Air Purifiers Help Treat Sleep Apnea? A CPAP Alternative?

The effects of air pollution on our health are well documented. But the effect air pollution has on sleep and making sleep apnea worse is not talked about enough. So what exactly is air pollution’s effect on sleep apnea? Can an air purifier be used as a CPAP alternative?

Air Pollution’s Effect on Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OBS) 

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway gets physically blocked due to the anatomy of the soft palate.

Air pollution and sleep apnea

A study published in 2018 established a link between obstructive sleep apnea (OBS) and ambient air pollution. The study discovered that exposure to PM2.5 and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) impacts sleep and causes sleep deprivation. These two pollutants are two of the most common pollutants in homes.

Researchers measured pollution concentration levels in the localities of 1,974 participants. The study found an annual increase of 5 ug/m3 in PM2.5 is associated with a 60% increase in the likelihood of having sleep apnea. Meanwhile, a 10 ppb increase in annual NO2 exposure was associated with a 39% increased risk of sleep apnea.

How Air Pollution Affects Sleep Apnea

Studies show that air pollution causes sleep apnea, but how exactly? According to Martha E Billings, lead author of the study, “air pollution is detrimental to sleep, given that it causes upper airway irritation, swelling, and congestion, and may also affect the parts of the brain and central nervous system that control breathing patterns and sleep.”

Air Purifiers Help Treat Sleep Apnea? CPAP Alternative?

Since there is a direct link between air pollution and sleep apnea, lowering the pollution you breathe may help treat sleep apnea. Although it is not necessarily a “CPAP alternative,” studies suggest it could improve your condition.

So how can an air purifier help improve sleep apnea? Without an air purifier, all homes have some levels of PM2.5, and NO2. These pollutants can come from both the outdoors and household activities such as cooking and cleaning. Even low levels are shown to cause serious health effects.

To lower the PM2.5 and NO2 (present in all homes) in your home, you will need an air purifier with two filters:

1. HEPA Filter

A HEPA filter is extremely effective at removing PM2.5 from the air. A strong enough air purifier with a HEPA filter can remove nearly all PM2.5 from your home. But a HEPA filter can not remove NO2 from your air.

2. Carbon Filter

A carbon filter helps remove the NO2 from your home.

Carbon filter can help treat sleep apnea?

Find an air purifier that allows you to use both a HEPA and carbon filters at once such as the Sqair below.

Is an air purifier a CPAP alternative for sleep apnea?

Read More: 4 Steps to Choosing an Air Purifier

Bottom Line: Air Purifiers Help Treat Sleep Apnea? A CPAP Alternative?


PM2.5 and NO2 are common pollutants in every home, and studies show a direct link between these pollutants and sleep apnea. An air purifier with both a HEPA and carbon filter can help signficantly lower the levels of these pollutants in your home.

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Smart Air is a social enterprise that creates simple, no-nonsense air purifiers and provides free education to protect people’s health from the effects of air pollution. We are proud to be the only certified B-Corp dedicated to fighting air pollution.