Have you ever wondered about the safety of a CPAP machine, considering that this is an unnatural way to sleep?

The device involves a hose and forced air down down the throat, or just the nose, or both. The forced air keeps the sleeper’s airway open.

You may wonder if a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device is safe in terms of germs or bacteria, or in terms of the mechanics of it.

A CPAP machine is not inherently harmful no matter how long you use it, says Joseph Krainin, MD, board certified in sleep medicine and neurology and founder of the online sleep apnea clinic Singular Sleep.

Many CPAP users, and those who will be new users soon, are worried that long-term use could somehow be harmful, even dangerous.

(Do they know how dangerous untreated sleep apnea is?)

“Overall, there are very few concerns about using PAP,” says D. Krainin.

“The manifest danger would be inhaling a pathogen or allergen due to an improperly cleaned machine or not using distilled or boiled water in the heated humidifier.”

In other words, the potential harm of a CPAP machine is not inherent in the device itself, but in the care of the device and inattentiveness to proper water use.

“There can be trace amounts of bacteria in municipal water systems which could potentially lead to dangerous infections,” says Dr. Krainin.

“The latent danger would be if you had the wrong type of PAP machine and/or wrong machine settings.

“In this case, your sleep apnea might not be properly treated and this could put you at risk for the long-term secondary health consequences of sub-optimally treated sleep apnea.”

These include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Falling asleep while driving and crashing the car
  • Heart disease

“This is why it’s important to consult with a sleep apnea doctor to ensure that you are effectively treating the problem,” says Dr. Krainin.

In 2013 Dr. Krainin was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, an honor reserved for sleep doctors who’ve made significant contributions to the field in education, research and service.