Is too high CPAP pressure harmful?

I have been on a bi-pap for 11 years. the pressure has always been high now the Dr is wanting to up the pressure to 22/15. This is due to daytime low oxygen saturation and lightheadedness. Cardio has already been checked out is okay.

This pressure kind of is a concern to me. Isn't that to high for the esophagus to take?


Is it Dangerous or Harmful to Have a High CPAP Pressure?

This is a very good question, and before I answer, I want to remind you that I'm not a doctor, so you would have to consult a qualified person about this subject.

If the xPAP pressure is set higher than needed, it doesn't affect your lungs, but can cause central apnea episodes.

As you probably know, central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send the necessary signal for the breathing muscles to begin a breath.

So, you will stop breathing not because you have an obstruction (obstructive apnea), but because you have a neurological problem.

However, the central apnea events caused by the high CPAP pressure are not permanent. If you reduce the pressure, the central events disappear.

In other words, you will not have a new sleep disorder - like central sleep apnea - but only central episodes during the high pressure settings.

Let me explain how these central apneas start: let's say you are in a car, traveling fast, and sticking your head out the window. What will happen?

The force of the air hitting you in the face can be enough to cause an increase in oxygen levels in your blood, and it will send a signal to your brain to change the breathing pattern, even to pause it.

That's happens with CPAP as well, if the pressure is very high. However, this is not a big problem, because the breathing will start again after that short pause.

The problem is that these central episodes can cause arousals which are not good, because they fragment your sleep. And you'll be surprised why are you so tired in the morning, even if you have CPAP or BiPAP.

Other problem cause by a high pressure is aerophagia, or air swallowing, where the excessive air can enter the esophagus and bloat the belly.

What Can You do If You Have a Prescribed High CPAP Pressure?

You should be tested with your new pressure, not just trying and see what happens. In a sleep test, the technicians will discover if you have central apnea episodes, or other problems, with this new pressure.

Or, you could first try to test for 1 or 2 nights to sleep with the new pressure, and if you believe the settings might be a mistake, call the sleep doctor's offfice immediately and let them know.

On the other hand, if this high pressure is correct, you still need to ask for help in learning how to adjust to the new settings. Be specific and let the sleep doctor know exactly how the higher pressure is bothering you.

If the sleep doctor confirms that your pressure settings really do need to be this high, but cannot provide you with any suggestions on how to learn to live and sleep with the new settings, then call the DME and ask for help from them too.
I hope it helps. Don't be afraid to comment back.

Remy Thierry
Founder of Sleep Apnea Guide

Comments for Is too high CPAP pressure harmful?

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Oct 06, 2011
There are REAL physiological problems w/ a too-high pressure possible
by: Mike

Hi - my 1st time here - I had my pressure upped from 10 to 12, and then to 17... I kept getting worse. After just 5 days on 17, I could no longer sleep w/out the BiPAP, which had most definitely NOT been the case previously. Now, my ENT says that my nasalpaharynx (the end of the nasal airway just before it joins the upper throat) is collapsing under negative pressure - and it was not before. In *some* cases, high pressure can cause this - it stretches the nasalpharynx like a balloon and it loses its muscle-tone.

Oct 05, 2015
CPAP pressure too high?
by: Maria

New at this but I feel I am not getting any real sleep when on machine! So tired and have headaches now! I feel like I am on drugs like speed inside when on machine. Like it is messing with my brain!??

Nov 05, 2015
Heart rate
by: Anonymous

I think my pressure is set to high. When waking in morning my heart is racing around 124 beats per minute. Called Doctor and he said it's not the machine cause your getting good results. I said I agree my ahi is .6, 2.1, 1.9. But the side effects my heart wakes me. Went to cardio they ran test and said heart is fine. My question is can bipap be set to high to cause this. I mean it happens not once in awhile but 7 days a week

Nov 17, 2015
Blood Pressure and CPAP Settings
by: Anonymous

My CPAP machine seemed to have a problem - when I unplugged it to travel and plugged it back in, the setting reset to 4 - the lowest setting. I could not sleep so I figured out how to reset the setting.

Hassle each time I traveled but at least I had air flowing. The issue is the setting. Not knowing what the correct setting was, I just set it to a level I felt I could tolerate.

Two things - (1) what I did was stupid. I should have consulted with my prior sleep study (which was 5 years earlier) and set the level to the recommended setting.

(2) I think setting it too high has caused other problems. Not a doc but since then I have high blood pressure and an extra heart beat. I am still foggy headed and do not sleep through the night, but better than without it.

I recently had surgery and told the anesthesiologist I have apnea - they confirmed it was "really bad" during surgery. I am wondering if any recent studies have linked high blood pressure to improper cpap machine settings?

I am not over weight, had the ppp surgery 20 years ago (excess tissue removal), and generally otherwise am in good health.

Dec 13, 2015
too much CPAP pressure
by: Anonymous

had remed 10 machine for less than 1 yr. then had episodes of too much pressure (could/t keep a seal air blowing out the machine, cheeks filling with air.) Had to turn machine off and on to get set. When machine was working right seal was ok. When pressure was too high no seal. Pressure setting 9.

Got a new Res Med 10 August 2015. Sleep study and pressure setting increased to 11. No issues. November 20th set on automatic pressure 5 to 20. December 8, 2015 Pressure issues woke with air blowing out mask. Tried to reposition mask and could not get a seal. Realized much cheeks were blowing out with breath as well as out the mask. I turned machine off and back on. It was ok until 3 episodes last night.

These incidents happened with set and automatic settings. Looks like a manufacturer's defect to me.

Jan 25, 2016
Pressure set at 5/15
by: Anonymous

I just began CPAP therapy and the initial settings were 5 low and 15 high, with auto ramp. The first when the pressure went up to 14-15 I would wake up with air blowing from my mouth (I use nasal pillows) and could not get my body to accept the additional pressures.

I also noticed that my "events" per hour had increased and were up to 11.5 per hour. I contacted my health care provider and they had the pressure reduced to 10 max.

Now I am sleeping for long periods without waking and the events have gone down to 4.5 per hour. What a relief! I am now sleeping and feeling more rested in the morning.

So glad I've been able to monitor the daily reports and could use the data to inform the doctor right away. If you have problems get it checked out asap, they can be corrected.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Problems with CPAP.

Latest Updates

  1. The CPAP Machine Guide for Newbies

    Everything You Need to Know About CPAP Machine. Learn about CPAP using a detailed Guide that will educate you to choose the best CPAP and help you to avoid the most common side effects.

    Read More

  2. CPAP Benefits | Sleep Apnea Guide

    Can CPAP benefits boost your health if you have sleep apnea or snoring? And is it worth it to sleep with a mask on your face every night?

    Read More

  3. CPAP Claustrophobia | How to Eliminate it?

    How to prevent and eliminate CPAP claustrophobia? Learn how to sleep with your CPAP mask on even if you have CPAP anxiety.

    Read More

Enter Your E-mail Address
Enter Your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Sleep Apnea Info.
Share This Site

Email; Contact UsContact Us