Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes breathing difficulties especially while sleeping. It causes the walls of your throat to close while you sleep which may lead to snoring or even a complete inability to sleep. CPAP is designed to help such people deal with the problem and enjoy a full night's rest.
CPAP relieves the problem by increasing the air pressure inside your throat to keep the walls from collapsing. Depending on how severe the patient's obstructive sleep apnea is, they may suffer up to 100 breathing interruptions every hour. The lack of sleep causes them to suffer from chronic drowsiness and heart disease.
How Does CPAP Work?
The CPAP motor is just a small, quiet air compressor. It pulls in air from the room, pressurizes it and sends it into your throat at just the right pressure to keep your throat from collapsing in on itself. The air intake valve has a filter to clean out any impurities and ensure that the air being pumped into your throat is free of impurities.
Some motors come with inbuilt water tanks that are heated up in order to humidify the air that is being pumped into your throat. They work well for people who live in dry areas or who frequently suffer from dry-mouth.
Once the air has been pressurized and humidified it is sent through hoses towards the mask. Most hoses are 6 feet long however the diameter changes depending on the machine being used. Some of them are even heated to keep water from condensing on them.
The masks come in a variety of sizes because it is important that it fits well and is comfortable on you. Even with all the sizes, there are three standard shapes that they come in. These are nasal pillows, full face masks and nasal masks.
This video gives an accurate depiction of what happens when you have sleep apnea and how CPAP therapy deals with it.
How to Get Started on CPAP Therapy?
A sleep study polysomnogram is the first step towards beginning your CPAP therapy. The sleep study is important because your doctor needs to determine whether CPAP therapy is the best option for you.
A polysomnogram is an overnight study that records your brain waves, heart rate, eye movement and oxygen levels while you sleep. After the doctor has analyzed the results of your polysomnogram you will then have to go through a sleep titration study which is similar to a polysomnogram but you will be wearing a CPAP device while it happens.
The results of the sleep titration study will tell the doctor what settings you will need for your CPAP device. Patients who are already confirmed to have obstructive sleep apnea but just need to determine how severe it is may qualify for a home sleep test which is more cost-effective than a polysomnogram.
When you have been issued with a CPAP device it is vital that you use it regularly. For you to enjoy its benefits it must be used every night. If you stop using it then your symptoms will come back to plague you immediately. Remember that CPAP is not a cure for sleep apnea but rather a therapy that treats the symptoms.
Side-Effects of Using CPAP
You can minimize the impact of these side-effects by ensuring that the mask is fitted properly because an ill-fitting mask tends to be very uncomfortable. Nasal problems such as rhinitis are dealt with by heating or humidifying the air but most patients opt not to use the humidifier.
The mask has to be put on tight to keep air from leaking however if it is too tight then you might damage your skin. You should consider changing your mask if you are unable to tighten it without air leaking out.
You are likely to feel some discomfort in your nasal passage in the morning after your first few nights of using CPAP. You should be able to handle it after a while however if the discomfort does not go way you should consult your doctor
How Long After Undergoing CPAP Therapy Before I Start to Enjoy the Benefits?
You should start to enjoy a full night's rest immediately after you start to use a CPAP machine. Fatigue and drowsiness will no longer bother you as soon as you start sleeping regularly. In some cases it may take up to two weeks before you start to feel the maximum benefits.
Unfortunately, some patients still experience drowsiness and even though the CPAP machine has unblocked their throats. Stimulant medications work well in these cases but you should remember that regular use of CPAP will not make up for not getting enough sleep.
What are the Solutions to Common Issues Associated with using CPAP?
Keep in mind that sleeping with a mask attached to your face will always be a little uncomfortable. Many patients never even reach the point where they can easily fall asleep with the motor running right next to them even though it is designed to run with a sound barely louder than a whisper.
If the discomfort is a major problem for you, there are a few ways that you can deal with the problem:
- Take care of the nasal congestion by using medication
- Concentrate on all of the benefits that using the CPAP has afforded you such as improved sleep and less fatigue
- Try to wear the mask while you are awake so that your face becomes desensitized to it and makes it easier for you to forget that you're even wearing it. A good idea would be to wear it with the motor off while watching TV then gradually increase the amount of time that you spend wearing it. By the time you go to sleep, it will be like it is not there at all
- You don't have to wear the mask all night at first. Start with thirty minutes per night then gradually work your way up to two hours and then all night.
If none of these solutions work for you then your doctor may advise you to use a different kind of CPAP machine. There is one machine which starts at off with a low pressure then gradually increases as you fall asleep. This machine works wonders on patients who can't handle the constant pressure in the noses.
A second type of CPAP machine to use is known as a bilevel positive airway pressure machine (BiPAP). It works by lowering the pressure from the motor when you exhale and increasing it when you inhale. BiPAP is designed to help sleep apnea patients who also have heart issues.
Using the CPAP Machine Takes Dedication and Patience, when you start using a CPAP machine you still have to consult your doctor regularly who may suggest that you undergo another round of sleep studies in order to adjust the settings on you machine. You will also be advised on how to take care of your machine. Most CPAPs are expensive so even if you are renting one you must keep it clean.
Besides keeping it clean, the most common reason that CPAP therapy fails to work is that people tend to stop using it. They enjoy a few nights of good rest and then decide that they don't need it anymore which results in more sleep-related issues. Once you have your CPAP but decide that you no longer want to use it, be sure to consult your doctor first.