Poor Hygiene Could Be Putting Sleep Apnoea Patients at Risk of Infections

LONDON--()--On World Sleep Day – Friday 15th March - three-quarters of GPs1 say they are concerned that machines used to treat a common sleeping condition are not being cleaned properly which can lead to a build-up of harmful bacteria.

Research undertaken by SoClean, the company that invented the world's first automated CPAP cleaner and sanitiser, found that over a quarter of sleep apnoea patients surveyed do not clean their CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines regularly1, which can lead to the masks and machines harbouring bacteria and germs. Dr John O’Reilly, Consultant in Respiratory and Sleep Medicine in Liverpool, comments: The use of CPAP machines is a highly effective treatment for sleep apnoea, but patients’ wellbeing can be undermined if they do not follow instructions to regularly clean their devices.”

Without regular cleaning, CPAP machines can become a breeding ground for bacteria, which is not only unpleasant, but could also have a more serious effect on patients’ health. Poor cleaning of CPAP machines has been linked to irritation and respiratory infections, including pneumonia.2

A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that sleep apnoea sufferers who used CPAP machines had a 20% higher risk of developing pneumonia than those who didn’t. The study suggests that effective cleaning of all elements of CPAP equipment, including the tubing and humidifier, is essential to reduce the build-up of bacteria and germs, which could lead to infections like pneumonia.3

Sleep apnoea patient, Kath Hope who founded the Hope2Sleep charity which supports people with the condition comments: It is important to keep our equipment clean but we know patients are not cleaning their machines either through lack of understanding or lack of time. Sometimes they report skin irritations, dry mouth or even coughing. Good cleaning habits are particularly important for people vulnerable to respiratory issues.”

There are many types of sleep apnoea, but the most common is obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). OSA is a sleeping disorder where breathing stops and starts throughout the night, causing a person to intermittently wake for a short period of time. It affects up to 3.9 million people in the UK,4 and this figure is set to rise because of increased obesity and the ageing population. Stopping breathing whilst asleep leads to a period of reduction in oxygen and increase in carbon dioxide levels, increasing both blood pressure and heart rate which is associated with increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. The condition can also increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, anxiety and depression as well as road accident risk.

Dr John O’Reilly comments: Sleep apnoea affects up to 4% of middle-aged men and 2% of middle-aged women in the UK. Only about a quarter of people with OSA have been diagnosed and only about half of patients diagnosed have been able to access treatment. Untreated OSA syndrome is estimated to cost the NHS £432 million a year. CPAP machines are an effective treatment for the condition and treatment has been shown to reduce mortality by 25% as well as a 46% risk reduction in cardiovascular events and a 49% risk reduction in stroke.5 Road accident risk is also reduced by 83%.”

Although those with OSA may be aware of excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue, signs of sleep apnoea are often first spotted by a partner, friend or family member who notices problems while people are asleep. These can include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Noisy and laboured breathing
  • Repeated short periods where breathing is interrupted by gasping or snorting

Samantha Backway, Specialist Sleep Nurse and Hope2Sleep Chairman comments: “Sleep apnoea is under-diagnosed in the UK so it is important that people recognise the symptoms and seek appropriate medical advice – not only so they can get the safe comfortable sleep they deserve; but also to prevent serious complications. Once diagnosed, treatment like CPAP can be the most effective way to reduce symptoms like snoring and fatigue, as well as the risk of high blood pressure.”

CPAP machines deliver a continuous supply of compressed air via a mask.6 Regular cleaning of the mask, hose and reservoir is necessary to avoid any build-up of bacteria. SoClean kills 99.9% of CPAP germs using activated oxygen for effective and complete sanitisation even in hard-to-reach areas.7

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About SoClean

SoClean Inc. is the creator of the world’s first automated CPAP cleaner and sanitiser, an innovative device that naturally sanitises CPAP equipment without the need for disassembly, water or harsh chemicals. It’s the safer, healthier way to breathe cleaner and have a better CPAP experience. For more information, visit http://www.soclean.com/uk/ or https://www.facebook.com/SoCleanUK/.

Robert Wilkins, CEO of SoClean comments: “SoClean is expanding globally and we want to change lives around the world and help educate CPAP patients on the benefits of our industry-leading sanitising device.”


1. CWT research on behalf of SoClean conducted January 2019

2. Advance Healthcare Network. CPAP Therapy Means Higher Pneumonia Risk. Available from: http://respiratory-care-sleep-medicine.advanceweb.com/News/Daily-News-Watch/CPAP-Therapy-Means-Higher-Pneumonia-Risk.aspx (Accessed March 2018)

3. Su VY, Liu CJ, Wang HK, et al. Sleep apnea and risk of pneumonia: a nationwide population-based study. CMAJ. 2014;186(6):415-21.

4. Sleep Apnoea Trust. FAQ http://www.sleep-apnoea-trust.org/sleep-apnoea-information-patients/sleep-apnoea-frequently-asked-questions/

5. BLF OSA conference 2014

6. Findlay L et al . Am. J. Respir. Crit. Care Med. 2000; 161: 857-859

7. NHS Choices. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/obstructive-sleep-apnoea/treatment/ (Accessed March 2018)


Havas SO
Louise Stone
44 (0)7540 012878


Havas SO
Louise Stone
44 (0)7540 012878