CPAP Tolerance

CPAP Tolerance

15561659_sObstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which an individual slows or stops breathing while sleeping at a dangerous level.  The lack of oxygen makes the heart work harder than it is meant at night. Over time, it increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. It also leads to resistance to insulin and increases weight gain. Depression, increases pain, and fatigue can accompany this disorder. Unfortunately, many patients have tried CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machines but had difficulty tolerating the device. The most common reason is that they feel they are smothering. This is not unrealistic because the CPAP is designed to be an “air splint” keeping your airway open so you can breathe naturally at night. When you first put on the device you may breathe in easy but eventually have difficulty breathing out, making it feel as you are suffocating.  Addressing this problem can be done quickly and effectively.

What to Expect Your First Visit

Your first visit consists of a psychological sleep evaluation. Please bring your ID and insurance card with you. You will meet with a health psychologist for a full clinic interview to go over your sleep, CPAP tolerance, medical history, and how the sleep is affecting your life. You will also complete a series of psychological tests. These are paper pencil tests in our office and there is no time limit. You may be mailed a packet of these tests prior to your appointment. If you could complete this packet and bring it to your evaluation, it would shorten the length of your appointment. There are other tests that will have to be completed in the office. Some of these tests have general psychological questions that may seem unusual. Please just answer them to your best ability. Please bring your reading glasses. If you have difficulty reading, we have some of tests on audio, or you could have a friend or family member assist you with the completion of the test.

The health psychologist will take the information from talking to you, your psychological testing, and your medical records to compile a psychological sleep evaluation. This will include treatment recommendations for your benefit.


Treatment will include a CPAP desensitization protocol to help you tolerate the device. We have you ease into using the device so you can tolerate the pressure and mask. We also treat any insomnia (difficulty going and/or staying asleep) you may have using cognitive behavioral treatment for insomnia (place link to insomnia page).  Treatment usually consists of 3-4 sessions thirty minutes each over the course of 4-6 weeks.