CPAP: What is it?
Benefits of CPAP Therapy for Sleep Apnea
One of the best treatment methods available for chronic sleep apnea is known as CPAP therapy, which stands for “continuous positive airway pressure.” This treatment works by opening up your air passages throughout the night, allowing air to pass through by means of a simple mask worn over the face. This positive pressure created by the mask provides extra oxygen and removes any breath stops that might otherwise occur, ensuring that you won’t snore or choke.
What is a CPAP Machine Like?
There are many kinds of CPAP machines, each including a base unit, tubing, and a face mask. Many of the machines on the market today are fairly small in size, fitting on a bedside table, and do not make a lot of noise as they operate, which makes them a great solution for those who suffer from sleep apnea. Each unit includes a length of flexible plastic tubing that connects the mask to its power source. If you move a lot during the night, the tubing can easily move with you. The mask itself can fit directly over both your nose and mouth or simply cover your nose. A well-fitting mask is key to effectively opening your airways as you sleep.
While it can take a while to get used to the feel of the CPAP machine, it is important to use it consistently, whether it is during the night or for an afternoon nap. Users experience the best results with consistency and missed treatments can elevate your blood pressure.
What Are the Benefits of the CPAP Therapy?
While there are a number of benefits for people who suffer from sleep apnea and use a CPAP machine, here are several of the top health benefits currently recognized by physicians:
- Better Heart Health: Because sleep apnea can cause interrupted breath patterns, treatment using a CPAP can reduce or eliminate the negative heart effects of the disease.
- Lower Risk of Stroke: For people who suffer from sleep apnea, one of the biggest benefits is a reduced risk for strokes. In patients who regularly used a CPAP machine, this particular risk factor was reduced by roughly 50%.
- Improved Insulin Levels: This benefit is particularly important for patients who suffer from both sleep apnea and diabetes. Because sleep apnea can cause issues with glucose and insulin, treating the condition effectively with CPAP can improve insulin levels over time.
- Better Energy Regulation: One of the biggest benefits for CPAP users is the increased energy that many of them report as they use the machine to treat their sleep apnea. Few people recognize how much their everyday functions, like driving and working, are impaired by their condition until they notice increased energy after they begin treatment.
- Increased Ability to Concentrate: Over time, sleep apnea can begin to destroy brain tissue, making it hard to focus on everyday tasks. Many patients with untreated sleep apnea report that they have trouble with short-term memory. By employing a CPAP, many patients showed more productivity, better reasoning skills, and a greater ability to concentrate.
- Better Emotional Regulation: CPAP users are much less likely to experience depression than their non-treated counterparts. In addition, people who used CPAP machines to treat sleep apnea reported improved mood and overall quality of life over those who did not.
- Decreased Snoring: The CPAP machines reduce the likelihood of snoring by providing the necessary air through the included mask. This can improve the overall quality of your sleep, as well as the sleep of others who may be in the room at night.
What Kinds of CPAP Masks are Available?
There are several kinds of CPAP devices on the market today, but most of them fall into one of three categories. As you explore your CPAP options, consider which kind of device may be the most comfortable for your specific sleep patterns and needs:
- Nasal-Based Masks: These kinds of mask are fit to lie over the nose of the person wearing it. They are the type of mask that is used the most often among CPAP wearers.
- Nasal Pillows: A nasal pillow mask is the smallest type of mask available. It is comprised of several flexible tubes made out of silicone or similar materials and sit comfortably within the inner part of your nasal passage. For people who find the full-face masks disruptive, these masks can be a great solution.
- Full-Face Masks: These masks are designed to fit over the mouth and nose. It is best used for sleep apnea patients who have air leakage with the other kinds of masks or need a better fit to keep the mask in place throughout the night.
In addition to the power unit, tubing, and mask, many CPAP machines include an additional piece to humidify the air passed through the nose and/or mouth. These can relieve common symptoms like sore sinuses or drainage issues that sometimes accompany the use of CPAP devices.
When using a humidifier with your CPAP mask, it is vital to use distilled water, which is free from many of the minerals and chemicals that may be present in tap water.
What are the Best Ways to Use a CPAP?
It can take some time to get used to the feel of a CPAP mask against your nose or mouth throughout the night. As you adjust to the device, there are several things that you can do to improve your level of comfort with the CPAP machine:
- When you first receive the machine, run it while you are still awake and doing passive activities, like playing on your phone or watching a movie. Taking the time to do this can make it less disruptive when you wear the mask as you try to sleep later that night.
- Once your CPAP machine has been properly fitted and set up, remember to use it every time you sleep, even if it is just for a short nap. When you disrupt your CPAP routine, it is hard on your body and can present side effects to your treatment.
- Be willing to make adjustments to your mask style and fit over time. If you struggle to wear the mask while lying on your pillow, you can consider purchasing specific pillows that are designed to accommodate the CPAP mask and tubes.
- If your mask doesn’t feel right, you may notice irritations on your skin or air leaking from the sides of the mask. Don’t be afraid to consult your doctor if you feel that you need to try a different kind of mask or need help in making the proper adjustments to the mask that will allow you to sleep well.
- Adjust the settings on your machine as needed. Some CPAP users experience a high degree of pressure in their airways when they first put on the mask. Most machines have a simple feature called “ramping” that can help the pressure to adjust over time, making it easier to fall asleep with light pressure, which then rises as you sleep to the proper levels.
- If you experience irritation in your sinus passages or nostrils, a simple saline solution can usually ease the problem. Consider buying a nasal irrigation system, available at most pharmacies, or a saline spray.
- Always remember to clean your CPAP gear on a regular basis. To avoid contaminants that can cause irritation, make sure that you thoroughly clean each part of the device, including the mask, tubes, and humidifier. This should be done once a week at a minimum.
While sleep apnea can be a serious issue, making it hard to sleep well and causing a number of other dangerous health problems, CPAP machines are a great, affordable solution that can increase the quality of your sleep, which in turn can improve your concentration, emotions, and overall health.
If you have questions about sleep apnea and how CPAP machines can be used to provide treatment, contact a qualified healthcare professional for more information. There are also a number of support groups online for people who suffer from sleep apnea, and these groups can be another great source of information about the benefits of CPAP devices.