What is a CPAP Machine?
A CPAP device/machine stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. CPAP is considered the gold standard of obstructive sleep apnea treatments and in ensuring you are breathing (and sleeping!) continuously throughout the night.
A CPAP machines is a small box with a motorized fan inside. Connected to it is a tube that leads to a breathing mask, which you wear. The fan gently pressurizes the mask and delivers air to your nose and/or mouth (depending on which type of mask you get) as needed. The result, no more lapses of breathing at night.
CPAP machines also have a humidification chamber built in so that you don’t get a dry, scratchy throat/mouth or nasal passage. While a humidification chamber is optional, it’s generally recommended as lack of humidification can lead to irritation in the nasal passage and throat.
How Does a CPAP Machine Work?
As said, a CPAP device has a small fan inside that delivers gentle, positive pressure through a connected hose to the breathing mask. The hose is a lightweight, flexible tube that is kept warm in order to reduce condensation.
Because positive pressure is always delivered to your breathing passageway, it will not collapse when your throat muscles relax and, without a CPAP, your airway would become blocked (e.g., by your tongue or tonsils).
The pressure can be a little strange at first, but it’s rare that people report any long terms problems associated with it.
Why Use a CPAP Machine?
Without this positive pressure, your OSA would cause you to stop breathing anywhere from 5 to 100 times per hour. Each time you stop breathing you have to wake up to begin breathing again, meaning that if left untreated, your sleep apnea would cause intense sleep deprivation.
Long term consequences?
- Shortened life expectancy
- Lower quality of life
- Lower performance in all areas of life
- Heart problems
Avoiding things like, dying young for example, are good reasons why to use a CPAP machine. And it’s no joke – Hall of Fame football player Reggie White died at the age of 43 largely in consequence to not wearing a CPAP machine.
Are CPAP Machines Effective?
On the whole, CPAP machines have been a proven and extremely effective therapy for most people for over 30 years. It’s not uncommon to hear things like:
- I can’t sleep without it
- It changed my life
- I’m so much happier since I started using it
It’s very uncommon for someone to have trouble sleeping with a CPAP device. It’s an extremely effective therapy for sleep apnea and chronic snoring. Some complaints you might hear are:
- The mask takes a few days to get used to
- The positive air pressure is strange at first
- Some variations don’t work with my face shape
- I have to switch between a couple types (full-face mask, nasal mask) to avoid strap marks
- It’s a little uncomfortable to get to sleep
By and large though, any discomfort faced with wearing a CPAP is far outweighed by the their effectiveness in treating sleep apnea and the many health problems (i.e., less life, lower quality life, worse performance, heart problems) that accompany sleep apnea.
Tips for Wearing and Caring for a CPAP Machine
Here are some tips for wearing and taking care of your CPAP machine:
- Masks wear out, replace them on a regular schedule
- Having multiple types of masks that you can switch between is an effective way to mitigate against any problems associated with constantly wearing one type of design
- Keep your CPAP mask and hose clean! You can buy a spray or solution for good prices
- Traveling with full sized CPAP devices can be a bit cumbersome, but travel CPAP devices are available (especially good for camping) – if possible, check your CPAP machine
- Try different masks before settling on one – different mask and brands may fit your face better than others
- Where your CPAP machine as many night (or all nights) as possible
Getting a CPAP machine starts with a sleep apnea diagnoses. If you live in Alaska, call us and we can help you through the process of getting a diagnoses, acquiring a CPAP machine, and sleeping and feeling better.