Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by an obstruction of the airway due to either anatomical factors or functional abnormalities. The most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea is a large tongue falling back against the pharyngeal wall during sleep.
The narrowing of the upper airways may be related to obesity or other anatomic changes. Sleep apnea is often associated with snoring, excessive daytime somnolence, fatigue, and irritability. Treatment options depend on the severity of the disease.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines are the most commonly prescribed devices for treating sleep apnea. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) interrupts normal breathing during sleeping and a CPAP machine sends a constant stream of pressurized air through tubes into the nostrils and mouth of the patient while he/she sleeps.
How It Works?
A nasal cannula is a small plastic tube that fits snugly inside your nostril. The cannula delivers clean, humidified air directly to your nose and throat while allowing you to breathe naturally.
During the night, the CPAP machine creates a steady flow of air that keeps your airway open, preventing you from waking up due to repeated pauses in breathing.
There are many different types of positive airway pressure devices, including continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP), auto-bilevel positive airway pressure (auto-BipAP), adaptive servoventilation (ASV), bilevel positive airway pressurization (BIPAP), and others.
Most people choose CPAP because it works best for most people and is simple to use but you may prefer another type especially if you have certain health conditions.
There are also several different kinds of masks for sleep apnea. The best mask for you will depend on your comfort level, sleeping habits and whether you have mild, moderate or severe sleep apnea.
Nasal pillows are designed to cover just your nostril area, making them comfortable for people who move around while sleeping.
Pronged masks cover both your nostrils and mouth. These are less comfortable for people who move during sleep, but may be better if you snore loudly.
Pillow mask. Rather than covering the entire face, a pillow mask only covers your nose and mouth. Some options also have small prongs that fit into the nares. People who wear pillow masks can wear their eyeglasses comfortably.
A full face mask is a great choice when you're sleeping because it covers your nose and mouth. You can wear it all night long.
Full masks fit snugly around your face, making them comfortable and easy to put on and remove. Some models come with a strap that goes across your forehead, keeping the mask secure and helping you keep it on while you sleep.
How to Use It
A CPAP machine takes in room air, filters it, and then pressurizes it to about 15 cm H2O. Then it delivers it through a tube and mask, keeping your tongue, uvulae and soft palate from moving too far down into your throat.
This helps stabilize your breathing and improves your sleep quality.
Keeping your device clean will help you avoid bacteria and mold growth. For optimal hygiene, clean your tubing, mask, and water chamber every day. If this isn't possible, try to clean your device at least once a week following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Getting Used to the Machine
If you heed to use a CPAP machine to bed at night it may take a while to get used to. Start out by trying to wear the CPAP mask during the day. If you feel comfortable doing that, you can move onto wearing the CPAP machine during the day whilst you take a nap.
You might need to adjust the settings on the machine before you start using it. Make sure to turn the machine on before going to sleep, and turn it off after waking up. After you get used to how it feels, keep using the CPAP machine whenever you sleep. What other problems might you experience?
If you struggle to tolerate the increase in oxygen you may not be able to overcome this problem if you're already using a machine that automatically and continuously adjusts the pressure while you sleep.
Talk with your doctor about switching to a different type of machine. For example, a bi-level positive pressure machine (BPAP) might deliver more pressure when you inhale and less when you exhale. Another option is an automatic CPAP machine that will increase the pressure as you fall asleep.
A third option is a bi-level negative pressure device that decreases the pressure as you inhale and increases the pressure as you exhale.
Dry and Blocked Nose/mouth
Make sure your mask fits well enough to avoid leaks. If it dries out your nose, it may cause breathing problems. Make sure there are enough straps to keep the mask tight around your head and adjust them if you need to.
You can also try using a humidifier to add moisture to the air inside the mask. Another solution is to add a nasal saline solution at night to moisten your nose.
If you have trouble sleeping because of a dry mouth try wearing a chin strap while using your machine. Some CPAP masks come with a built-in chin strap. If you're not sure whether you need a nasal or full face mask, ask your doctor.
If you suffer with claustrophobia you may find using the mask particularly challenging. To help with this, try using the mask when you're awake. Start with just holding it up to your face.
Then, add the straps. After that, try wearing it with the hose connected. Try doing all of this without the machine running. You could also practice relaxing before bedtime.
If you still feel like you need relief, talk to your doctor about getting a different size mask or trying a different style, such a one that uses nasal pillow. It may help to change the type of mask you wear, such as a full face mask or an extended nose mask.
Sleep apnea is a worrying condition but it needn't be life limiting. With the right Cpap machine sufferers can enjoy a full nights sleep every night.