Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is treatment provided by
a machine worn at night or during times of sleep to treat sleep apnea, a sleep
disorder in which a person regularly stops breathing during sleep for 10
seconds or longer. A CPAP machine increases air pressure in the throat, keeping
tissues in the airway from collapsing when a person inhales.
The CPAP machine delivers air through a mask that covers the nose
and mouth, through a mask that covers only the nose (nasal continuous positive
airway pressure, NCPAP), or through prongs that fit inside the nose. The mask
that covers only the nose is used most frequently.
CPAP is the most widely used treatment for sleep apnea caused by
blocked airflow in the throat (obstructive sleep apnea).