Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

Definition - What does Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) mean?

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is a type of treatment typically meant for individuals who suffer from breathing problems like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It uses mild air pressure to ensure that the airways stay open while the patient sleeps. The person under treatment will wear a mask while sleeping so the air remains directed properly regardless of whether or not the patient turns his or her head during sleep. The goal is to eliminate the pauses in breathing that usually come with OSA in order to provide a more restful, and safe sleep cycle.

WorkplaceTesting explains Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are a standard treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. The equipment used in CPAP therapy has three main parts:


  • An air pump
  • A mask to cover the nose, and often the mouth as well
  • A tube that links the air pump and the mask


The pump extracts air from the room and gently exerts pressure on it. The pressurized air is then blown through the tube and to the mask which then passes through the throat of the wearer. The air pressure that flows through the throat prevents the throat from collapsing as the patient relaxes during sleep. Using the CPAP machine at night improves sleeping patterns and this can enhance alertness in the course of the day.


CPAP therapy has been shown to increase the levels of safety in workplaces, especially in positions that require high levels of alertness such as driving, piloting, and sailing. Disorders such as excessive sleepiness during the day are largely believed to be due to OSA. With continued treatment, it is show that accidents and reduced productivity caused by daytime drowsiness and fatigue can be reduced.

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