CPAP Use and Personality Type

You want to use your CPAP machine, and you know you should be using it. So why is it so hard to keep up with it? An interesting study, which mixes social psychology with sleep research, suggests that whether or not you stick to your treatment may depend on your personality type. So what are the personality types? We’ve all heard of Type A and Type B – high-anxiety and relaxed – but not many people have heard of Type C and D. Type C is detail-oriented, but is not very assertive. Type D, on the other hand, is pessimistic and anxious. Because those who fail to stick with their sleep apnea treatment often report feeling anxious when using it or thinking about using it, a study was created to see if people with the anxious Type D personality type would be more likely to be poor CPAP users.

In this study, 247 sleep apnea sufferers were used. Each subject had undergone routine overnight sleep study for the assessment of sleep apnea presence and severity. These subjects all initiated CPAP treatment and were also given questionnaires regarding their personality type and any perceived side-effects of using the CPAP. The side-effect questionnaire asked whether subjects felt any negative consequences from using the machine, how severe the consequence was, and whether this consequence prevented them from using the machine.

Questionnaires were scored and the researchers separated those who technically were considered Type D (30% of all subjects) from those considered Types A-C. On 10 of the 15 side effects provided on the questionnaire, the Type D group reported a much higher amount of issues. They also reported higher severity for 12 of the 15 listed side effects, meaning they gauged common side effects as worse than others had gauged them. Unfortunately, the Type D group also reported these side effects were the cause for poor CPAP use, and the group had overall lower CPAP use than the other group1.

Well, what does all this mean? Whether or not you buy into the personality type deal, it is not surprising that the more anxious and worrisome of the group had a harder time using CPAP. So if you are a high-anxiety person, should you accept your fate as a poor CPAP user and give up the battle? Not quite. Luckily, there are relaxation techniques and behavioral therapy methods to help those who need it. If you are an anxious person, you aren’t off the hook. Your brain and body need a good night of sleep, so work hard to fix the anxiety issues in order to stick to your sleep apnea treatment!



1. Broström A, Strömberg A, Mårtensson J, Ulander M, Harder L, Svanborg E. Association of Type D personality to perceived side effects and adherence in CPAP-treated patients with OSAS. J Sleep Res. 2007 Dec;16(4):439-47.

Janna Mantua


Janna is a PhD Student / Graduate Research Assistant at University of Massachusetts Amherst with a background in clinical sleep research and psychology. Janna Mantua is a PhD student in the Behavioral Neuroscience department at the University of Massachusetts. Her research focuses on sleep and aging, with specific projects on cognitive health, inflammation, memory formation, and neuroimaging. Prior to her PhD work, Janna was involved in research on sleep apnea and cognitive decline at the NYU Sleep Disorders Center.

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