The ABC’s of CPAP Therapy

The ABCs of CPAP Therapy
Getting diagnosed for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) often answers many question for people that are constantly feeling fatigued or irritable despite sleeping through the night. The most common therapy for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). CPAP therapy continually pushes positive air pressure through your respiratory airways to keep them open so that you can breath normally while you sleep.

CPAP Equipment Basics
Basic CPAP equipment consists of a CPAP machine that generates air pressure, a mask that interfaces with the nose or the nose and mouth, flexible tubing that connects the CPAP machine with to the mask, and headgear that holds the mask in place. Other equipment such as humidifiers, hose covers, hose clips may be necessary to make your CPAP therapy experience more comfortable.

The CPAP machine uses a compressor to deliver air pressure into your nose via the mask, pushing the upper airway open during sleep, thus preventing the upper airway from collapsing. CPAP masks come in different sizes and styles to fit different comfort needs. Some masks are small, and fit like pillows just under your nose; while others are full face masks, replete with headgear and chinstrap to ensure that it won’t come off even if you’re a wild sleeper.

How to Determine CPAP Pressure.
A sleep technician monitors our sleep during CPAP treatment trial, analyzing changes in breathing, heart rate, and brain activity while you sleep. When apnea events are detected the technician can adjust the pressure until the apnea related breathing irregularities are minimized. After the sleep trial, the information from your CPAP trial is analyzed and treatment recommendations for air pressure are made.

The Feel of Forced Air
Getting used to CPAP treatment can be challenging. If you’re finding that it’s hard to breathe through your nose while you fall asleep remember that CPAP therapy is dependent upon getting air into your nose and keeping proper airflow consistent throughout the night.

It’s a smart idea to get accustomed to the CPAP machine before attempting a night’s rest. Set it up while you’re watching TV and get used to the sound and sensation. This can help tremendously during the night. This is also a good time to ensure that the mask you’ve chosen is the best for you. Little by little you should feel more comfortable with your CPAP equipment.

Perks of CPAP Rest
You probably understand how important sleep is to your health and well-being. But did you realize that sleep apnea increases your risk for stroke, congestive heart failure and hypertension (OSA increases your risk of hypertension up to 5x!). Untreated sleep apnea has even been linked to automobile accidents due to daytime sleepiness. Those who have successfully integrated CPAP therapy have reported improvements in:

  • Mood
  • Job performance
  • Vitality and motivation
  • Quality of life
  • Alertness during driving
  • Quality of sleep
  • Sex drive and performance

There are many different types of positive airway pressure therapies besides CPAP that than can help with OSA. Here’s a brief rundown of other options available.

APAP (Automatic Positive Airway Pressure)
Also known as Automatic CPAP or Auto-adjusting CPAP, this is a machine that automatically adjusts itself, on a breath-by-breath basis, to deliver the minimum pressure needed to keep your upper airway open during sleep. Some CPAP users find it easier to use an APAP than CPAP because the pressure is changeable. You might need more pressure to keep your airway open while falling asleep, but once REM sets in, you could require significantly less.

Bi-Level (VPAP - Variable Positive Airway Pressure)
Bi-level devices are for those who cannot tolerate continuous positive airway pressure. This provides noninvasive positive pressure ventilation (NPPV) for people who suffer from conditions other than OSA like those with respiratory disorders or other forms of Sleep-Disordered Breathing (SDB).

This is different from CPAP therapy in two significant ways:

  • You receive a higher level of pressure when you breathe in.
  • A lower level when you breathe out.

It should be clear how many options, styles and therapies are available for those suffering from OSA. If you aren’t getting the rest your physician intended when prescribing CPAP therapy – try something else. Talk to your doctor but don’t give up. For your own well-being, you can’t put a price on good, healthy sleep.