Effect of CPAP on athletic training
August 22, 2018 7:56 AM   Subscribe

All the literature said that I should be getting more oxygen in my sleep. What can I expect in terms of muscular recovery, ability to do more workouts per week?

I am rowing and training for a marathon in 5 months. I'm rowing 5 workouts a week and doing about 65-75km per week of mixed steady state and higher rated stuff.

I'd like to have the energy to bring lifting back into my routine, but I have too much fatigue and usually a hard time recovering from certain workouts to be able to do that.

Really I'd like to hear from other endurance athletes who have gone through using a cpap and noticed effects on their training.
posted by tedious to Health & Fitness (6 answers total)
I'm not an endurance athlete and don't use a CPAP, although my wife does. I think the major benefit of using the CPAP (assuming you need one for reasons of apnea) is that you'd sleep a lot better and therefore would be less fatigued, more rested. This is because the CPAP addresses the apnea and helps you reach deeper levels of sleep for longer periods of time. The CPAP is really not going to get more oxygen into you than you'd get through normal breathing. Even breathing supplemental pure oxygen has not been found to be a performance enhancing technique.
posted by beagle at 9:09 AM on August 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

Do you actually have sleep apnea or COPD?

Because if you are sleeping & breathing normally and are hoping for some kind of performance boost, then this: "All the literature said that I should be getting more oxygen in my sleep." seems very much like a "reputable citation needed" statement. Nothing I can find in a variety of web searches suggests that anyone has truly studied using a CPAP machine as a performance/recovery boost for athletes besides those who had sleep apnea or COPD.

Not an athlete, but my work often involves 12-18 hr days with heavy physical labor, and I started CPAP therapy earlier this year. I am definitely less fatigued and have better muscular recovery time, but, then again, my apnea and consequent lack of real sleep meant that I had a tendency to uncontrollably drift off for a couple of minutes if I wasn't actively doing something physical. So, yeah, if you have breathing/sleeping problems, then a CPAP machine would probably help, but it would help whether you were athletic or not. Otherwise, I have some serious doubts about whether "more oxygen in my sleep" is legitimate science.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:34 AM on August 22, 2018

It's not clear from your question - have you been advised to use a CPAP machine because of a diagnosed sleep disorder, and you're wondering what the impact on your workouts will be? Or are you contemplating using a CPAP machine because you believe it'll help you get more oxygen while sleeping, despite not having a sleep disorder? (I wouldn't have even thought of this as a possibility if not for beagle's aside - so apologies if this is a distraction.)

In the first case, it seems like the decision to use a CPAP machine should be independent of the workout question - some friends who need them describe the difference between untreated sleep apnea and properly treated sleep apnea in pretty stark terms. Better rest means faster recovery and more effective workouts, but I have no personal experience with CPAP machines. A quick search found a ton of online forums with threads discussing anecdotes about training improvements from using CPAP machines when needed. (slowtwitch.com example) Forums for other sport disciplines might be better for specific questions on strength training.

In the second, getting more oxygen while resting is ... the opposite of what I'd have expected from an endurance athlete training for a marathon. The more common approach (but still a little fringe/extreme) for that sort of thing is "live high, train low" with the idea that blood's oxygen carrying capacity is improved by the comparatively hypoxic environment while living at high altitude (greater density of red blood cells, etc.), but training is more effective in the oxygen-rich air at sea level. Even if it were possible to get more (unnecessary) oxygen via a CPAP machine, and I don't think it is, it seems like it might accomplish the opposite of what you're looking for.

Good luck with your marathon - sounds like you have a pretty intense workout schedule as it is. I ended up a bit broken when I trained in the 50-75 mile/week range, even without an additional 5 (!) rowing workouts in the mix.
posted by verschollen at 10:44 AM on August 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

For the record, I do have sleep apnea and I'll be getting my machine at the end of the week. I'm just interested in anecdeta.
posted by tedious at 11:02 AM on August 22, 2018

When I got my CPAP last year around this time, it seemed like I finally broke through a couple swimming plateaus that I'd been stuck at for a while.
posted by notsnot at 4:47 PM on August 22, 2018

After sleeping with the cpap for one night, I can already tell a difference in recovery, because walking up two flights of stairs post workouts usually exhausts me, but I feel totally fine.
posted by tedious at 8:13 AM on August 24, 2018

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