What is a CPAP Machine and How Does It Work?
CPAP machines are the most common and effective treatment for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that affects millions of people around the world, and it decreases their sleep quality and quality of life.
Continue reading to learn how CPAP machines can change your life if you are experiencing sleep apnea.
What Is a CPAP Machine?
A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine is a medical device that contains a motor and a filter that turns room air into pressurized air and delivers it through a CPAP mask into your nose, or your nose and mouth while you sleep, to help keep your airway open.
Before the creation of CPAP devices, the only treatment for sleep disorders such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) was performing a tracheotomy. Nowadays, CPAP therapy is the first option to treat sleep apnea.
What Is a CPAP Machine Used for?
CPAP machines are the cornerstone of obstructive sleep apnea treatment, but they can be used in the treatment of other types of sleep apnea—like central sleep apnea. These machines are used to open up the upper airway during sleep and decrease the complications related to these conditions, such as daytime sleepiness, decreased quality of life and increased risk of heart disease.
There are alternative treatments for obstructive sleep apnea, such as weight loss, oral appliance therapy, position therapy, and some types of surgery that remove the soft tissues from the upper airway to decrease airflow obstruction. However, these aren’t as effective as CPAP machines and some of them are too invasive.
Types of CPAP Machines
There are several types of CPAP machines, but the most commonly used ones are traditional CPAP machines, APAP machines and BiPAP machines. These are the most distinctive features of each one:
These are programmed to deliver a steady air pressure level, which you can modify by changing the machine’s setting.
The APAP machine checks your breathing during the night, and adjusts the air pressure you are receiving according to any changes it may sense. Most people prefer using automatic CPAP devices.
Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) Machine
BiPAP machines have two different pressure settings, one for inhalation and the other for exhalation. It’s ideal for people who can’t tolerate traditional CPAP machines or who have elevated blood carbon dioxide levels due to the high air pressure delivered by traditional CPAP machines, making them unable to exhale properly.
Since you can establish a lower air pressure while you exhale with a BiPAP machine, it’s much more comfortable to use them if you have experienced these issues in the past.
What Do You Need for CPAP Therapy?
When you get a new CPAP machine it should include:
- 1. A CPAP mask or other device that fits only over your nose, or over your nose and mouth. You can choose from different masks, and the type you choose should depend on personal preference and how the mask fits your face.
- 2. Straps to adjust the mask properly.
- 3. A tube to connect the mask to the machine.
- 4. rectangular machine, the motor that blows pressurized air into the tube.
Types of CPAP Masks
Nasal pillow mask:
This mask has a small cushion that goes over your nostrils, and it allows you to use glasses while wearing it. It’s ideal for people who have a lot of facial hair.
This is a mask that covers the whole nose area. They are ideal for people who tend to move around the bed during their sleep.
Full face mask:
This type of mask has a triangle shape and it covers your nose and mouth. This is most often used by people who breathe through their mouths and by those who have chronic nasal congestion.
How Does a CPAP Machine Work?
The first thing you need to know before you start using your CPAP machine is what your pressure range is. You can find this information on the prescription given to you by your primary healthcare provider or sleep medicine specialist. Once you know your pressure range, you can start programming your machine to match your ideal pressure settings.
Once you have programmed your pressure range, you can program other features, such as Expiratory Pressure Relief (known as the C-Flex on Dreamstation machines), which is a feature that makes it easier to breathe in and out while using the machine—especially if it’s your first time using one. You can also attach filters to the machine to reduce contamination from dirt and allergens. These filters should be replaced every 30 to 60 days.
Another feature you can program in some CPAP machines is a heated humidifier option. This feature is recommended for people who experience issues derived from the use of a CPAP machine, such as dry mouth, nosebleeds and sinus issues. To use the humidifier option you need to attach a water chamber filled with distilled water to the device and enable the humidification option.
Once you have set everything up, you just have to put your mask on, play around with it until it fits comfortably, and turn on your CPAP machine. At first it can be hard for some people and their bed partners to get used to sleeping with the machine, but once you do, you will experience a drastic increase in your sleep quality.
What Are the Effects of CPAP Machines?
