Continuous positive airway pressure, commonly known as CPAP, is the leading treatment prescribed for sleep apnea, and the best nonsurgical treatment for the often troublesome sleep condition. Worn as a face mask covering the nose and mouth, the gentle pressure delivered to the mask is sufficient to keep your airways from collapsing as you sleep. The machine produces a steady, mild stream of air into the mask and through the nasal passages, in order to keep the airway open. Air presses on the walls of the obstructed airway, including the mouth and throat, to keep it open as you inhale. In untreated sleep apnea, the airway becomes blocked during the pauses in breathing that occur during sleep. The continuous airflow also allows you to exhale through holes in the mask.
CPAP machines are small, lightweight, and quiet, producing a soft, rhythmic white noise. Although CPAP devices vary according to size, shape, and other features, all CPAP machines have three main components:
- A mask fitting over the nose and mouth held in place by straps over the back of the head.
- A tube connected to a motor that delivers air to the mask.
- The motor, blowing air into the tube.
Some CPAP machines may include a heated humidifier. Many types of CPAP machines are available, and your sleep specialist will work with you to determine which features are best for you. Tell your sleep specialist if you’re unhappy with your specific CPAP machine or mask so another can be suggested for you to ensure the best quality comfort and sleep.
CPAP is highly beneficial for sleep apnea patients, such as:
- Keeping your airway open as you sleep.
- Eliminating snoring, enabling bed partners to get to sleep more easily.
- Improving sleep quality.
- Relieving symptoms such as fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness.
- Decreasing or preventing hypertension.
If your sleep specialist recommends the use of the CPAP, you may be scheduled for a second sleep study to get a proper fit for your CPAP mask and to determine the level of air pressure needed to eliminate airway obstruction.
In many cases, even after one night of using CPAP, you will feel better and well rested. Bed partners will also be happier when snoring is eliminated. During the day you can expect to feel more alert and productive.
Compliance is importance when using CPAP, even if it is initially uncomfortable. Remember that if your mask doesn’t fit correctly or is uncomfortable, there are many options available.
CPAP Side Effects
Side effects from CPAP are generally mild and temporary, which can include mild discomfort, nasal congestion, sore eyes, abdominal blocking, dry nose or sore throat, and headaches. Most people become accustomed to CPAP within two to 12 weeks, and less than 50 percent of CPAP patients discontinue treatment.
To alleviate the side effects, you should make sure your mask fits properly. Air should not leak from the mask if it fits correctly. You may ask to start with a CPAP machine which delivers lower air pressure and gradually work up to another machine which delivers higher air pressure. If you experience congestion, ask your doctor about prescribing decongestants or corticosteroid nasal sprays.
Interested in find out more about sleep apnea treatment options, such as CPAP? Please call The Los Angeles Sleep Study Institute at 1-855-690-0563 and one of our representatives will be happy to address any questions, comments, or concerns you may have.