How a CPAP Machine Can Improve Your Worst Sleep Apnea Problems

By RL - June 03, 2020
Credits: pixabay

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that affects a person’s breathing while they sleep. Breathing stops and restarts repeatedly throughout sleep. This can occur anywhere from once or twice a night to hundreds of times per night in more severe cases. An estimated 22 million Americans suffer from the disorder, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. Many people continue to go undiagnosed. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the throat muscles relax. This is the most common type of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain’s signals get mixed up as they are being sent to the muscles which control the breath. According to Mayo Clinic, common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, gasping for air during sleep, waking up with a dry mouth, waking up with a headache, insomnia, hypersomnia, distractibility, and/or irritability.

A general practitioner will usually document information about symptoms, sleep history, sleep patterns, and they may request information for someone who co-sleeps with the patient. Sleep apnea is officially diagnosed during a sleep study conducted by a specialist. A patient will typically spend a night in a sleep laboratory during which time monitoring will take place. Blood oxygen levels, brain-wave activity, breathing rates, and most importantly, the rate at which a sleeper stops and starts breathing again within a given hour is all documented. Home sleep tests may also be conducted to check for heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and breathing as well and these may lead to additional testing, monitoring, or nocturnal polysomnography (more intense nighttime testing).

A CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, machine is one of the most common treatment options for people who suffer from sleep apnea. The machine is used to make sure airways are kept open throughout sleep. Through a mask that fits snugly around the patient’s face, or via prongs inserted into the nose, constant mild air pressure is applied to keep breathing rhythmic and unobstructed. The air pressure is just enough to keep airways open, usually preventing snoring, with a soft, steady airflow. The machine delivers reliable results but some patients require practice before feeling entirely comfortable using the CPAP machine. Learning to comfortably put on and adjust the mask or prongs is usually what people need the most practice with. Trying multiple types of masks might be helpful. There are masks with nasal pillows, or cushions, as well as full facial masks. Options with nasal cushions seem to be popular choices for patients who find themselves often feeling claustrophobic. Patients who already tend to breathe through the mouth tend to prefer full face masks and those that include a chin strap. It is important to keep in mind that CPAP masks need to be worn for extended periods of time, in other words, for full nights of uninterrupted sleep. For that reason, testing multiple masks over time makes the most sense. Masks specifically for kids are also available. According to The Lung Association, a particular CPAP pressure will need to be prescribed by a sleep specialist for each individual patient based on how much pressure is required for their airways to remain open.

A CPAP mask will need to fit snugly. The top of the mask should sit flush with a nose bridge. Often, the smallest mask that fits will end up feeling the most comfortable and be the most efficient for extended use. The Lung Association recommends that patients take their time with a CPAP provider and try on multiple masks before landing on the one they’ll take home for the night. It is recommended that patients try masks on while laying down and try ones that are attached to an actual CPAP machine to account for how the mask might shift throughout a full night of sleep. It might be worth asking the medical care provider for a trial period when first getting a new mask. In any case, asking what the return or trade-in policy is for a particular mask will help narrow down choices for which service to ultimately use.

If prescribed, the use of a CPAP machine is required every time a person with sleep apnea sleeps. Symptoms typically stop completely when using the machine but will resurface if treatment is stopped. A CPAP machine is a treatment, not a cure, for sleep apnea.

CPAP equipment is usually accessible through a home oxygen company recommended by a doctor. A licensed medical professional will write up a prescription for the machine, including the air pressure that will be required to treat an individual’s unique symptoms. The Lung Association mentions that the CPAP mask and humidifier must be mentioned on the prescription in order to fulfill requirements from most insurance providers.

This article is intended for information purposes only. It is always best to check in with a trained medical professional.

Resources:

American Sleep Apnea Association

Mayo Clinic

The Lung Association