What It’s Really Like to Sleep with CPAP

Were you diagnosed with sleep apnea and wondering what it’s really like to sleep with a CPAP?

Like so many people with PCOS, I have obstructive sleep apnea. A common condition, sleep apnea causes pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Sleeping pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and can be accompanied by snoring, gasping, or choking for air. Like many, I was unaware that I had it. Here is my experience getting diagnosed with sleep apnea and treatment using a CPAP machine.

My husband is a sound sleeper but would say he noticed I snored sometimes. It wasn’t until a family vacation where my snoring was brought to attention-by my loving sons. My snoring had woken them up. They even recorded me in the middle of the night. I was shocked to hear how loud I was snoring. I heard about it the entire trip.

I was checked for sleep apnea 10 years prior, even did a sleep study in a lab, and was not diagnosed with it. If I was snoring that loud, I thought it would be worth getting checked again, giving the high rates of sleep apnea in PCOS, as well as sleep problems.

High Rates of Sleep Apnea in PCOS

According to a study published in Steroids, the risk for OSA is at least 5-to 10-fold higher in women with PCOS, regardless of what people weighed. The higher prevalence of sleep apnea in PCOS is believed to be due to elevated androgens which affect sleep receptors in the brain. Sleep apnea is linked to worsening inflammation and insulin resistance and high blood pressure. Many people with sleep apnea feel tired a lot, especially in the afternoons. Not only was I tired, but I had been getting frequent headaches.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea:

  • Loud and chronic (ongoing) snoring.
  • Pauses may occur in the snoring. Choking or gasping may follow the pauses.
  • The snoring usually is loudest when you sleep on your back.
  • Snoring may not happen every night. Over time, the snoring may happen more often and get louder.
  • Sleepiness during the day, at work, or while driving.
  • Morning headaches
  • Memory or learning problems and not being able to concentrate
  • Feeling irritable, depressed, or having mood swings or personality changes
  • A dry throat when you wake up

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Getting Diagnosed with Sleep Apnea

I was diagnosed with PCOS with a sleep study. At first, I tried a sleep study at home. This involved wearing a heart rate monitor strapped across my chest, nose plugs, and a pulse checker on my finger, all while I slept. It was easy and relatively simple to use. The results were inconclusive. Next step: a sleep study in the sleep lab.

Compared to the simplicity of the at home sleep test for sleep apnea, the test in the lab was much more complicated.

I checked into the sleep lab around 8pm, wearing my pajamas and carrying my pillow. I was brought to a guest room with a double bed, TV and recliner. The room had a private bathroom.

After unpacking my few toiletries, I relaxed in the chair and watched TV. The technician came in and started hooking me up with all these electrodes. Pads were stuck to my face, head, hands and legs. It took a good 20 minutes to set it up. Afterwards, I was free to relax or go to sleep.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to sleep given I was hooked up to all these wires that were attached to a (movable) machine. I also felt pressure to sleep. I took some melatonin and after a while, was able to sleep. I did wake up several times due to the wires. I had to go to the bathroom at one point which required taking the rolling machine with me.

The technician woke me up at 6am. All done! She peeled the electrodes off me and off I went to start my day.

The Initial Set Up of CPAP Machine

The sleep lab results were conclusive. I had obstructive sleep apnea. There were numerous pauses in my breathing and my oxygen was lowered. I was prescribed a CPAP machine which I had to wait 6 months for (this was during the pandemic so hopefully better now). I had no idea what to expect. I wondered what it’s really like to sleep with a CPAP.

A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine is the main treatment for sleep apnea. A CPAP delivers continuous pressurized air (oxygen) through tubing into a mask to keep your airways open.

what it's like to sleep with cpap

Choosing a CPAP Mask and Settings

I could pick which kind of mask to use. They range from just one that goes in your nose, to one that covers just your mouth, to a full fighter jet mask that covers both nose and mouth. Since I was a mouth breather, I opted for the middle one.

It took some adjusting to a CPAP. For the mask I chose, the tube connected to the headframe at the top, so it was easy to move around in my sleep. I had to do different experiments and adjustment to get the right size mask and the right settings for the humidity and tube temperature. These factors changed as the weather got colder. Calling and speaking to someone for help with the settings made a big difference.

I ended up getting a fleece tube cover to keep the humidity in during the cooler months. It also is soft for sleeping and protects my furniture.

It did take awhile to get used to the forced air. Thankfully, many CPAP machines now have a delay setting that will ramp up after a certain time frame, such as 20 minutes when hopefully, you are asleep.

Cleaning CPAP

Using a CPAP requires maintenance. You must clean the tubing out with soap and water every week. This is easy to do in the bathtub. You also need to use distilled water only. No, you don’t need those fancy CPAP cleaners. Simply hang your hose to try in the shower.

What It’s Really Like to Sleep with CPAP

Initially, I was surprised I didn’t notice a dramatic difference in how I felt once I started sleeping with a CPAP, as some report. But I will say that I hardly get headaches at all now. And I am not nearly as tired throughout the day as I used to be given that I am sleeping though the night and have deeper sleep.


After a few short weeks, I finally had the CPAP settings right and got used to sleeping well with it, which is the goal. My kids were also happy to no longer hear me snore. It’s definitely a commitment to use a CPAP but with the right set up, support and perseverance, you too can improve the quality of your sleep and hopefully, your PCOS.

Share with us: What’s it like to sleep with CPAP for you?

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