A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure machine) is a device that helps people with sleep apnea breathe more easily and regularly during their sleep.
Sleep apnea is a medical condition in which breathing stops and starts repeatedly while a person is asleep. It is a potentially serious condition and affects a person’s daily life. People who snore loudly or feel tired even after a full night’s sleep may be suffering from sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea may be of various types, the most common one being obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In OSA, the airway collapses or becomes blocked during sleep. It is seven times more common in obese people than the rest of the population. The other causes of obstructive sleep apnea include poor muscle tone in the upper airway, enlarged tonsils, large tongue, etc.
If suffering from sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend a CPAP machine. The machine increases the air pressure in the throat to prevent the airway from collapsing when a person inhales. CPAP machines also decrease snoring, thus allowing a more restful sleep.
A CPAP machine has three main parts:
- A mask: Masks may be of various types, such as one that covers the nose and mouth, nose alone (nasal continuous positive airway pressure or NCPAP), or prongs that fit inside the nose with a small cushion that caps over the nostril area. The mask has a chin strap that helps keep it in place while snoozing.
- A tube: This connects the mask to the motor of the CPAP machine.
- A motor: This blows air into the tube.
Besides, the CPAP machine also has a filter and small tank of water that helps humidify the air breathed in for added comfort.
What are the advantages of CPAP therapy?
CPAP therapy is the first-choice treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. It has several advantages that make it the best nonsurgical method for managing obstructive sleep apnea.
- It improves the quality of sleep, decreasing the chances of daytime sleepiness particularly in those with moderate to severe sleep apnea.
- When used for longer durations (around seven hours) every night, it also lowers the risk of depression and heart conditions more than those who use CPAP for shorter times (around five hours) each night.
- It decreases the risk of heart problems, such as heart failure and stroke in people with coronary artery disease (CAD).
- CPAP (especially NCPAP) helps lower blood pressure.
- Studies have shown that using CPAP may also help manage obesity, and regulate blood cholesterol and glucose levels.
What are the risks of using a CPAP machine?
CPAP machines are generally safe when used properly as directed by the physician. It may take some time to get comfortable with its use. If feeling uncomfortable with using the machine even if it’s only been a few days, consult the doctor. Generally, most of the problems can be easily managed by consulting a physician. Most of the risks include:
- Dry nose
- Sore throat
- Excessive dreaming (seen during the first few days when CPAP therapy is started)
- Runny or blocked nose
- Irritation of the eyes
- Irritation of the facial skin
- Mask leaks
- Nosebleeds (rare)
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University of Michigan. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Therapy for Obstructive Sleep Apnea. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw48752
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