CPAP (or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) Therapy

A CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, machine is designed to help patients who have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea breathe more regularly at night. Essentially, it maintains a certain level of air pressure inside the wearer’s mouth and throat to keep the passageway open for breathing while the patient sleeps. The CPAP device comes with either a mask that covers both the patient’s nose and mouth, a set of flexible tubes that fits into the patient’s nostrils or a mask that just covers the patient’s nose (which is the more popular model and also referred to as NCPAP or nasal continuous positive airway pressure). Some CPAP machines even have adjustable pressures to optimize comfort for the patient. Treatment involves sleeping with one of these types of CPAP masks on every night.

CPAP therapy is by far the most prescribed procedure to treat obstructive sleep apnea of all levels of severity. It is a widely used and trusted method of effectively easing the symptoms of sleep apnea without resorting to surgery, which is another option for sleep apnea patients. In addition, CPAP therapy will not interfere or increase the risk of health complications but actually help sleep apnea patients who have also suffered heart problems. CPAP machine users report fewer symptoms of excessive daytime sleepiness, lower blood pressure and overall better sleep experience.

Advantages and Disadvantages of CPAP

The hardest part about CPAP is getting used to the presence of the CPAP machine in the bedroom every night. Regular, nightly use, however, is essentially for effective treatment, as skipping one night here or there just because the mask or the machine was irrigating you may lead to excessive sleepiness the next day. Some patients find that they must cycle through several models of masks before finding one that feels comfortable enough to sleep in. Oftentimes, the increased pressure inside the patient’s airway passage makes it difficult to exhale, at least at first. Most patients get used to wearing the CPAP mask after regular use for the first week or so. There are travel-sized CPAP machines available as well.

Unfortunately, there are side-effects as well, most of which occur only in the first couple of weeks when the device is still unfamiliar. Side-effects include fitful dreams, vivid dreaming, dryness in the nose and throat, skin irritation and feelings of being bloated. The machines can also be very expensive and are not always available to rent. Nonetheless, simple steps have been successful by many families who use CPAP machinery in order to lessen these side-effects—including adjusting the settings on the CPAP machine so the air pressure in lower (manually and automatically),  re-sizing the mask to eliminate any holes in the mask and using a humidifier or a nasal spray before you use the hate. While on CPAP, you should check-in regularly with a sleep study specialist to monitor treatment.