If you’ve recently been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you may be looking at a CPAP machine and mask and wondering why you need to use them. ‘Why should I deal with all of this bulky equipment?’ you might ask. You could also be thinking ‘If I already have enough trouble falling asleep, how is trying to wear a mask at night going to help?’ These are good questions, but they are not themselves reasons to delay treating your sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that requires some form of treatment. No matter how you want to target the condition, it’s dangerous to ignore your symptoms and assume that sleep apnea will dissipate over time. While some of the health factors
that trigger sleep apnea – such as weight gain or weak neck muscles – can be treated, sleep apnea itself is a serious medical hazard that requires attention. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to cardiovascular problems, liver failure, extraordinary fatigue, and in serious cases, even death. The bottom line is, if you have sleep apnea, it needs to be treated.
What Are My Options
If you were just diagnosed with sleep apnea, don’t worry: once you have a diagnosis, fighting the disease is relatively simple and you’ll have no shortage of therapeutic options to treat it. Continuous positive airway pressure is the most common form of treatment — and least obtrusive – but for patients who simply can’t or don’t want to wear a CPAP mask, there are other choices available. Some, like the Provent Sleep Apnea Therapy
system, don’t require a significant investment or a complicated medical procedure. While Provent’s system still requires a prescription and costs more over the long run, the nasal strips are easy to use and require less adjustment than CPAP therapy.
Other options present more complications. Oral and neck surgeries can be performed to re-align your jaw or clear room in your airways but these are not guaranteed to eliminate sleep apnea and come laden with the risks inherent in all surgeries. Surgery isn’t without merit and a number of people choose to target sleep apnea with an operation – including Red Sox first basemen Mike Napoli
– but the costs and risks associated with throat and mouth procedures steer most people away from that form of treatment.
There are other forms of treatment out there – new solutions for sleep apnea are seemingly invented daily – but still the most reliable way to battle sleep apnea is with CPAP therapy. While cumbersome for some, CPAP’s are safe, reliable, and have a decades-long history of alleviating sleep apnea in patients from all demographics and backgrounds.
What CPAP Does
A brief digression into the nature of sleep apnea is required to best explain how a CPAP functions. A person develops sleep apnea when their airways become blocked: for a number of reasons, a person’s airway can become obstructed at night, though usually it happens when neck muscles near the airway sag, limiting the amount of room for air to travel in and out of the body. This inability to breathe is what is called an apnea: people with sleep apnea often experience several apneas per minute, which wakes their brain and makes it difficult to get a full night’s sleep.
Unlike surgery, which targets apneas by treating the underlying cause of the condition, CPAP therapy simply tries to keep your airway open all night. The system is entirely powered by the CPAP machine, which generates an airflow. This air is transported through a hose that connects the machine to your CPAP mask. Pressured air flows into the mask and through your nasal or oral passageways. The continuous – the ‘C’ in CPAP – air pressure forces your passageways open wider, allowing you to breathe much easier. The machine doesn’t do anything to target the core cause of sleep apnea but works to eliminate apneas by keeping your airway open all night.
Vital to this treatment is a highly functioning CPAP mask and machine. For this form of therapy to work properly, your mask must be sealed effectively: if your mask is worn loose enough for air to escape, your therapy won’t be effective. In order for air to flow in strongly enough to open your nasal passageway, you’re seal will need to remain uncompromised all night. Beyond the mask and machine, you can find a number of comfort accessories to make therapy smoother and easier to adjust to. You only really need the mask and machine, however, for effective therapy.
Why CPAP Is Recommended
CPAP therapy has endured as the most recommended way to treat sleep apnea for several decades for a number of reasons. While this form of therapy isn’t right for everybody, millions of people have successfully combated their sleep apnea with a CPAP, a track record that speaks for itself. Beyond history though, CPAP’s offer a cost effective and relatively unobtrusive solution to a serious health condition. Wearing a CPAP mask may take some getting used to, but many patients feel better instantly after first undergoing CPAP therapy. The bottom line is that sleep apnea is a serious medical condition and CPAP therapy is both an effective and highly recommended solution for treating it.