CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure therapy is an effective way to treat patients who have breathing difficulties and obstructive sleep apnoea. It makes use of gentle air pressure to physically keep your airways open while you sleep at night. It does the important job of making sure your airways do not collapse. We are going to explain what is CPAP used for and how CPAP therapy could benefit you if you have breathing difficulties while you sleep.
What is CPAP Used For?
CPAP therapy is one of the recommended treatments for patients who have sleep apnoea. It’s a breathing therapy device to ensure you have consistent breathing. Sleep apnea causes your airways to collapse when you sleep, restricting or cutting off airflow. Patients who do not benefit from oral appliance therapy may find continuous positive airway pressure therapy a helpful intervention.
When you have sleep apnea your breathing becomes shallow or stops when you are asleep. Breathing interruptions or pauses can last from a few seconds to a few minutes and they may take place more than 30 times in an hour. When you do start breathing again, it is usually accompanied by a gasp or a choke.
For many patients, sleep apnoea causes loud snoring, and this is often what disturbs their bed partner to the point that they seek professional help.
During apnoeic episodes, your vital organs are deprived of oxygen and your heart rhythm is disturbed. In addition to the health risks associated with obstructive sleep apnoea, not getting enough sleep affects your cognition and memory. It puts you at risk of accidents and reduces your daytime performance.
Having obstructive sleep apnoea can lead to a host of complications including
- Poor quality of sleep
- Lower oxygen intake
- Daytime fatigue
- High blood pressure
- Reduced concentration and memory recall
CPAP therapy can also be used by patients who have breathing problems that are caused by
- Diseases of the airway such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Lung tissue diseases like pulmonary fibrosis
- Viral and bacterial infections of the respiratory system
- Heart failure
How Is CPAP Therapy Administered?
CPAP therapy is administered using a CPAP machine which includes
- A mask to cover your nose and mouth, to feed the air through
- A tube connecting the mask to the motor of the CPAP machine
- A motor that blows air through a tube
Before you can start using the CPAP machine it has to be configured for your needs. By working with a sleep technologist, you can determine the smallest amount of air required to keep your airway open. By delivering oxygen to you, a CPAP machine can help you to avoid the dangerous breathing interruptions caused by sleep apnoea.
What is CPAP Beneficial For?
In addition to keeping your airway open, continuous positive airway pressure can also help in other ways:
- Reduce or prevent snoring
- Help you get better sleep with fewer interruptions
- Regulating your sleep cycle
- Regulating moodiness and an improvement of depression and anxiety
- Decrease high blood pressure
- Reduce daytime fatigue
- Decrease your risk of heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular event
- Improve your health and wellbeing
- Improve your quality of life
Getting Used To A CPAP Machine
If you are not used to the sensation of sleeping with a mask on, it could take a few nights to get used to a CPAP machine. As tempting as it might be, do not switch it off. You will get used to it faster if you leave it running for the entire night.
What to expect the first time you use the CPAP machine
- Some patients report feeling claustrophobic wearing the mask
- Some patients find the CPAP machine to be limiting to their movement
- Discomfort in the chest muscles, although this should self-resolve quickly
- A stuffy or runny nose
- Sores or redness over the bridge of the nose
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Infections of the respiratory tract
- A dry mouth
While these side effects may seem off-putting, they are easily managed and many of them can be resolved.
- If your machine is noisy try placing it under your bed. If the sounds continue to bother you, speak to your healthcare provider about a quieter alternative
- Use a humidifier in your bedroom to help with dry air and nasal stuffiness
- Find the lightest mask you can. Your healthcare provider can assist you with alternatives so that the mask doesn’t cause you issues at night.
Over time, you will find that the issues that bothered you subside as you get better quality sleep, enjoy benefits to your mental and physical health and improve the sleep environment for your bed partner.
What Is Oral Appliance Therapy And How Can It Help?
Oral appliance therapy is an alternative to CPAP therapy that can make breathing possible if your airways collapse at night. Oral appliances function similarly to a mouthguard in the sense that they force your airway to stay open, they just don’t feed continuous positive airway pressure into your airway like a CPAP machine. Oral appliances are custom-made for your mouth shape.
Oral appliances can be used by patients who do not tolerate continuous positive airway pressure therapy well. It does not make noise, is portable and does not require electricity to operate.
If you still have questions about ‘what is CPAP’ or what is CPAP used for it’s best to speak to a sleep technologist who can give you insights into the different types of machines that are available. Please contact us:
Footscray: (03) 9068 5357
Niddrie: (03) 9068 5316
Caulfield North: (03) 9068 5355
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