Can I die if the CPAP power goes out?

by Lora
(Salt Lake City, Utah)

If you're worried that you may suffocate in your sleep if the CPAP shuts off during a power outage, then this page is for you.

The following question is asked by CPAP users who want to know what happens with them (their breathing, or quality of sleep) if the power goes off for the CPAP machine.

I use a full face mask and have heard I could die if I don't wake up when the power goes out. Is thais true?


Can power outage kill you if you are on CPAP? Lora, this is a good question, and I have two answers for you:

Answer 1

All CPAP masks are designed with exhalation ports and have to be FDA approved before they are introduced to the marketplace.

More than likely, if the CPAP machine stopped during the night, you would wake up; but if you do not wake up, don't worry.

These masks are designed to allow you to breathe room air if the blower stops.

To ease your mind, I've had the power go off twice while on BiPAP. I woke up almost immediately both times.

Once was while camping (well, in a motorhome), at about 2 a.m. when the AC power we were hooked up to went out - over several counties in Maine.
I was deeply asleep, but woke up very quickly.

Fortunately, we had the ultimate back-up and I plugged into the coach power (2 large deep-cycle batteries and an inverter).

Fears of suffocating when CPAP goes off are overblown. You wake up when you begin having apneas, just as you did before CPAP, only probably a little quicker because you are no longer accustomed to sleeping through them.

The only people who might actually suffocate would be severely disabled or heavily medicated people who couldn't open their mouths or rouse themselves.

So, my recommendation is to:

  • Notify your electric provider that you are medically dependent on a cpap, they may have policies in place to prioritize keeping utilities on in medically dependent households. You will probably need to file an official form for this.

  • Keep a fully charged deep cell marine battery, and if your machine won't run off 12 volt power, get a good inverter. You can run your machine up to three nights on a good charge, and plug it in to recharge when you do have electricity. I keep this setup under my bed for use during storm season.

Answer 2

I found a case about a women with sleep apnea who died in sleep after a power outage.

Reports in New Zealand newspapers that an inqiest concluded that a 44 year old woman died after electricty sevrice was disconnected for being behind on bills, as a result her CPAP did not work.

If you look up her name "Muliaga" and CPAP and New Zealand in any browser, you will see several articles about this.

Publicity from the lawsuit will bring extra attention to how necessary CPAP is, and make sure that your local electric company lists you as a person who needs electricity for medical reasons.

However, you may realize that this woman had a severe sleep apnea and died in sleep without CPAP. She already had the electricity service disconnected.

Remy Thierry
Founder of Sleep Apnea Guide

Comments for Can I die if the CPAP power goes out?

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Nov 06, 2016
Y'all are silly
by: Anonymous

You can't die from a cpap. Folks just won't happen, ALL cpap
Machines are built so that very scenario will not,can't,and won't happen. Did you not think they thought about that. You guys are silly LOL. Love my cpap machine!!!

Aug 05, 2016
Power outage on Cpap
by: Anonymous

When power went off while using my Cpap with nasal mask and chin strap, I attempted to get up 15-20 minutes after power outage, fell backwards on floor, and now have sore neck and shoulders. I am purchasing back up power for the machine.

Apr 10, 2016
Power Failure and C-PAP
by: Rodney

A full face mask has extra protection with an anti-asphyxiation valve. Still, you might be less likely to die from an apnea/hypopnea when the power goes out, than if you didn't used one at all.

This is why: You get "use" to the positive pressure from the machine. Since you are "accustomed" to this pressure, the sudden drop in pressure from a power failure, gives the sensation the air is being "sucked" out of you. In a kneejerk reaction it wakes you up. You may even gasps for air. Believe me, power Failures are far more annoying than deadly.

Note: Not all areas will prevent service interruptions due to non payment of bill for C-PAP use. Some States don't recognize it as a "life threatening" medical device, such as an oxygen concentrator. Oklahoma (my state) does not.

Nov 15, 2014
by: helen nz

The lady in New Zealand didn't die in her sleep while on a cpap machine. She was awake in the daytime and was oxygen dependent. Completely different scenario.

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