If you've ever shared a bedroom with someone who has sleep apnea, you'll know just how much of a nightmare it can be, not only to live with but also to suffer from.
Thankfully, modern-day technology now offers ways to combat this condition (at least for those who have to listen to snoring all night!).
CPAP machines are designed to provide continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy to patients suffering from sleep apnea.
The CPAP machine is usually connected to a mask worn over the nose or mouth during sleeping hours.
This helps prevent obstructive sleep apnea, which causes snoring and daytime tiredness.
Here's our step-by-step guide for using a CPAP machine safely and effectively:
Step 1 - Check Your Filter
The first thing to do when setting up your CPAP machine is to check that the filter in place is clean and free of any blockages.
Each device will have its own size and type of filter, so there's no single process for replacing them with any given machine.
However, they will all be replaceable, and you'll just have to consult the manual provided to find out how to do it yourself.
Step 2 - Connect The Hose From The Machine To The Mask
Next, connect the hose from the machine directly to the mask.
You may need to adjust the length of the hose depending on the size of your face.
You should then be able to test whether the machine is working by breathing through the hose.
Step 3 - Plug The CPAP Machine Into A Power Outlet
Finally, plug the CPAP machine into an electrical socket before turning it on.
If you're using a battery-powered unit, make sure that the batteries are fully charged beforehand.
Otherwise, you could risk damaging the machine if it runs down while you're asleep.
Step 4 - Comfortably put on the mask
Once everything is ready, put on the mask and position it correctly around your head.
Make sure that it fits properly and does not restrict airflow too much.
It should fit snugly enough that you don't feel like you're suffocating when wearing it.
Step 5 - Adjust The Settings
Now that you're comfortable with the mask, you'll want to start adjusting the settings on the machine.
This is where most people struggle. There are four main settings that you'll need to set.
- Pressure level – This controls the amount of pressure being applied to the nasal passages. It should ideally be adjusted according to your individual needs.
- O2 flow rate – This determines how much oxygen is delivered to the lungs. Again, it should be adjusted according to your personal requirements.
- Respiratory effort – This adjusts the resistance offered by the machine to help you breathe more easily.
- Alarm – This lets you know when the time comes to change the filters.
It might take some trial and error to find the settings that you're most comfortable with but if you feel uneasy about adjusting these yourself, you should always consult an expert or doctor to be safe.
Step 6 - Turn The Device On
Finally, turning the machine on is easy once you've found the right settings.
Simply press the button marked 'On' at the top of the machine.
The machine will now automatically begin to supply a constant stream of air to your nostrils.
Once this has been established, you can relax as you drift off to sleep.
How Does A CPAP Machine Work?
A CPAP machine works by delivering a continuous stream of air to the nose via a tube connected to a mask worn over the mouth.
The air is forced past the tongue and throat, which prevents it from entering the lungs.
As a result, the patient gets a steady supply of fresh air without inhaling dust particles or other irritants.
These devices often come in two varieties:
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines force a constant stream of air into the nose throughout the night.
- Bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machines deliver a higher pressure during inspiration than expiration. This helps prevent snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition when breathing stops for around 10 seconds or longer.
The person wakes up briefly every few minutes due to the lack of oxygen.
In severe cases, patients may stop breathing altogether for periods of 30 seconds or more.
In milder forms, patients experience loud snoring, excessive daytime drowsiness, and fatigue.
While there's no cure for sleep apnea, CPAP therapy can significantly reduce its symptoms.
What Is The Difference Between Sleep Apnea And Snoring?
Snoring is caused by vibrations created by the soft tissue within the back of the throat vibrating against each other.
As they do so, they create noise that's audible through the mouth.
People who suffer from severe cases of snoring may also experience periods of interrupted breathing known as hypopneas.
Hypopneas occur when the muscles of the upper airways relax for a few seconds before tightening again.
This causes the airway to collapse slightly, creating a noisy obstruction.
On the other hand, sleep apnea occurs when the upper airways are blocked completely.
This results in a complete cessation of airflow.
Top Tips For Using A CPAP Machine
It's one thing knowing how to use a CPAP machine in theory, but there are a few other things you should bear in mind as you get used to the device:
Practice Makes Perfect
As with using any new machinery, practicing with a CPAP machine a few times while you're awake can give you peace of mind for using it while you're asleep.
It's as simple as wearing the mask while you're awake and breathing through the machine during the day.
It will likely take you some time to get used to using the CPAP machine for the first few nights.
Don't get disheartened if you find you still can't sleep comfortably while wearing it.
Give the device plenty of time to work as your body adjusts to it.
Wash Your Face Before Use
As well as being a good hygiene practice, having a clean face will help to create a seal between the mask and your skin, preventing irritation and ultimately making you more comfortable at night.
Using a CPAP machine is an essential part of treating sleep apnea.
It provides a continuous flow of air into the nasal passages, ensuring that the airway remains open and unobstructed.
The benefits are numerous - not only does it improve your quality of life, but it also improves your health and reduces your risk of developing serious conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.