How was CPAP Sleep Therapy First Invented?


If you are curious about the history of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy, you are not alone. Many CPAP patients often wonder as to the origins of their therapy, and how the underlying science was originally conducted that has transformed into today’s cutting edge Obstructive Sleep Apnea treatment culminating into products such as Resmed CPAP machines or Respironics CPAP masks. It all started with Dr. Colin Sullivan and his clinical experiments back in 1980, and has evolved into a group of more than 18 million americans alone.


The therapy was actually first tested on canines to determine whether the basic hypothesis was sufficient: focused, pressurized air would be able to essentially push through any obstacles that obstructed the airways. If this method worked, the first non-invasive therapy could be developed and patients could opt out of a costly, invasive, and inconvenient surgery. The first human test subject was a perfect patient to undergo testing. Suffering from severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea, the patient wandered into Dr. Sullivan’s office in Australia and sought treatment, but refused surgery. After agreeing to test trails of the brand new CPAP machine (now primative by 2016 standards), the seven hour treatment was a resounding success. During the process, Dr. Sullivan continued to increase pressure until Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) symptoms decreased and the patient resumed a normal, healthy sleep cycle. After awakening, the patient reported that he felt the best that he had felt in a long time. Dr. Sullivan continued to innovate in the field for years to come following his initial positive trials.


Modern CPAP Therapy

Soon after, the first commercially available CPAP machine was launched in the United States by Phillips Respironics, and companies began entering the market to compete for the ever-growing patient base. CPAP therapy was first thought to be a short term solution to satisfy a patient until surgery could be performed, but it has transformed into a new standard of living for many patients who previously dreaded their lack of quality sleep and the adverse effects on their daily life.


Final Thoughts

Of course, the above outline is not an exhaustive resource, but hopefully you now have a better understanding of the history behind the widely popular CPAP therapy that you might be using today. If you’re curious to learn more, the American Sleep Association (ASA) can provide more information on historic clinical trials and their outcomes.

What are treatments for Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Therapy Overview

Many patients who use Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy to treat their obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) often wonder what other alternatives exist to treat the disease.  You might be surprised to find out that there are a variety of treatments available, spanning the spectrum from invasive to completely non-invasive.  Each type of treatment and therapy has its own pros and cons, and the best type of therapy often depends on the patient’s individual needs and preferences.

CPAP Therapy

Chances are, if you find yourself on this blog, you are pretty familiar with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy to treat obstructive sleep apnea.  Pressurized air is delivered through the patient’s mouth to their airway passages from an external machine.  Tubing connects the machine and the wearable mask, and the patient has assistance in the form of pressurized air to push through any blockages that may develop in the airway passages, also known as a hypopnea.  Pros include the non-invasive method of therapy and proven benefits of long term use, but often patients have trouble successfully adopting their new treatment into their lifestyle on a permanent basis.


Oral Appliance

A popular trend in the obstructive sleep apnea world is to recommend Oral Appliances for treatment instead of traditional CPAP therapy.  The oral appliance functions similarly to a mouth guard and patients undergo a fitting process to ensure an optimal fit.  The oral appliance manually slides the jaw forward, and removes any blockages or hypopneas that occur due to obstructive sleep apnea.  Pros include the lifetime affordability of the treatment and the non-invasive nature of delivery, but they are said to potentially cause permanent jaw damage among long time users.



The most extreme of the various treatment options, surgery is mostly reserved for patients who can’t use either CPAP therapy or an Oral Appliance due to previously existing medical conditions.  The surgery to correct Obstructive Sleep Apnea can take several forms, but the main goal is to remove tissue at the back of the throat.  Technically named, “uvulopalatopharyngoplasty” (UPPP), the surgery seeks to widen the airway passage, deter some muscle action to improve the openness of the throat, and promote movement of the soft palate. Benefits of this procedure include a higher rate of certainty of success, but it is often costly and incredibly invasive, requiring many doctor visits.  Even then, the surgery’s success is not guaranteed and many patients need to return to CPAP therapy in order to continue treatment.

Final Thoughts

Of course, the above outline is not an exhaustive resource, but hopefully you now have a better understanding of how to benefit the most from your CPAP therapy and get the best night’s sleep possible. It is best to speak with your doctor to determine what is best for your individual needs and therapy requirements.