Machines that help people breathe at night may look funny, but they're no laughing matter. Adjustable airway pressure machines are used to treat sleep apnea, a condition that causes people to stop breathing repeatedly during the night. One such treatment is called continuous positive airway pressure therapy, or CPAP.
CPAP is the most common machine used to treat moderate to severe sleep apnea in adults but is also safe to use on children. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, it is the most effective method for treating obstructive sleep apnea (although it is used to treat central sleep apnea as well). CPAP machines are also commonly used to treat patients whose sleep apnea is complicated by coronary artery disease or heart failure. If you're interested in using a CPAP machine to treat your sleep apnea, you can learn more about it below.
How CPAP Machines Work
CPAP consists of a machine and mask that are connected by a tube. The machine itself is usually small and light enough to be placed on a bedside table, and the CPAP mask is connected to your head by straps. There are several types of CPAP masks for you to choose from; the most common one covers only your nose (this is referred to as nasal continuous positive airway pressure, or NCPAP). Other CPAP masks cover your mouth and nose or consist of prongs that fit into your nostrils.
The CPAP machine gently blows pressurized air into the mask to help you breathe. Increased airway pressure supports the windpipe to keep it from collapsing, and the CPAP machine provides just enough air pressure to keep the airway open during sleep. The pressure should be greater than room air in order to work, but it can be adjusted to meet each patient's needs.
Why CPAP Machines Are Necessary
Why bother with the CPAP sleep apnea machine if it just keeps you from snoring or waking up throughout the night? Sleep apnea has been linked to serious health problems, including exhaustion, weight gain, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. CPAP machines help users maintain normal sleep patterns, which can decrease daytime sleepiness, ease anxiety and depression, improve work productivity and even improve your memory. Studies noted on WebMD have found that NCPAP may lower blood pressure and that people with coronary artery disease who use CPAP are less likely to have heart problems.
Keep in mind that while your snoring may stop, it does not mean your sleep apnea is cured. You will still need to continue wearing the CPAP mask to prevent sleep apnea until your doctor allows you to discontinue use.
CPAP Side Effects
As with any medical treatment, side effects are possible with CPAP. Reported side effects include:
Adjusting the pressure of your CPAP machine may prevent some of these side effects. You may also use your CPAP mask in combination with a humidifier or nasal sprays to help prevent sinus problems. A lightweight or cushioned mask or chin straps can also help ease irritation.
Other possible problems include CPAP masks that leak air, minimizing their effectiveness. You may also experience mild discomfort in the beginning but should adjust as you get used to wearing your CPAP mask. Even if you start to feel better rested, you should not discontinue use of your CPAP machine. CPAP is intended for daily use -- skipping just one night or removing the mask during the night can greatly disrupt sleep patterns.
Some find the CPAP machine too cumbersome or noisy. If wearing a CPAP mask is uncomfortable for you, talk to your doctor. Not only have CPAP machines greatly improved over the years, but there are several other sleep apnea treatment options available. CPAP is usually not recommended for those who only suffer from mild sleep apnea.
Purchasing CPAP Machines and CPAP Masks
Obtaining a CPAP machine requires a visit to your doctor or a dentist visit. Because CPAP machines are FDA-approved medical devices, you must have a prescription to use one. You may also need to enter a sleep study to qualify, and it's recommended that you regularly visit your sleep professional during treatment. The good news is some CPAP machines may be covered by insurance, and you can purchase or rent one according to your needs.
There are many types of CPAP machines and masks to choose from, and some contain special features to better fit your lifestyle. For example, some CPAP machines adapt to various currents and altitudes, come with a humidifier or gradually increase in pressure on their own, while others contain monitors that chart your progress. You may also choose a CPAP machine that comes in a fun color or includes its own travel case. Costs may vary according to the type of CPAP machine you choose, so you should verify your insurance coverage prior to making your purchase. Once you decide on a CPAP machine and CPAP mask, a technician may come to your home to set it up, and your sleep professional can prescribe adjustments as needed.
Your sleep professional can help you decide which type of CPAP machine is best for you. If you're interested in CPAP, we may be able to help. Many dentists offer sleep apnea and snoring solutions and can help find the right sleep apnea treatment for you.
For a great sleep apnea dentist in your area, call us at 1-866-970-0441.