Dr. Won Y. Lee, the medical director of the Sleep and Breathing Disorders Center at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said compliance rates for CPAP may range between 40 percent to 80 percent for various reasons, but the biggest complaint is how the mask feels on the face.
"For some patients, it can be claustrophobic," said Lee. "It can be uncomfortable and cause more sleep problems."
But, Lee said, whether someone continues treatment or not can depend on whether they notice any behavioral effects shortly after they start treatment.
"It depends -- some patients feel an immediate improvement in neurocognitive function, and improvements of sleep quality on the first night of CPAP treatment," said Lee. "Some patients may experience dreams for the first time in years because they never entered into the appropriate stages of sleep, the REM cycle."
But others don't notice a difference the next day, and Lee said doctors have only a limited set of alternatives for people who can't tolerate the CPAP.
If all attempts at fitting a person with a CPAP or training them in how to use the device fail, Lee said doctors may try surgery. But that's drastic, and the success rate for surgery is 40 percent to 50 percent.
Some patients with mild sleep apnea might try an oral appliance, but Lee said these may lead to headaches or bite problems -- all the more reason doctors push for people to try the CPAP device.
If dreams, golf or clear thinking aren't going to motivate you, doctors said perhaps other health benefits will.
"Golf scores are nice; it's entertainment, it's important," said Dyken. "It's more pleasant to read than death on the highway."
Dyken said he thinks highway deaths are an important reason to treat sleep apnea. Truckers who fall asleep at the wheel and cause accidents, he said, will take an average of 4.2 people to the grave with them. Dyken said treating key professionals -- pilots, truckers, or even doctors -- for sleep apnea may save the country money and lives.