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?

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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.

Nov 12, 2016
High blood preasure/cpap?
by: Sal

I am a cpap user for the last 3 years. Recently in the last two months I have had a problem with my blood pressure going up very high causing me to rise early 4 to 5 am every morning. Upon rising my blood pressure reduces aprox 20 to 30 pts without meds. I do take blood pressure meds for many years.
I have also had a problem with vertigo. My doctor thinks it can be because of to much pressure from my cpap. Any suggestions?

Dec 07, 2016
HBP from CPAP?
by: High blood pressure too!

Been on Cpap for three years almost. Never had high bp, now have it. At night I stop breathing because my sinuses swell up an block air, my bp goes up to 180 and I wake because my whole body is throbbing. Sit up for a half an hour and pressure goes down a bit. Sometimes this doesn't happen, but lately a lot.

Nobody thinks it is the cpap, but it sure seems so to me. Also started wheezing in my chest with cpap, gave me a respiratory infection. Used to sleep really well, now it is hell. Don't know what to do with this either. Using nasal pillows and humidifier.

Mar 25, 2017
Cause problems healing after surgery
by: Walter T

I had a radical prostectomy April '16. I am having problems healing because I use a full face mash and am a mouth breather. Pressure is entering my stomach and bowels causing pressure on my bladder and causing a prolong incontenance issue.
Beware if you use CPAP and have your prostate removed gentlemen because there is a good chance you will be incontenant forever.

Jul 30, 2017
Why is pressure up grade on my cpap causing my chest to hurt?
by: Anonymous

Just had resent up dated cpap test they upped my air pressure to 18 now I find while i sleep it's ok but after I turn off my matching my chest hurts. I need to find out if this new pressure is good on my heart.

Sep 08, 2017
What is the Point?
by: Anonymous

I notice all these posters asking questions but there are no answers.

This is not impressive - esp since I just got my machine - a lot of people do not seem to be benefiting but just a different form of suffering from what they had before.

Sep 25, 2017
Revisit Sleep analyst with your CPAP memory card
by: OZ

I was diagnosed severe OSA two years back and was advised use of CPAP by my Doctor. Pressure advised was 10 WEP.

I lost 16kgs of body weight without diet control or exercise plan.

The feel of not a great sleep that I realised lately was so gradual that it was hard to notice or explain.

It was only when I took a friend to the same clinic to help him, the analyst mentioned that I should also get my current sleep pattern reviewed. For this, only the memory card from the machine is required. He was right, i needed pressure adjustment to a lower setting.

Suggest all Apnea friends should, atleast once a year maybe.

Dec 07, 2017
Lung Damage from CPAP too high
by: Ernest MD

The smallest air cells in your lungs, the alveoli, are designed to withstand one atmospheric pressure. When your CPAP is set higher than that (it MUST be to give any benefit) the alveoli COULD be damaged over time like tiny over-inflated baloons. This can cause emphysema.

Let me stress that this is a very long time process. The risks of sleep apnea make this risk tolerable from a medical point of view, but this risk can also be reduced by using the lowest effective setting in all cases.
I've been using a CPAP for about 27 years and I'm a retired MD.

Feb 08, 2018
by: Anonymous

the dr, set my machine at 12 and I woke with a hurt or a cold area in the upper top of my lungs. is this normal?

May 22, 2018
by: Anonymous

I used my dads cpap machine for about 30minutes today for 1st time ever and now my lungs hurt so bad and my entire body feels like it wants to cramp up, Any suggestions i feel terrible and scared.

Jan 25, 2019
shortness of air :
by: Anonymous

been on my new c-pap for a little over 2 months now. it has seem to cause me other health issues, such as shortness of air while not on the c-pap with feeling weak, shanky and sluggish all day long, make it hard to get my house work done or no desires to want to go anywhere. why and what can I do to feel like me again before I started that C-pap.

I do have alot of sinus issues, and vertigo. I feel I am under the influences of fake air. must wear c-pap all the time kind of feeling. any Help and good advice ? Kathy is in need here to a normal life once again.

Oct 24, 2019
To high CPAP air pressure
by: Anonymous

This is exactly what I unfortunately expierienced. My 1st sleep study confirmed I was diagnosed with severe OSA. I had a
absolutely miserable 2nd sleep study for fitment for CPAP. I remember clearly that the sleep tec estimated my pressure to be 14. He had to have started me high air pressure to reach 14. It was miserable. I couldn't get any sleep. The pressure was unbearable. I went over my data from the study 2 weeks later & my Sleep Dr diagnosed me with not only severe OSA but severe CSA also. I was scheduled for a 3rd study for CSA fitment. I told my wife I cannot go back & need to get a 2nd opinion. I went to another sleep study & they were ready to fit me for OSA & CSA from my original data. They started me at 3 & ended up at 8. Absolutely no Centeral Apneas appeared. WoW, what a relief. Besides a pleasant experience overall. Night & Day difference between the study's. No CSA of any kind since I have been set up properly with CPAP.

Sep 17, 2023
Acronyms NEW
by: Anonymous

Stop using acronyms without explanation. Another site used AHI and I, with irritation, managed to find the meaning somewhere else. DME means "distance measuring equipment" to me. Apparently, to you it is some sort of person. What kind of person does it represent to you???

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