CPAP machines have proven to be an effective treatment option for sleep apnea with many positive results. There are also some minor side effects you need to consider, but they can all be prevented or fixed by making simple adjustments.
CPAP use prevents the interruptions in your breathing pattern and the decreased blood oxygen levels caused by sleep apnea. This can have plenty of positive effects on your physical and mental health. Some of the most noteworthy benefits are:
Improved quality of sleep and reduced daytime sleepiness:
By using a CPAP Machine you reduce the number of apnea episodes, and the number of sleepless nights, therefore, it reduces how tired you feel during the day.
Snoring is usually caused by the vibration of excess soft tissue in a narrowed upper airway. Since CPAP machines prevent the upper airway from narrowing at night, they reduce, and can even eliminate, your snores, and your bed partner will thank you for it.
Lower risk of heart disease:
Sleep apnea episodes increase your blood pressure at night, which increases your risk of developing high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes. Treating your sleep apnea properly decreases these risks greatly.
Improved brain function:
Your memory and cognitive functions can be negatively impacted by the repeated pauses in your breathing pattern while you sleep. After using a CPAP machine for a while, you’ll notice that you are able to remember things better and think more clearly throughout the day.
Lower risk of type 2 diabetes:
Sleep apnea has been associated with glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, which are risk factors for the development of type 2 diabetes. Treating sleep apnea has proved to improve insulin sensitivity, which lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Prevention of motor vehicle accidents:
People with untreated sleep apnea are more likely to have a hard time staying awake and concentrating while driving, which increases their risk of being involved in a deadly car crash. The improved quality of sleep provided by CPAP machines solves this issue.
Better emotional stability:
The decreased quality of sleep caused by sleep apnea can increase the risk of depression, and can make you experience mood swings frequently. CPAP machines have been proven to improve the mood and overall quality of life of the people who use them.
Lower medical expenses:
Sleep apnea can lead to other health problems, such as chronic heart disease, and the treatment of these conditions can be quite expensive. CPAP therapy reduces health expenses by decreasing the risk of developing these complications.
The most common side effects of CPAP machines are relatively minor and can be fixed by applying quick adjustments. Let’s look at some negative effects related to the use of CPAP machines (and how to avoid them):
Strap marks or skin sores:
These are caused by poor mask fit, and it can be solved by properly adjusting your mask or changing the type of mask you use. You’ll be able to avoid this side effect if you make sure that your mask straps don’t fit too tightly, or by using soft strap covers.
Dry mouth and sore throat:
The continuous airflow generated by CPAP machines can dry out your upper airway. This can be prevented by using a CPAP machine that provides a humidifier feature.
Runny nose and sneezing:
This can be caused by a combination of dry air provided by the machine and dust particles that could be caught up in the system. This can be solved by changing the filters in your system and enabling the humidifier option of your CPAP machine, if it has one.
Difficulty falling asleep:
When you first start using a CPAP machine, you can be bothered by the noise generated by the machine or feel claustrophobic because you aren’t used to having a mask that fits snugly over your face while you sleep. This takes a while to get used to, but it’s worth it in the long-term. If the mask is too bothersome, you can try different types of mask until you find the one that fits your needs the best.
You might experience stomach discomfort or bloating while you use or after using your CPAP machine, this can be due to aerophagia, or air swallowing. This issue can be solved by making certain adjustments, but if it persists, you should stop using it and contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Do You Need a CPAP Machine?
If you suspect you may be experiencing sleep apnea and you may need a CPAP machine, contact your primary healthcare provider. They can give you a referral for a sleep specialist.
In your appointment with the sleep medicine specialist, they will ask you some questions and conduct a physical exam. Then they can recommend a sleep study, such as a polysomnography, to make the definitive diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea. Doctors often prescribe at-home sleep studies, since they are easier to conduct and more comfortable for the patient.
After your doctor gives you a sleep apnea diagnosis, they may conduct a CPAP titration study to establish your ideal pressure range, and a mask fitting so you can know how snugly the mask should fit your face.
Where To Buy a CPAP Machine?
If you are looking for the best CPAP machines and masks on the market, look no further! Sleeplay has the best selection of CPAP machines and supplies. We offer warranties in all our machines, so you are never left without this life-improving medical device.
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