Sleep apnea can increase your risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19. If you have COVID-19, using your CPAP machine will help you get the sleep you need to recover, but it could put others at risk.

Sleep apnea is not officially a risk factor for severe COVID-19. Yet people with sleep apnea tend to have other conditions, like obesity, that increase their risk of severe COVID-19. In fact, people with sleep apnea are more likely than other people to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19.

If you do get COVID-19, you should continue to use your CPAP machine if you are able to isolate yourself. If not, using your CPAP could potentially put a sleep partner at increased risk of catching COVID-19.

Your CPAP machine may help you with COVID-19 symptoms like minor shortness of breath, but it’s not a substitute for hospitalization. If you’re having significant trouble breathing, you should contact a healthcare professional or call 911 or your local emergency number.

Sleep apnea could potentially increase your risk of severe COVID-19, typically defined as a case that leads to hospitalization or death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sleep apnea is not officially an independent risk factor for severe COVID-19. But the CDC acknowledges that its list of risk factors is not all-inclusive and is subject to change with new research.

Most of the conditions on the CDC’s high risk list include conditions like obesity and diabetes, which have been studied in large populations.

A study published in 2022, which looked at the effects of COVID-19 on a large population of adults in Iceland, has provided the most insight so far on the connections between sleep apnea and severe COVID-19.

Researchers of the study found that people with sleep apnea are twice as likely as other people to develop a severe case of COVID-19.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea causes your airways to close when you sleep and interferes with your quality of rest. If untreated, it can lead to serious health issues that affect your cardiovascular system and metabolism. You may suspect you have sleep apnea if you:

  • still feel tired during the day even after a full night’s sleep
  • snore frequently or loudly
  • feel yourself gasping or choking for air during sleep
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Other studies have found similar connections:

  • A 2021 study in Finland found that individuals with sleep apnea were nearly three times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 than those without sleep apnea.
  • A 2020 study of COVID-19 cases in a New England health system found that people with sleep apnea were more likely to die from COVID-19 than other adults.
  • A 2021 review found that people with sleep apnea tend to have many of the same risk factors as people who get severe COVID-19, like older age, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Sleep apnea may also affect the symptoms you get after contracting COVID-19.

A 2022 study found that individuals with sleep apnea who got COVID-19 had atypical blood sugar levels, cognitive ability (the ability to think), and lung function for at least a year following the infection.

Keep in mind that studies have not found that a prior diagnosis of sleep apnea makes you more likely to contract COVID-19.

Certain factors put you at increased risk of sleep apnea. The same is true for severe COVID-19 symptoms.

People with the following comorbidities (factors that occur at the same time) are at increased risk of sleep apnea, hospitalization from COVID-19, and COVID-19-related deaths:

It’s important to get plenty of rest when fighting an infection like COVID-19. If you have sleep apnea, using your CPAP machine is the best way to ensure that you are getting the sleep you need.

But because of the way the CPAP machine spreads viral particles in the air, there are some risks for anyone you share a room with.

A CPAP machine uses pressurized air to keep your airways open during sleep. The machine can spread tiny viral particles that remain in the air longer than the particles you typically expel when breathing or coughing.

If you have COVID-19, you should try to isolate yourself as much as possible to help keep others safe. If you use a CPAP machine while sleeping, it is even more important to isolate yourself, especially if you live with individuals at risk of severe COVID-19.

Talk with your doctor if you are concerned about using your CPAP machine while you have COVID-19. Your doctor may recommend other strategies to manage symptoms, such as:

  • sleeping in a position that keeps your airways more open
  • using an appliance that fits into your mouth
  • avoiding alcohol and sleeping medications
  • clearing nasal obstructions

How to keep your CPAP clean

Follow the cleaning directions for your CPAP machine provided by the manufacturer, or try the following tips:

  • Use soap and water to clean the CPAP machine parts daily or weekly.
  • Empty the remaining water in the machine every day if you use a humidifier.
  • Clean the attached humidifier with vinegar weekly.
  • Replace filters when needed.
  • Keep your hands clean when handling the equipment.
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There are several ways to help prevent severe COVID-19 if you have sleep apnea. These include vaccines, antiviral medications, and monoclonal antibodies.

These methods can reduce your risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and even death.


The best thing you can do to decrease your risk of severe COVID-19 is to stay up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots.

There are four COVID-19 vaccines approved in the United States:

The CDC recommends staying up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to fully protect yourself against COVID-19.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines.


Antiviral medications attack SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to prevent it from growing in your body. This can help prevent severe illness.

Current antivirals include:

You need to take these antivirals in the initial days of infection, when symptoms first begin. Contact a doctor as soon as you develop symptoms to get access to these medications.

Monoclonal antibodies

Monoclonal antibodies give your immune system a boost so they can fight off the virus better. These can be taken orally or administered by injection.

You must begin these as soon as possible after getting symptoms. Reach out to a doctor when you develop symptoms to find out if these might help you.

Sleep apnea and severe COVID-19 share many risk factors, and having sleep apnea may increase your risk of severe symptoms or complications of the virus.

Whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19, seek a diagnosis if you suspect you have sleep apnea to begin a treatment that can reduce your symptoms and risk. Along with managing sleep apnea symptoms, getting vaccinated for COVID-19 and taking prescribed COVID-19 medications can help reduce its severity.