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There are limited data on the evolution of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) during continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy and whether this treatment is required every night. 125 OSA patients with an original oxygen desaturation index (ODI) >10 events per hour, established on CPAP, were asked to withdraw CPAP for four nights and performed ambulatory nocturnal pulse oximetry on the fourth night of CPAP withdrawal. An ODI >10 events per hour during pulse oximetry was considered to indicate persistent OSA. Patients not experiencing recurrence of OSA underwent repeat ambulatory pulse oximetry after a further 2-week period off CPAP. In 71% of the patients, OSA recurred after four nights of CPAP withdrawal (group 1); thus, OSA did not recur in 29% (group 2). 55% of group 2 had an ODI >10 events per hour after 2 weeks off CPAP; thus, 45% remained without a recurrence. In multivariate analysis, higher original ODI, longer duration of CPAP therapy, current smoking status and larger neck circumference were independently associated with a higher ODI after four nights of CPAP withdrawal (all p<0.05). Following CPAP withdrawal, a third of CPAP-treated patients do not experience significant recurrence of oxygen desaturations after 4 days and ∼10% do not after 2 weeks. Thus, a significant proportion of patients may be able to stop CPAP for short periods.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur Respir J

Publication Date





1387 - 1393


Aged, Body Mass Index, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Multivariate Analysis, Oximetry, Oxygen, Recurrence, Research Design, Sleep Apnea, Obstructive, Smoking, Treatment Outcome