First Night With CPAP: My Experience and What to Expect

For people that are planning to use CPAP for the first time, there is a lot rolling through their minds. Will I hate it? Will it work? Will I feel sleep better? Is it going to be uncomfortable?

These are all normal questions and concerns. While not everyone has the same experience with CPAP, I hope sharing my experience can shed some light on what to expect. CPAP has changed my life for the better, and I hope that anyone who has sleep apnea can beat it. And right now, pap therapy is the best way to do that.

Right Before The First Night

So, before I could begin using CPAP, I had to get my device. In my situation, I had an in person meeting with a DME representative to show me how to use it. She had me try on the mask with the pressure recommended from my titration test. She turned it on and away we were. At first, it felt weird breathing against the pressure. after 10 minutes I felt more comfortable, but was concerned I wouldn’t be able to sleep like that.

The last 15 minutes she walked me through the settings, basics of how to clean it, and what supplies that it came with. So 30 minutes of training and I was off with a device that was worth my than my overpriced smart phone. The thought of CPAP not working became a 2nd thought now that I was more nervous about breaking my new machine. And it didn’t help that my untreated sleep apnea was giving me horrible anxiety to begin with.

But I got my machine home. I already had a spot for it next to my bed, all set for my first night. For better or worse, I was going for it.

The First Night

I remember my first night quite well. I remember going to bed earlier than normal. I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to fall asleep, so going to bed early seemed like a good idea. I measured the distilled water right to the line on the humidifier. I practiced putting my mask on and off several times. I made sure all the filters were in place and all the tubing was tight. I was ready.

I put my mask on, turned on my machine, and I laid down. I was quite pleased that the machine barely made any noise. I had a table fan blowing that was also quiet, but my CPAP was even quieter. I was laying on my back, since it seemed the most ideal having the nasal pillow mask. Even though before CPAP, I slept on my stomach the most. But this night, I was on my back.

And then, all of a sudden, just like that, I fell asleep. I woke up the next morning not feeling like myself (in a good way). Before CPAP, I would wake up several times  throughout the night. I would go to bed at 10 pm, and wake up at 10:45 pm, then 11:15, and again at 11:35, and so on. But this time? I went to bed at 9 pm, and woke up at 7:30 am.

That was way more hours than a normal person needs. But I was deprived on good sleep for so long, my body wanted the extra hours. Having all that uninterrupted sleep really was a blessing. I remember feeling more awake, which is what I was hoping for. But the most memorable part for me was how I felt more alert and aware. I really struggled with focus and paying attention in the mornings. I laughed it off as not being a morning person, not aware that sleep apnea was ruining my life.

It didn’t take long though for me to experience an odd, and sort of gross side effect. I have heard a lot of stories about people’s first night’s with CPAP, and I don’t think I have heard of anyone experience this. But I thought I would share it anyway. When I first woke up, one of the first things I did was blow my nose. Lots of mucus came out of me, way more than normal.

But it didn’t stop there. I blew my nose what seemed like a few times every hour, more and more coming out. I was worried this would be a normal routine for me. Thankfully it wasn’t and this was just the first day after using CPAP I experienced this. But it sure was frustrating, even though being awake and pleasant sure felt good.

I really felt like this was going to change my life. And it did. However, the upcoming nights were not as easy as my first night.

Beyond The First Night

So my first night was a success, and it was all down hill from there. Right? Well, it wasn’t that easy. After my first night, the future nights I started to experience something I didn’t plan for. I would wake up the next morning, and my CPAP was turned off and my mask was off. So in my sleep, I took off my mask and turned off my CPAP and I had no memory of it. Unless it was some CPAP ghost out there.

I still felt better than I did before CPAP, but not as good as after my first night. I didn’t really understand this, since I did so well the first night. I knew the benefits of CPAP, so I pushed on and still used it every night. People often ask advice on how to get used to CPAP. And honestly, there are 3 things that worked the most for me:

Consistent: using it every night over and over is the best was to get your body used to it.

Use CPAP while Awake: Using the CPAP while awake is great to get used to it. Reading in bed while the CPAP running is my favorite way, but watching tv and talking on the phone works too.

Exercising Before bed: Exercising before bed and help tire your body out before you go to bed, helping your body want to fall asleep and get some rest.

That last one about exercising is the one I want you to focus on. I thought a lot over the years about why I did so well that first night but struggled for weeks after that. I have a theory. My theory is that I had gone years with untreated sleep apnea. That first night, I was so tired, I just passed out and was down for the count. It was crazy easy for me to fall asleep.

After using the CPAP, I wasn’t as tired as before. Therefore, I didn’t fall asleep as easy. Me feeling better from CPAP was actually making me a lighter sleeper and my body turning off my CPAP at night. I can’t 100% prove this, but it really seems to make sense to me.

So going back to the exercising… I needed to find ways to “Tire” myself before bed so I could sleep better. I am not much of an exercise person, but doing like 10 minutes of exercise did tire me out, and I think it helped my get more used to using my CPAP. Along with the other 2 ways I mentioned as well

Final thoughts

First night is scary, but once you get through the first night, it is just trial and error after that what works for you. There are plenty of online support groups to talk things out. The worst you can do is give up.

If this story helped you, you might want to check out my other post where I share my personal and more detailed story of how CPAP changed my life.


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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