Attitude and Expectations

Approximately 50% of all patients diagnosed with sleep apnea and prescribed CPAP therapy will abandon treatment or fail on CPAP. Why then, if CPAP therapy is the gold standard, does this happen? It’s an intriguing question that begs for answers.

Yes, CPAP therapy is challenging. The challenge is to find the best combination of the 3 components which are CPAP device, CPAP heated humidifier and CPAP mask. All 3 must be tweaked on an individual basis through trial and error. The device itself has optional features that need be customized for each patient. The addition of heated humidifier assures comfort but sometimes challenging to find the best temperature setting. Mask choice is the most challenging and without proper assistance from your CPAP supplier, may take more trial and error attempts than your patience might allow. Ultimately, the most important factor in achieving CPAP success is the patient himself and the fortitude they encompass. So, beyond the equipment involved, this article tackles the psychological elements of making CPAP work.

“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re probably right” – Henry Ford

What have you brought to the table upon your diagnosis of sleep apnea? Do you come with a positive attitude or a negative one? Will you persevere or will you give up?

Fear Factors

You have family or friends who have failed on CPAP
You’ve heard their horror stories about how bad it is
Your first experience in the sleep lab using CPAP and mask was uncomfortable
You’ve seen the CPAP and mask and don’t want any part of it
You are claustrophobic and think you cannot wear a mask….period
You are worried that your bed partner will be turned off by how you look strapped to a medical device
You are so sleepy and depressed, a pity party is easier than a fight

Realistic Expectations

Start with a clean slate. Throw away all of your fears, negative thoughts and preconceived notions based on what you think you know, or whom you have talked to. Once you understand that CPAP therapy is challenging and you accept that challenge, success is only brief steps away. Attitude is everything.

You might be thinking that success is all about the medical devices you are faced with using and you would be partially correct. But realistically, success is determinant on you, your attitude, your expectations and your fortitude.

Be Positive and Proactive

Be proactive as you start therapy by learning the operation of your machine comfort settings and mask choice. After your CPAP supplier sets up your equipment, trial and error begin. They cannot help you unless you tell them what’s working and what’s not. While they should be holding your hand through the adjustment period, don’t sit back and wait for them. It’s your life we are talking about and no one cares more about you than you. With persistence, you can fly through the trial and error adjustment period as quickly as YOU choose. Most, who fail on CPAP, were not proactive. They did not take the time to learn about their equipment comfort setting features or mask choice and fit techniques to tweak and resolve. They gave up before they really started.

How can you psyche yourself up and have a “can do” attitude? Choose your goals from the list below and know that all that stands between success and failure is you.


Factors Reduce risk of heart attack or stroke
Reduce risk of congestive heart failure
Lower your blood pressure
Eliminate or reduce frequent night time bathroom trips
Eliminate or reduce heartburn or GERD
Increase libido
Increase memory and concentration
End daytime sleepiness
Eliminate snoring
Eliminate headaches caused from low oxygen levels
Eliminate depression and moodiness caused by sleep deprivation
Spend more quality time with your loved ones
Be more productive at work, home, or school
Reduce the noise pollution in your bedroom ( snoring) to allow return of your bed partner
Increase energy level to allow diet and exercise to help you lose weight
Repair damaged relationships due to your lack of energy, moodiness, depression
Increase your overall health and well being
Get your life back

If it still seems overwhelming and you need assistance, consider cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). If it wasn’t highly effective, this subsection of specially trained sleep professionals and services would not be so prevalent. Covered by insurance, ask your sleep doctor for a referral to CBT. There is no need to feel alone nor give up. Help is out there, just ask for it.

The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Contact your physician or health care provider when you have health related questions. Never disregard or delay medical advice because of information you have obtained on this site.