Positive airway pressure therapy — in its various forms, such as continuous (CPAP), bilevel (BPAP) or automatically adjusting positive airway pressure (APAP or AutoCPAP) — is the first-line treatment for nearly all patients with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea.
Positive airway pressure therapy uses a machine that functions something like an air compressor. It delivers air under pressure through a tube and an interface that connects directly to you. The most common interfaces are those that cover the nose (nasal mask), both the nose and mouth (oronasal mask) or insert into the nostrils (nasal pillows). Positive airway pressure therapy can work very well and has relatively few risks. Positive airway pressure can improve health and sleep quality, and it can improve or eliminate snoring as well.
An important limitation is that it requires sleeping with a mask on that is attached to a machine. A substantial number of patients are not able to sleep comfortably while wearing a positive airway pressure therapy mask. In these patients, it is important to consider other treatment options, including possible surgery.