Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Therapy for Sleep Apnea
What is CPAP?
CPAP, the abbreviation for continuous positive airway pressure therapy, is a treatment method for patients who have sleep apnea. CPAP machines use mild air pressure to keep the airways open, and are typically used by patients who have breathing problems during sleep. More specifically, what CPAP therapy helps accomplish is making sure that your airway doesn't collapse when you breathe while asleep.
What CPAP therapy looks like
CPAP therapy involves a CPAP machine, which comprises the following:
- A mask that covers your nose and mouth, a mask that covers your nose only, or even prongs that fit into your nose.
- A tube that connects the mask to the CPAP machine's motor.
- A motor that blows air into the tube.
Who is it for?
CPAP therapy is one of the most recommended treatment options for patients who have obstructive sleep apnea, in which not enough air reaches your lungs. CPAP therapy is also is used to treat infants whose lungs have not fully developed. The CPAP machine blows air into the baby's nose to help inflate his or her lungs.
When you are prescribed to a CPAP machine, you will work with your sleep technologist to make sure that the settings that are prescribed to you work best for you. It is every sleep technologist's concern that the air pressure from the machine is just enough to keep your airway open while you sleep.
There are many kinds of CPAP machines and masks. So don't be shy in letting your doctor and sleep technologist know that the type you're working with isn't the most comfortable.
The adjustment process for CPAP therapy is different for every patient. Some patients take months to adjust to CPAP therapy while others can take only a few days.
Why use CPAP?
Although there is a noted adjustment period to using CPAP therapy, following this method of treatment can pay off significantly in the end.
- Keep your airway open while you sleep.
- Reduce or eliminate your snoring altogether.
- Improve your quality of sleep.
- Reduce or eliminate daytime sleepiness, a symptom of sleep apnea.
- Circumvent or significantly reduce high blood pressure.
Side effects of CPAP therapy
Some of the most common side effects from CPAP therapy are the following:
- The feeling of claustrophobia under the CPAP mask
- Nasal congestion or runny nose
But these side effects can be prevented if you check that your mask is fitted appropriately. Nasal symptoms mentioned above can be alleviated through heated humidification of the CPAP air. Most CPAP machines come with a heated humidifier, so make sure you take advantage of this.
How soon will you feel the effects of CPAP therapy?
You will most likely feel the effects of CPAP therapy as soon as you start it. Many studies have shown that the maximum effect of therapy is usually achieved in about 2 weeks or so. If you still feel sleepiness after 2-4 weeks, then you should consult your sleep physician on what might be the underlying cause of persistent daytime drowsiness.
Best practices for a good CPAP therapy experience
Consider using these tips to make sure that your CPAP therapy experience is one that is easily adjustable and comfortable.
1. Test out your CPAP machine for short periods of time during the day
Whether it's when you're reading a book or surfing the web, try putting the mask on for short periods of time before you sleep. This will help you get used to wearing your mask to sleep.
2. Use CPAP every night and for every nap
Whether you are getting a little shut-eye or going to sleep, make sure you're in the habit of using your CPAP machine during all stages and occasions of sleep. Using CPAP therapy erratically reduces your chances of getting better soon.
3. Refrain from huge adjustsments to your CPAP machine
The most common problems of adjusting to CPAP treatment occur when your mask is not put on comfortably. Make sure you make small adjustments to your mask to ensure that it fits right. If your mask is still not comfortable even after you make slight adjustments to it, you may need new CPAP gear.
4. Try using the ramp mode
If you feel like the air pressure is too high, then try using the ramp mode on your CPAP machine. What this will do is gradually increase the air pressure as you fall asleep.
5. Use a saline nasal spray to ease mild nasal congestion
Try using a nasal spray or decongestant if you easily suffer from nasal decongestion.
6. Place foam under the CPAP machine
If you want to quiet your CPAP machine as you fall asleep, we recommend that you use this trick.
7. Don't forget to clean your CPAP equipment
Make sure you clean your mask, tubing and headgear at least once a week. Make sure to set a reminder for yourself, so you don't end up getting grossed out by your own CPAP gear.
If you're still facing problems with your CPAP gear
Contact your sleep technologist to receive expert advice on how to use your CPAP machine.