting with an experienced ENT. Our medical team can complete the proper diagnostic steps to determine if your sleep is affected by breathing problems.

Here are a few of the most common signs that it’s time to talk to an ENT about sleep apnea:


Does your spouse or partner complain about your snoring at night? The first sign of sleep apnea is often snoring.

Consistent snoring on an ongoing basis could indicate obstructive breathing problems. Usually, sleep apnea snoring is the loudest when you are lying on your back, and it quiets down when you roll over to your side.

Additionally, your partner might notice moments of silence during the night. Not only does the snoring stop, but your breathing is also stopping temporarily.

Choking or Gasping

Your spouse or partner might notice other sounds associated with sleep apnea, such as choking or gasping for air. When there is a temporary interruption in the breathing pattern, the body responds in different ways to restore the breathing.

Most of the time, the person with sleep apnea doesn’t remember these instances in the morning. Instead, they fall asleep again immediately after waking up.

Ongoing Fatigue

Does it feel like you are always tired, no matter how many hours of sleep you get each night? People with sleep apnea often experience chronic fatigue. The ongoing interruptions to their sleep have a negative impact on the overall quality of sleep.

So, you might notice a lack of energy or excessive drowsiness during the day. Be careful about sleepiness while driving. These feelings of fatigue can often be corrected by treating the underlying cause: sleep apnea.

Sore Throat or Dry Mouth

How do your mouth and throat feel when you wake up in the morning? If you often experience a dry mouth and/or sore throat when you wake up, it could be linked to sleep apnea.

The vacuum effect that happens with apnea can suction up stomach juices into your throat and esophagus. As a result, it causes irritation in the throat, resulting in pain and discomfort.


Poor sleep patterns have an undeniable effect on your emotional and mental well-being. When you are always tired, then it’s no surprise that you are irritable with other people around you.

Other signs of sleep apnea include difficulty concentrating to the point where it negatively impacts your quality of work or performance.

Can You Live Without a CPAP Machine?

Depending on the severity of your sleep apnea, sleeping without a CPAP doesn’t necessarily mean that your life is at risk. With sleep apnea, the body wakes up during the night so breathing can resume, which keeps you alive in the moment. Therefore, the risk of sudden death is small.

But the way sleep apnea contributes to other severe medical conditions could affect longevity and quality of life. Sleep apnea poses long-term risk factors and serious medical consequences when left untreated.

Even if you can live without a CPAP machine right now, you should still consider the proactive health benefits that come from improving your breathing while you are asleep.

What Level of Sleep Apnea Requires a CPAP?

Just because you have sleep apnea doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to use a CPAP machine. While a CPAP is recommended for moderate and severe cases of sleep apnea, it can also be helpful for mild cases as well.

In fact, a CPAP machine is considered a first-line treatment. Specific criteria must be met under Medicare and other insurance guidelines to qualify for a CPAP. For example, a patient must have an apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) over 15.

What Happens if You Use a CPAP and Don’t Need It?

As with any other type of medical equipment, it’s best to consult with a doctor about current and ongoing use. When you don’t need it, using a CPAP machine can interfere with your breathing rate.

CPAP machines are for obstructive sleep apnea – the type of sleep apnea that stops breathing because of a collapse in the airway.

Using a CPAP machine when you don’t need it could increase the risk of central sleep apnea, which happens because of changes in the way the brain sends signals to muscles that control breathing.

So, it’s not recommended to use a CPAP machine without a proper diagnosis and oversight from an experienced medical professional.

Sleep Apnea Treatments and More from a Local ENT

The best thing you can do is consult with an experienced ENT about your unique medical situation. Then, our team can complete a thorough evaluation and diagnosis to determine if a CPAP is right for you.

Are you researching your options to meet with an ENT in the Collin County or Dallas areas? Visit Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat – our locations are in Frisco and Plano, TX.

It’s easy to fill out our online form when requesting an appointment. Or, you are welcome to call us at your convenience: (972) 596-4005. Please know that we are here to help!

Our clients' stories

We find our patients’ experiences the most rewarding part of the job. Without them, we wouldn’t be one of the longest standing ENT practices in the area!

“We consulted Dr Tseng based on our pediatrician's recommendation. He's so great a doctor who took time to explain us everything and genuinely guided us in the right direction. He's such a caring, genuine and knowledgeable doctor. Oh how I wish there were more like him! ”

Hetal U. user icon

“I have used Collin Co. ENT and Dr. Kenny Carter for over 3 years, primarily for ear problems. The staff has been consistently helpful and friendly to me. When I have had problems needing immediate attention and explained the need, have been able to get an appointment within a reasonable time to address the problem. I recommend Dr. Carter and his staff.”

Stan B. user icon

“Dr. Matheny performed 2 surgeries on my wife, both were successful with great results. He is not only a great surgeon, but a great person. It was a pleasure working with him. One of the best doctors we have ever seen in our lives.”

Mehrdad M. user icon
Make an appointment