Adherence to continuous positive airway pressure therapy: the challenge to effective treatment

Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2008 Feb 15;5(2):173-8. doi: 10.1513/pats.200708-119MG.


Despite the high efficacy of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to reverse upper airway obstruction in sleep apnea, treatment effectiveness is limited by variable adherence to prescribed therapy. When adherence is defined as greater than 4 hours of nightly use, 46 to 83% of patients with obstructive sleep apnea have been reported to be nonadherent to treatment. Evidence suggests that use of CPAP for longer than 6 hours decreases sleepiness, improves daily functioning, and restores memory to normal levels. The decision to embrace CPAP occurs during the first few days of treatment. Although many strategies in patient interface with CPAP or machine modality are marketed to improve CPAP usage, there are few data to support this. No single factor has been consistently identified as predictive of adherence. Patient perception of symptoms and improvement in sleepiness and daily functioning may be more important in determining patterns of use than physiologic aspects of disease severity. Emerging data suggest that various behavioral interventions may be effective in improving CPAP adherence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure*
  • Humans
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy*
  • Time Factors