model wearing cpap full face mask in bed

How to Determine Whether Your CPAP Pressure Needs Adjusting

October 20, 2020 | |

CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, therapy is the most effective form of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. A small, bedside machine produces pressurized air that flows through a tube to a mask worn by the patient. The air pressure helps to keep the airway from collapsing, allowing patients to breathe throughout the night and sleep restfully. CPAP machines require a valid prescription from a licensed physician, and the air pressure setting is determined by your prescription. So how do you know if your CPAP pressure needs adjusting?

What Are the Signs That Your CPAP Pressure Is Too Low?

CPAP therapy provides the minimum amount of air pressure needed to keep your airway open. When your CPAP pressure is too low, you will have difficulty breathing while sleeping. To determine this, check your sleep reports to see your AHI score. AHI determines the severity of your sleep apnea – the lower the score, the less severe the sleep apnea. If your CPAP pressure is too low, the AHI score will most likely be higher.

What Are the Signs That Your CPAP Pressure Is Too High?

One of the main indicators that your CPAP pressure may be too high is difficulty breathing. If you have a hard time exhaling against your prescribed pressure, it may need to be lowered. You may also experience chronic dry/sore mouth and throat, excess bloating and gas, or even fluid in the ears. 

Which Factors Affect CPAP Pressure Setting?

AHI score is the main factor when prescribing CPAP pressure settings. The higher the AHI score, the higher the severity and the higher the prescribed setting.

  • AHI of 5-15 (events per hour) is considered mild sleep apnea
  • 15-30 (events per hour) is considered moderate sleep apnea
  • > 30 (events per hour) is considered severe sleep apnea

Of course, there are a number of outside factors that can affect your AHI score. Chest and nasal congestion, enlarged tonsils, a deviated septum and more can increase your AHI score and therefore, your pressure setting. Weight loss, reduced alcohol consumption, smoking cessation and more can improve your AHI and lower your prescribed pressure.

What Should I Do If My CPAP Pressure Settings Need Adjustments?

If you feel that your pressure settings require adjustment, speak to your doctor. Do not try to adjust your CPAP machine yourself. Calibrating your CPAP machine is part of the process of getting the most out of your CPAP therapy and needs to be done by a professional. If you are unable to see your doctor, online services, such as Sleep Care Online, offer prescription renewal programs with board-certified sleep physicians.

Other options include switching to an auto CPAP machine. Auto CPAPs adjust the air pressure you receive automatically, starting with lower pressure to help you fall asleep and then increasing pressure once you are in a deep sleep. By self-adjusting, your auto CPAP machine uses a range of air pressure to keep you comfortable all night along. 

The CPAP Shop offers a wide variety of CPAP and auto CPAP machines. If you need help selecting the right CPAP machine for you, speak to our knowledgeable customer care team. Call 866-414-9700 or email us at for additional information.

Chris Vasta

Chris Vasta is the president of The CPAP Shop and an expert in sleep and respiratory therapy. He often provides insights on product design and functionality on various manufacturers’ prototypes and is frequently tapped to provide reviews on new releases.