How CPAP treatment works?
CPAP treatment uses a positive air pressure to hold the airway open during sleep. The positive air pressure is generated by a pump called a CPAP machine, and is applied through a small mask which fits over the nose, or the nose and mouth. CPAP stops snoring by preventing structures in the airway from vibrating. Equally as important, CPAP prevents the airway from becoming narrow and obstructing breathing. When an optimal pressure is applied through the mask, your breathing becomes regular and unobstructed, your body’s oxygen levels remain stable, you do not snore, and there are fewer disruptions to the rhythm of your brain-waves.
The CPAP machine does not breathe for you and not supply you with extra oxygen. Instead, CPAP maintains an open airway to allow your body to breathe normally.
Unfortunately, CPAP cannot cure obstructive sleep apnoea – it only treats the symptoms of OSA. Therefore, if you cease using CPAP, your snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea will return. For this reason, CPAP treatment must be used every night.
Before Starting CPAP You Need to Know if You Have OSA
The first step to treating suspected sleep apnoea is having a correct diagnosis. An overnight diagnostic sleep study (called an overnight polysomnogram) is the best way to assess obstructive sleep apnoea. Depending on the results of your sleep study, your Sleep Physician may recommend a CPAP-titration study.
A CPAP-titration study is a sleep-study where you trial a CPAP machine and mask. While you are asleep, the pressure applied to the mask is slowly increased and decreased to find the pressure which is most optimal for you – that is, the minimum pressure which stops you from snoring, prevents you from not breathing, and allows you to have the most restful sleep.
Improvement in Snoring and OSA Symptoms
Your snoring will cease as soon as you are treated with CPAP at your optimal pressure. Some people experience improvement in the severity of their daytime tiredness and symptoms immediately after starting CPAP, while some people take a little longer to adjust and notice improvement.
The Side Effects
CPAP treatment has been used world-wide for over 20 years and is very safe.
Some people initially experience minor symptoms of discomfort associated with the use of CPAP masks and equipment, however these generally resolve after a week or two.
Other side effects which may occur with CPAP include:
- Dry mouth or nasal passages
- Skin irritation or rash where the CPAP mask contacts the face
- Sensation of air pressure through the mask being too high
- In some rare cases, reflux or sensation of abdominal bloating.
Many people will experience none of these symptoms and very few people will experience them at all. With specialist advice from your Sleep Physician and ur CPAP equipment-supplier, all of these symptoms can be overcome to make CPAP treatment pleasant and effective.
CPAP is a treatment like any other in that it may take time to adjust to, and therefore requires commitment. CPAP may be slightly more difficult if you suffer from claustrophobia. Your Sleep Physician and CPAP equipment supplier can inform you of ways to help overcome these problems. Information on CPAP familiarisation can also be found here.
In The Long Term
CPAP treatment is often long-term, and while your obstructive sleep apnoea is present, CPAP treatment will most likely need to be continued. However, there are several ways to reduce the severity of your obstructive sleep apnoea, including:
- Reducing body weight
- Reducing nocturnal alcohol-consumption and sedating medications
- Learning to sleep exclusively on your side all of the time
- Learning good sleep habits
- Ceasing cigarette smoking
Often, the severity of an individual’s sleep apnoea can be reduced greatly by taking these measures, sometimes to the point where CPAP treatment is no longer required. Even if CPAP therapy cannot be withdrawn, the required pressure can often be reduced to improve comfort and tolerance.
Reassessing Your CPAP Treatment
Your CPAP treatment requirements change over time, especially if you lose or gain body weight, change the amount of alcohol you regularly drink, cease cigarette smoking or undergo any other medical treatments or procedures. SNORE Australia recommends that if any of the above changes occur or you have any reoccurance of previous symptoms, you should be reassessed. This ensures that your CPAP treatment is optimal.
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Source of information: CPAP information