Can I Die If The CPAP Power Goes Out?

by Lora
(Salt Lake City, Utah)

What Happens If CPAP Has a Power Failure?

What Happens If CPAP Has a Power Failure?

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 this 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 doesn'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 woman with sleep apnea who died in sleep after a power outage.

Reports in New Zealand newspapers that an inquest concluded that a 44-year-old woman died after electricity service 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 severe sleep apnea and died in sleep without CPAP. She already had the electricity service disconnected.

Remy Thierry
Founder of Sleep Apnea Guide

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Sep 28, 2022
Why no alarm? NEW
by: Anonymous

RV camping and lost power twice tonight. I woke up fighting to breathe. Couldn't understand what was going on. Eventually tipped mask from nose and realized CPAP was off and then that there was no power in RV. You'd think I would have opened my mouth to get air when power went out. Why don't they have alarm for when power to CPAP is interrupted? Going to pull up Amazon to look for UPS.

Sep 12, 2021
lost power to BIPAP machine NEW
by: Anonymous

I use a BIPAP machine and a full face mask at night due to severe sleep apnea.

The power cord on my BIPAP disconnected from the power supply box after only 20 mins, and I didn't realize it. Unfortunately I did not wake up enough to realize what happened. I slept the whole night with a full face mask on and NO power to my BIPAP.

I woke up and felt like I had been hit by a big Mack truck ALL DAY LONG. I felt dizzy all day and had no stamina at all for the entire day. The full face mask has an anti-asphyxiation valve, but I have to assume I was rebreathing at least some amount of CO2. It actually was pretty scary!!

NO ONE can convince that this is safe.

Aug 28, 2021
Philips Respironics manual worrisome NEW
by: David Ecklein

...on answer #1 -

In the Philips Respironics mask manual, the very first page is disturbing to yours truly, an old but not senile MIT engineer. I quote:

" WARNINGS - Use of this mask while the system is not on and operating may cause rebreathing of exhaled air. Rebreathing of exhaled air for longer than several minutes can in some circumstances lead to suffocation."

Evidently, the mask does NOT automatically admit room air as stated in answer #1 when machine pressure stops, or this warning would be unnecessary. At least that is my interpretation.

"Some circumstances" - isn't even one circumstance enough to keep the device off the market without any built-in warning that would awaken the user if the power goes out or the machine fails for some reason? Murphy's Law states that if something can go wrong, it will. If this is not addressed, perhaps I should contrive some sort of warning device in addition to the supplied CPAP gadgetry. Why doesn't the system supply this? They ought to, by legal negligence exposure.

We live in the woods where power failures occur frequently - sometimes lasting for hours. I do not relish suffocation in my long, restful, CPAP-induced sleep, by a machine without safeguards. That is a sleep too long and too premature.

We have a backup generator; several minutes to come on and not always reliable. The same with UPS units for computers, they are quick but prone to battery and other failure. What about folks who have neither?

Jun 23, 2020
wearing a Bipap when power goes out
by: Anonymous

I am on 4 liters of oxygen and wear a BiPap full mask at night. Recently my power went out due to a storm for nearly 2 hrs. I did not wake up till morning. My right hand was completely numb and I did not feel normal all day. I think it is crazy these
machines do not have an alarm or battery backup.
I just purchased a Battery Backup with Surge Protection. I am very Thankful to God that I am still alive.
I would encourage everyone to purchase a Battery backup ASAP! Nearly all stores that sale computers sale them.

Feb 04, 2020
My story
by: Anonymous

I wear a pillow mask and the power went out last night. I was sound asleep and didn’t wake up for an hour after power outage. In my dreams I was taking hard deep breaths when I tried talking, and finally woke up. It scared me that I didn’t resort to breathing through my mouth. Mine doesn’t have alarm. Hoping insurance will cover a newer one with alarm.

Sep 07, 2019
by: J.R.

