Can You Use CPAP Without Water?

no water in CPAP

Using a CPAP machine for the first time can be complicated and you may have a wealth of questions regarding its use. One of the common questions that people have is whether you can use your CPAP without water. Many people use their CPAP machines with water from the get-go and may be considering stopping, but is this possible?

In this article, we will be taking a more in depth look at whether the CPAP machine can be used without water and why as well as the effects that you can expect from this.

Why Do You Need Water For A CPAP Machine?

Before we begin looking at whether you can run your CPAP machine without water, it is first important to understand why we might add water in the first place.

When using a CPAP machine, many patients notice that they wake up with a very dry mouth, this can be at best irritating and at worst can cause headaches and nose bleeds or chapped sore lips. These issues can be resolved by using a CPAP humidifier which makes use of water to keep your nose and mouth hydrated and moist whilst using your CPAP machine.

Usually when we breathe, the nose will naturally warm up the air making breathing a more comfortable experience, however when using your CPAP machine, this natural breathing is taken away and the air from the machine does not have the chance to warm up. By using a CPAP humidifier, you will no longer need to breathe in cool air directly from the machine which can bring about a more comfortable night’s sleep as well as eradicating symptoms caused by the dryness.

How Does The CPAP Humidifier Work?

To avoid a dry nose or mouth, the CPAP humidifier sends the air through a small tank of water which is kept at room temperature through the aid of a heating device located under the water tank. This means that when it reaches you, it is at an optimal temperature for breathing.

Using a CPAP humidifier is particularly beneficial to those who require their machines set at a high pressure or for people who live in a drier climate.

Most modern CPAP machines will come with a built in humidifier, or at least one which can be attached to it.

So Can I Use My CPAP Machine Without Water?

Logic would suggest that you cannot operate your CPAP humidifier without water since this is the main element of this part of the device. In essence, this means that you cannot operate your CPAP humidifier without the use of water.

Without water, the CPAP humidifier has nothing to aid the heating of the air other than the heating plate, but this cannot work as a standalone device and may even cause damage to the tank if water is not present. Some users also notice a bad smell arising from a water chamber that does not contain water.

If you are using a CPAP humidifier, you cannot use your CPAP machine without water.

There may be, however, times when you wake in the morning to notice that the water tank has prematurely run dry. If this is the case, you may need to adjust the heat settings. Most often, this occurs if you require your CPAP machine set at a high pressure, so lowering the heat settings should ensure that the water lasts until morning.

Using The CPAP Without Water

The use of the CPAP humidifier is optional, so in short, you can use your CPAP machine without water. But this must only be done if you are not making use of the humidifier. However, it is important to remember that if you do not use the humidifier, there may be some unwanted side effects to using the CPAP machine.

If you are not going to use the CPAP humidifier, you might experience any of the following:

  • Dry nose or mouth.
  • Dryness of the upper internal airways such as the respiratory tract and the upper lungs. This may result in a dry cough.
  • Chapped or sore lips.
  • Headaches which may feel similar to a sinus headache.
  • Nose bleeds.
  • Gum damage which may lead to a loss of teeth. However it is important to remember that this is a much more rare side effect.
  • You may notice that the effect of your CPAP machine is diminished somewhat when not using your CPAP humidifier due to the fact that your breathing is disrupted as a result of the dryness.
  • Some people find that using their CPAP machine without water can cause them to have a disturbed night’s sleep as the dryness that they experience causes them to wake more frequently.

Whilst these unpleasant side effects can be disruptive, it is also important to bear in mind that using your humidifier might also cause some unwanted effects. Weighing up the pros and cons might help you to decide whether to add water to your CPAP and take advantage of the humidifier.

Side Effects Of The CPAP Humidifier

As we mentioned, there may be some side effects when using your CPAP humidifier. If you find that any of these apply to you, you might consider using your CPAP machine without water, if you are able to tolerate the dryness associated with it.

The most common effects noticed by patients using water with their CPAP machine are as follows:

  • Some people may still experience a dryness whilst using the CPAP humidifier, although this is usually lessened. However, this is something that can be dealt with by adjusting the temperature or humidity settings on the humidifier.
  • More commonly, patients using a CPAP humidifier may experience what is known as ‘rainout’. This is something that occurs when the heated air from the humidifier settles and cools within the tubes of the machine. This means that when the air reaches you, it has partially turned to water, leaving you with moisture on your face. The solution to this problem comes in the form of using a heated tube which will help prevent the air from cooling before it reaches you.
  • In some cases, using a CPAP humidifier might interfere with your sleep since they can sometimes cause noise. On top of this, the aforementioned ‘rainout’ may cause disruption to your sleep as the water splashes on to your face.

You might decide that using a CPAP humidifier is not for you, or you may decide that you only want to use it from time to time for example if you travel a lot, you might not want to take your humidifier or you may take a smaller CPAP machine which does not support the use of the humidifier.

If you are using a CPAP humidifier, it is essential that you keep it clean to avoid infection from a build up of bacteria or mold.

How Do I Use My CPAP Machine Without Water?

If you have decided to lose the humidifier or feel that you do not need it, you may be wondering how you can operate the CPAP machine without water.

As we have already mentioned, most of the newer CPAP machines come with a humidifier built in, however there are options for deactivating this feature. How it is done will depend on the model of machine that you are using.

  • For some models, the humidifier can be detached from the machine. When doing this, you should reconnect the tube to the blower once the humidifier has been removed.
  • There are certain models of CPAP machines from which the humidifier cannot be detached. If this is the case for you, there should be an option to simply turn off the heating function of the humidifier. This will enable you to use your CPAP machine without water and will also serve as a prevention for bad smells or damage occurring in the humidifier when water is not present.


Many of the more modern CPAP machines come with an attached humidifier. This handy device can assist those who suffer from a dry nose or mouth whilst using their CPAP machine.These symptoms and others such as headaches or chapped lips can be alleviated through activating the humidifier which heats up the air via a water chamber. For this reason, when using the CPAP humidifer, you cannot use your CPAP machine without water.

However, for anyone who does not wish to use the CPAP humidifier, there is the option to remove it or deactivate it in the settings menu of the machine. If this is the case, then your CPAP machine can be used without water.

In essence, depending on how you use your machine will depend on whether you can use it without water or not.



Dan was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2017 when he was only 32 years old. He has been using a BIPAP machine for his treatment. He hopes to provide a patient's perspective on the sleep apnea experience. Dan lives in Tampa with his girlfriend and 2 dogs.

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