What Happens if I Don't Clean My CPAP?

Sleep apnea is a very difficult thing to live with. It impacts your quality of sleep, which impacts almost every other area of your life. You’re not getting enough sleep, which makes you too tired to do anything.

There are over 22 million Americans with sleep apnea, and using a CPAP machine can help restore a high quality of life. 

CPAP machines are simple to use, but they require care and maintenance.  If you’re wondering “What happens if I don’t clean my CPAP,” read on to find out.

Understanding How Your CPAP Works

Before we embark on the consequences of not cleaning your CPAP machine, let’s take a look at how a CPAP works. That will give you a much better understanding of what can happen if you don’t clean your CPAP.

With some type of sleep apnea, the tissue of your tongue and throat muscles are relaxed. They’re so relaxed, they can shift and block your airway. That interrupts your breathing pattern and your sleep.

A CPAP machine draws in air and pressurizes it according to your sleep specialist’s recommendations. It then travels through a heated humidifier, tubes, and to your CPAP mask. The humidifier works because it prevents the air that you inhale from drying out your mouth and nose.

That could lead to inflammation in the airway, so it’s important to keep your humidifier working properly. 

This type of discomfort can lead to an adherence issue. Studies show that over a 20 year period, adherence to using a CPAP is only between 30-60%. This is due to discomfort experienced when using a CPAP. 

The pressurized air helps support the relaxed muscles in your mouth and throat, keeping them from blocking your airway.

You then exhale into the mask. CPAP masks are designed to allow a little air to escape, so there won’t be a buildup of carbon dioxide.

What Happens If I Don’t Clean My CPAP?

If you don’t clean your CPAP, you’ll get one of these warning signs that it’s time to clean it.

Cleaning a CPAP doesn’t occur to many users until one of these warning signs appears. You'll then likely ask that curious question, “What happens if I don’t clean my CPAP?”

Remember how the CPAP works? You’re breathing in and out of a mask all night. That’s helping you sleep.

You probably learned in school that you breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. What you probably didn’t learn is that the air you exhale is made of a little bit of water vapor from your lungs and your mouth.

That water vapor has nowhere to go except to the mask and tubes of your CPAP machine. If you know anything about warm, moist, dark environments, you’ll know that they can be a breeding ground for a lot of bacteria and other things.

When you don’t clean out your CPAP, bacteria and mold can grow inside the tubes and in your mask.

It’s not only your tubes and mask you have to worry about. The air that you breathe in starts in a humidifier. That humidifier is another place for moisture to breed bacteria and mold if not properly maintained.

Can a CPAP Machine Make You Sick?

This is a common question that CPAP users ask often. Let’s say that you don’t clean your CPAP machine and there’s a buildup of bacteria and mold.

You’re breathing in bacteria and mold all night. That can be a cause of sinus infections or respiratory infections. Other issues that might occur are bronchitis or pneumonia. 

If you regularly experience symptoms of a runny nose, allergies, or irritation in the throat, make sure that the symptoms aren’t due to your CPAP machine.

Likewise, if you regularly experience respiratory and sinus issues, you want to be sure that your CPAP is clean, so you can rule out your CPAP as the cause of these issues.

How to Clean Your CPAP Machine

Now that you know why keeping your CPAP clean is important, how do you keep it clean?

You should clean your CPAP out on a daily basis to prevent any type of mold and bacteria from growing in the tubing or in the mask.

Cleaning the mask and tubing aren’t enough. Remember, your CPAP machine has a humidifier that needs attention, too. You’ll need to clean out the humidifier and replace the filter.

You might be tempted to use something harsh that will kill bacteria to clean your CPAP. You need to be careful with this because you could be using a cleaner that contains alcohol. Alcohol can break down the equipment, and reduce the longevity of your CPAP.

There are many tools and cleaners available to clean your CPAP machine. You can find out more about the different ways to clean your CPAP machine by reading this article.

Cleaning Your CPAP Machine is an Important Part of Sleep Apnea Care

You already know what it’s like to live with sleep apnea and what it can do to your daily quality of life. Investing in a CPAP machine can help alleviate sleep apnea and give you a quality of life you could only dream about.

You no longer need to ask “What happens if I don’t clean my CPAP?” You know now how important it is to take care of your CPAP, so it can take care of you.

Are you ready to clean your CPAP machine? Take a look at this comprehensive list of CPAP cleaners.