This is a very complicated subject and I wish somebody would do a study about this.In a normal state of affair, when you inhale with the CPAP, the air from the tubing goes in your lungs. When you exhale,the outgoing air hits the incoming air from the CPAP and exits through the exhalation port. No problems. However, when there is no more power when you exhale,the air does not meet the incoming pressure of the CPAP and although some exits through the exhalation port, some also gets pushed back in the tubing. When you take your next breath, you are inhaling a mixture of room air coming in through the exhalation port and stale air in the tubing. This stale air has a reduced oxygen content and an increased CO2 content. You repeat this many times and your CO2 in your system increases. This hypercarbia gradually puts your brain to sleep and you breath less and less.If you don't wake up, and this continues for some time, you might actually die.This is especially important with full facemasks as mouth breathing would not help the situation.

Jun 25, 2019
Power out, almost sufficated
by: Anonymous

Well, I woke up last night to the sound of my husband as if he was sufficating. I could not rouse him and shook him violently. The hose had fallen off the mask. I put it back on and turned the machine on and continued to shake him. He eventually awoke. Please do not tell me you cannot die if the power goes out, this was a very scary situation. What might of happened if I did not wake up. I wish these things had an alarm on them.

Feb 25, 2019
Power Outage with CPAP
by: Patrick

I was in a deep sleep when the power went out. I was dreaming that my mail bag was covering my nose and mouth and I couldnt breathe very well. I immediately woke up realizing my CPAP wasnt working from the power outage. I took my mask off and got up and went to my garage to start my generator.

Mar 28, 2018
CPAP no Power, Use UPS!
by: Dave

If you have concerns about losing power you get an Uninterruptable Power Supply, the kind you would purchase for your computer or stereo. CPA uses such a low-level o power that one of these should support the unit until the power is restored.

We had a thunderstorm that caused a brown-out, that is the lights flickered. This set my CPAP into cool down mode. It was like someone banging on my mask and wok in a flash. Ordering another UPS this week.

Jan 24, 2018
by: Anonymous

I fell asleep with mine off last night. I am alive to write this.

Sep 12, 2017
by: carl butler

Hi I need to put our minds at rest . My mum past away on Friday and was found in her room still with the cpap on. My question is does anyone know should the Cpap alarm if the pipe comes apart from the Machine ???? If anyone can help me please . Thank you

Jul 06, 2017
CPAP unmasked
by: Ken Ares

My nephew had severe apnea. Used the mask every night. Went to a concert and had a few beers. Came home went to sleep without the mask and never woke up. Upper 30's. My question; will your CPAP machine train your brain to breathe and when you don't use the machine your brain can't adapt causing you not to breathe when you have an apnea event?

Jul 04, 2017
thanks much
by: Anonymous

Thanks much for a fantastic well considered article

Feb 07, 2017
15 years of CPAP usage...
by: Mike Canfield

If my cpap machine quits working my body will probably resort to one of the reasons I wear a cpap device to begin. It's called mouth breathing. A giant duh! Or I will just wake up and breath through my nose. Also a giant duh!

Feb 04, 2017
For full face mask wearers...
by: Anonymous

My husband has a CPAP machine with a full face mask. It does not have a valve.
One night the power went out briefly and the machine stopped. By the time he woke up her was so oxygen deprived that he was paralysed through lack of oxygen.
He was just laying there and wasn't able to move or speak to get my attention and after several minutes somehow worked out how to get his mask off enough so he could breathe. It took some time after that before he could move again and then wake me up to tell me about it.

I was so frustrated with the absolute foolishness of the manufacturers not to include a very inexpensive and simple alarm to wake up CPAP users in the event of a power failure.

I went looking for an alternative so this would never happen again and I found a device called a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) and were originally designed for computers so that when the power fails it keeps the computer going long enough for you to shut it down safely.

This device plugs into the socket and the CPAP machine plugs into it. In the event of a power supply failure, the alarm goes off and wakes you up and the device keeps the machine going for a little while giving the user time to wake up and take off the mask.

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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