Sleep apnea causes brief but repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep, use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine while you’re sleeping can help treat obstructive sleep apnea. The CPAP typically includes a face or nasal mask that pumps a flow of air into the nasal passages to keep the airway open. But some people abandon the machine before they can get used to it. In a study of 639 people published in 2010, 19% had stopped using the machine after four years and 30% had stopped within 10 years.
But adjusting to CPAP can make your sleep – and life – better. When you suffer from sleep apnea, your body is in a constant struggle between breathing and sleeping, fortunately, breathing wins, but it wins at the expense of your sleep. That lack of sleep can have an adverse effect on aging, diabetes, and blood pressure. But, the majority of CPAP users report immediate symptom relief, and CPAP can improve heart rhythms and may also reduce high blood pressure.
It's not enough for you to be handed a mask, machine, and instruction book; ask your doctor to request a demonstration from a representative when he/she writes the order for your machine, and remember to ask what pressure they recommend. CPAP machines are not one-size-fits-all. These tips can help ensure your device is right for you:
- Talk to your doctor about the best CPAP model for you. The premise of CPAP machines hasn't changed since they were introduced more than 25 years ago, but the new machines are smaller than a shoe box and much quieter.
- Get a CPAP mask that fits well. People often say they have given up on their device because it’s uncomfortable. However, with the wide variety of masks available, you can get a mask that is comfortable for you.
- If your CPAP machine seems outdated, try to upgrade. Typically, the devices are covered by insurance.
- Tell your doctor about any symptoms you experience. If symptoms -- such as snoring -- that initially went away on CPAP start reappearing while using the device, get reevaluated. In about half of CPAP users, other side effects can occur -- such as nasal congestion, dry mouth, or skin irritation. Talk to your doctor about remedies for these problems and make sure the machine is working as you need it to.
Not everyone with obstructive sleep apnea needs CPAP. If your condition is mild, other treatments may help. But if your apnea has progressed beyond a mild condition, CPAP can help give you back your sleep and improve the quality of your life. If you make the effort to adjust to the CPAP device and wear it regularly, the payoff is big.