How to Read Your CPAP Results

Written by
Jason Smith RPSGT
Published on
January 31, 2022 7:28:41 AM PST January 31, 2022 7:28:41 AM PSTst, January 31, 2022 7:28:41 AM PST

Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder that affects millions of people in America. With the help of a continuous positive air pressure machine or CPAP, those who struggle to breathe at night can rest easily.


Did you know that the use of a CPAP machine decreased the risk of death by 62% for those with obstructive sleep apnea, with continuous use?


Dealing with sleep apnea can be stressful, especially when it comes to using your CPAP machine. We know that CPAP machines aren't always the easiest to work with.


Here we'll go over what CPAP is, what the different settings on your machine mean, and how you can gain the most when it comes to breathing easier.


The Different Settings of a CPAP Machine


In order to be diagnosed with sleep apnea, a sleep study is performed. This is where doctors and specialists monitor your sleeping and breathing patterns over the course of a night. 


When you get your CPAP machine, your doctor will give you a recommended air pressure setting for you to use when using it at night. Besides the pressure reading, your CPAP machine can also measure different readings like the Apnea-hypopnea index or AHI as well as the leak rate. 


The AHI reading on your CPAP keeps track of how many times you stop breathing during the night. This is a crucial measurement that allows you and your doctor to monitor how severe your sleep apnea is and if it's worsening. 


If your CPAP mask doesn't fit well, or is older and worn out, it may be producing leakage through the sides of the mask, and the leak rate keeps track of this. A large leak could cause the air in your CPAP machine to become less pressurized and be less therapeutic in maintaining your breathing at night. 


How to Read the Settings and What They Mean


Your CPAP machine will measure your pressure settings in centimeters of water pressure. The lowest pressure setting is generally around 5 centimeters of water pressure or CWP, with the highest setting being around 25 CWP. 


Pressure Settings

The pressure setting should never be set to the maximum unless specified by your doctor. This usually means that you have severe obstructive sleep apnea.

The average person using CPAP will have a pressure setting of around 10 CWP, but this will vary from person to person. 


The AHI readings on your machine will vary each night, depending on how many events you may have had.


*Less than 5 events in an hour are the normal range that most people will find themselves in.


AHI Index

If you have around 15 Apnea-Hypopnea Index(AHI) events in an hour then you most likely have mild obstructive sleep apnea. More than 15 events in an hour but less than 30 will show that you have moderate obstructive sleep apnea.


*Anything more than 30 events in an hour is deemed as severe obstructive sleep apnea.


Leak rate


The leak rate measured by your CPAP machine helps monitor how much air is escaping through the mask when in use. The acceptable range of leakage is usually around 24 liters per minute, though this may vary with each CPAP machine and the parameters that the manufacturer has set.


*Having a leak rate that is above 24 liters per minute means that you aren't receiving the full benefits from your machine, and should check the integrity of your mask.


Get the Most From Your CPAP


Remember, your doctor will let you know which air pressure setting you should be using with your CPAP, and by paying attention to the AHI readings, your doctor can better determine if your pressure setting needs to be adjusted. 


Some best practices to follow with your CPAP therapy is to insure your CPAP mask should be comfortable and not claustrophobia-inducing. It should be able to stay in place as you move throughout the night.


It is also vital that you clean your mask and CPAP equipment daily and check for damaged parts or wear and tear. This includes your hose, mask and mask parts. Make sure to clean your mask cushion and hose with soap and water daily and replace every 3 months. 


Sticking to your CPAP therapy is an important key to seeing your sleep apnea improve. Do not give up hope if you struggle as a new user or have some slight hiccups along your journey. Talking with your doctor if you feel you need help with adjusting your settings.


We at 1800CPAP have your back when it comes to your CPAP needs, whether it be a more comfortable mask or other sleep aids to help you have a restful night.