CPAP devices are a popular method of treating sleep apnea, a disorder in which a person’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts while they sleep1. Sleep apnea is often the result of a blockage in the upper airway, which is known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The CPAP device delivers pressurized air that works to keep the airway open so that sleep apnea symptoms are minimized.
While CPAP devices are considered highly effective2 at improving the quality of life in those with sleep apnea, some people find the machines cumbersome. With this in mind, it’s understandable there’s an interest in micro CPAP devices. Are these tiny versions of a CPAP a medical marvel, or are they too good to be true?
What Are Micro CPAP Devices?
A micro CPAP is a small hoseless and maskless CPAP device that sits in your nostrils with nose buds, using hundreds of tiny fans to draw in, filter, and deliver pressurized air into the airway. However, there is currently no scientifically verified mini CPAP device that’s available for purchase.
One company has been developing a disposable micro CPAP3 device that they claim will last for eight hours and be as effective as a regular CPAP machine. However, despite raising 1.9 million dollars in crowdfunding since 2015, they have yet to produce a successful prototype.3
Types of Micro CPAP Devices
Search online for ‘micro CPAP’ and you’ll find a number of cheap, anti-snoring devices available for purchase. These mini devices sit in the nostrils and claim to relieve snoring by sending filtered air through the nasal passages via micro-blowers, but it’s important to note that none of these products are FDA-approved, and there’s zero evidence that they work as advertised.
The mini CPAP that’s in development measures 2 inches by 1.5 inches by 1 inch, and it weighs just under 1 ounce. It’s designed to sit in the nostrils with silicone nose buds that create a seal to prevent air leaks, which can affect air pressure.3
Air will enter through perforations at the top of the device. This air is then filtered and delivered to the user via hundreds of tiny micro-blowers, at the required pressure. Exhaled air will exit via micro-screens on the side of the device.3
The company says that the product will have built-in pressure sensing that adjusts pressure levels in response to the user’s breathing patterns. The device is single-use and runs on a disposable battery. However, it’s not currently available for purchase as a working demo has not been produced.3
How Micro CPAPs Differ from Traditional CPAP Machines
A regular CPAP is devised of a small, motorized unit that is attached to a hose and a mask. The mask can either be a facial mask, hybrid mask, nasal mask, or nasal pillows. The idea of a micro CPAP is that the entire device sits under your nose like a nasal pillow, making it significantly less bulky than a regular CPAP machine, which can be uncomfortable to sleep with due to its cumbersome attachments.
Many CPAP machines require humidifiers, which moisten the air that’s entering the airway, helping the lungs to work optimally4. The company designing the micro CPAP claims it does not require humidification, but there is no legitimate evidence to back this up.
As a single-use device, the micro CPAP would also eliminate the lengthy cleaning process that’s required with a regular CPAP. The company claims that the product will be recyclable, which is not the case with regular CPAP accessories. A micro CPAP would also be easier to travel with, as it’s substantially smaller than current travel CPAP machines.
Who Would Benefit from Using a Micro CPAP?
Even though there’s not a workable micro CPAP available yet, the concept does present some potential benefits to certain CPAP users.
One reason people might stop CPAP therapy or only use it intermittently is that they find the mask uncomfortable5. However, research shows that irregular use of a PAP6 device can increase blood pressure and heart rate, as well as impair cognitive function. Patients who find a CPAP hard to sleep with might prefer a micro CPAP device since the less bulky design may help them remain consistent with treatment.
Learn More: Sleeping Better with a CPAP
People who travel frequently may also appreciate the significantly smaller, more portable design of a micro CPAP. The company that’s designing a micro CPAP also claims that it will produce less noise than a regular CPAP, which may be appealing to those who find the sound of a CPAP disturbing.
Are Micro CPAP Devices Effective at Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Unfortunately, an FDA-approved micro CPAP device does not exist, so there is no scientific evidence that micro CPAPs are effective at treating the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea.
The ability to deliver pressurized air is vital for a CPAP, and most people will require somewhere between 6 and 14cmH207 air pressure (though the level is ultimately determined by the patient’s physician). The company that’s developing a micro CPAP aims to achieve pressure levels exceeding 20cmH20, but the latest technical update8 released in 2020 shows it has only managed to achieve a pressure of 5cmH20 with its product, which likely isn’t enough to treat sleep apnea.
Patients should not be tempted to swap their regular CPAP machines for non-FDA-approved devices that claim to treat snoring or sleep apnea as there is zero proof that they work.
Do You Need a Prescription for Micro CPAP Devices?
A healthcare professional must write a CPAP device prescription, as you have to undergo a sleep study to receive a diagnosis and treatment plan. There is currently no existing mini CPAP device that would be prescribed by a doctor because none of these devices have been FDA-approved.
Learn More: Does Insurance Cover CPAP Devices?
Frequently Asked Questions
Are micro CPAP devices FDA-approved?
No, micro CPAP devices are not FDA-approved. FDA approval9 is a lengthy process that ensures that products sold to consumers are safe and do what they claim to do.
There is a company currently working on a micro CPAP device. They hope to receive FDA approval, but they have not yet produced a working prototype. You can find anti-snoring devices marketed as micro CPAPs online, but none of these are FDA-approved for CPAP therapy.
Are micro CPAP devices safe?
Micro CPAP devices should not be considered safe because they haven’t been formally approved by the FDA. Patients should continue with their prescribed treatment and not switch to a CPAP alternative without consulting their doctor.
Where can I get a micro CPAP device?
It’s possible to purchase small anti-snoring devices online that are often marketed as micro CPAPs, but these are not considered legitimate CPAP technology. One company is developing a micro CPAP that they hope will be prescribed by healthcare providers, but a successful prototype is yet to be made.
How much does a micro CPAP device cost?
The company that’s developing a micro CPAP says it will sell them for $3 per single-use device, which would cost a patient $1,095 per year when used nightly. However, this device is not currently available for purchase, and it’s not known when or if it ever will be, as there hasn’t been an update on its crowdfunding page since 2020.8
Lisa is a content writer for Sleep Advisor, which combines two of her greatest passions – writing and sleeping. She can also be found writing about fitness, sustainability and vegan food.
- 1. “What is Sleep Apnea?” National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Last reviewed March 24, 2022. –
- 2. Wimms PhD, Alison J., et al. “Continuous positive airway pressure versus standard care for the treatment of people with mild obstructive sleep apnoea (MERGE): a multicentre, randomised controlled trial”. The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. 2020. –
- 3. “Airing: the first hoseless, maskless, micro-CPAP”. Indiegogo. Webpage accessed November 11, 2023. –
- 4. “Mouth Breathing”. Cleveland Clinic. Last modified April 11, 2022. –
- 5. “Interventions for the Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Adults: A Health Technology Assessment [Internet]”. Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health. 2017. –
- 6. Schwarz, Esther I., et al. “Physiological consequences of CPAP therapy withdrawal in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea—an opportunity for an efficient experimental model”. Journal of Thoracic Diseases. 2018. –
- 7. “What should my CPAP pressure be?” ResMed. Webpage accessed November 12, 2023. –
- 8. “Airing: the first hoseless, maskless, micro-CPAP”. Indiegogo. Webpage accessed November 12, 2023. –
- 9. “The Device Development Process”. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Webpage accessed November 12, 2023. –