CPAP Dreams: Is vivid dreaming during CPAP use normal?

Yes ‘CPAP Dreams’ are a normal and common ‘side effect’ of CPAP therapy. Quite often, untreated OSA disrupts sleep so severely that the dream stage is constantly interrupted or never reached at all. When the OSA is suddenly eliminated by CPAP, dreams will often be more intense , memorable, and frequent as sleep is restored.

Early in therapy, CPAP dreams may occupy much of your sleep time for the first week or so. After that, the dreams will taper off toward the levels seen in normal, healthy adults.

If you have been using your CPAP for several months or years and are experiencing intense CPAP dreams that do not feel normal, you will want to have your CPAP data and settings checked by a professional CPAP therapist.  If your pressure is too high, you have excessive mask leak, or your mask is causing discomfort, these might be the cause of your CPAP dreams.

The TotalCare Sleep Apnea disease management program is available free to any CPAP user and supported by qualified, professional, CPAP therapists. If you want help getting better sleep and better CPAP therapy, click here to create your free account, complete an interactive CPAP therapy checkup, and to give us some details about your CPAP equipment.

Tips and Notes Related to CPAP Dreams

  • ‘CPAP dreams’ are a normal and common side effect
  • Untreated OSA disrupts sleep constantly interrupting the REM sleep stage
  • When OSA is eliminated by CPAP, dreams will become intense, memorable, and frequent
  • These dreams will eventually taper off and you will dream like a normal healthy adult

Related Article: CPAP Mask Explained

More information about CPAP problems.

Author: Rick Clerici

Contributors: TotalCare eHealth ,

12 thoughts on “CPAP Dreams: Is vivid dreaming during CPAP use normal?

  1. My dreams are becoming worse after 2 years of Cpap use. Is it possible that air pressure is too high or some other adjustment?

  2. To the “dreamer.” According to the literature, we often awaken, in a normal fashion, from our last REM period of the night. If we are dreaming at that time, then we will remember the dream, or at least remember that we were dreaming. However, most other REM times during the night, if sleep is going well, should resolve into another stage of sleep. Thus, we do not remember most of our dreams. The term “entrapment dream” refers to a type of dream, or nightmare, that is of an entrapment nature: Cannot get out of a car under water, cannot find your way off a high ledge, cannot get away from an annoying person, running as fast as you can go while moving nowhere, always running from an giant dog, etc. You get the point. These dreams may be common when we are experiencing apnea during REM. If that apnea awakens the dreamer, then the dream may be of an entrapment nature. I had a wonderful opportunity to follow CPAP users after their set up for many months and years after they started CPAP. Those who suffered entrapment dreams before CPAP often found that they disappeared once they started CPAP. Conversely, CPAP users who began to experience entrapement dreams again were suspected to have fallen out of control on their CPAP pressures. As such, it is my contention that CPAP users who are beginning to awaken with entrapment dreams should report it to their doctor as a significantly negative experience. One should only remember awakening fewer than two times per night on most nights if sleep is normal. So if you are waking up with dreams frequently every night, the awakening is enough to suspect that something is wrong.

  3. Note number two to the “dreamer.” Your choice to use the words “getting worse” seems to imply that your dreams might be of an entrapment nature. I have usually found that pressure being too high do not producing night mares, rather just simple arousals through the night. There are many other questions that the physician would concern himself/herself with when you report the problem. Have you experience a heart attack or worsening of heart disease in the two years you’ve been on CPAP? If so, then there is always a possibility that the doctor will want to retest for the potential that you have begun to suffer with central apnea. Have you lost wieght? Then the pressure could be too high. Have you gained weight? Then the pressure could be too low. Have you experienced a peneumonia or exacerbation of COPD or a huge relapse in asthma problems? Those could change your CPAP pressure needs as well.

    1. Tom, thanks for your insights. I learn a lot every time I read one of your posts.

      I’m going to be getting in touch shortly to share some more of the project details with you. I think you are going to like what you see :-) But more importantly, I hope you will agree to be on the advisory team. We need your insights!

  4. I have been using the cpap machine for almost a year. Prior to its use I would remember my dreams once and awhile. Now that are vivid and I remember them often. I’d say every morning and sometimes mid sleep. They are not usually of a scary nature just vivid. I’ve even become more acute at knowing that I am dreaming and controlling it for short times. Also I have experienced sleep paralysis about 4 times while using the machine. Never before. Ive tried calling out but can’t and they usually involve some sort of crushing theme or suffocation.

  5. I have just woken up after only 3 hours sleep. Prior to CPAP I was not a good sleeper either but I did not wake part way through a vivid dream. I am considering not using the machine for a while to see what happens. Is this a good idea as I am sick of these vivid dreams that I did not have at all prior to CPAP

    1. Hi Mlcolm, sorry for the late reply. Are you using an auto machine? We find that often when auto users enter deep or REM sleep the throat relaxes and the machine algorithm ramps up the pressure. If it goes to high too fast, it can wake you up. Best to have your data and settings checked by a qualified CPAP therapist.

      If you would like help from one of our CPAP therapists, please create an account by clicking ‘Join’ then ‘CPAP Users’ in the top menu. There is no charge for this service.

  6. I have been on Cpap machine for just about a year.. I only sleep about 4 hrs and keep waking up during the night and cant get back to sleep.. Although my machine registers 8-9 hrs sleep about three hrs of that is trying to get back to sleep.. I keep dreaming of the mask on my face.. I’m getting to point of just not using it for awhile and see if things improve. Does anyone else have this problem

    1. Hi I need some insight I started CPAP/APAP therapy a week ago, Last night I had it set at 5 which is normal but I experienced a terrifying suffocating entrapment dream and awakened with it sitting at 9.6 is this normal? I started to feel very emotional after experiencing the dream Crying a lot..and cold/chilly feeling. Is this the process in beginning stages?

      1. Hi Angela, sorry for the late reply. If this was an isolated event, perhaps it is nothing, but we definitely would want to check your settings if you have had any other experiences like this.

        If you would like help from one of our CPAP therapists, please create an account by clicking ‘Join’ then ‘CPAP Users’ in the top menu. There is no charge for this service.

    2. Hi Fritz, sorry for the late reply. We find this is not unusual and is often solved by some adjustments to your machine settings. Your pressure might be set too high, or the max/min pressures might need to be adjusted if you use an Auto.

      If you would like help from one of our CPAP therapists, please create an account by clicking ‘Join’ then ‘CPAP Users’ in the top menu. There is no charge for this service.

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