As we’ve discussed on the blog here before, there are a number of ways to treat sleep apnea. Many patients opt for surgery, nasal pads, weight loss, or any one of a number of experimental medical procedures that can help clear their airways at night. Depending on your personal habits and preferences, any one of these options might be the perfect solution for your condition. If you’re like most patients, however, we believe that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is the best way to effectively manage sleep apnea.
Tried and True Therapy
Continuous positive airway pressure was first attempted by Doctor Colin Sullivan in 1980
. One of his patients had severe sleep apnea and as an experiment, Dr. Sullivan attached a breathing tube to a device blowing positive air. When applied to the patient’s airway, the machine was capable of keeping his airway open, allowing him to drift into much needed REM sleep. From there, Dr. Sullivan and subsequent innovators were able to construct a device capable of providing positive air pressure throughout the night.
Over the three and a half decades since Dr. Sullivan’s discovery, CPAP therapy has become the physician recommended method for treating sleep apnea. Thousands upon thousands of patients have been treated with the ever-improving CPAP therapy, making it the most common and most recommended therapy for sleep apnea available today. Engineering and technological advances have made the technology both less expensive and more comfortable than it was in the 1980’s and 1990’s, which helps sleep apnea sufferers not only sleep better but also adjust to therapy quickly.
Sleep apnea is not a simple condition to treat: it can’t be cured with a pill or shot and it never goes away on its own. Like all medical issues that require continued monitoring, you’ll need to make some adjustments to your daily or nightly routines to properly manage the condition. Wearing a CPAP mask will take some getting used to.
However, once you do adjust to CPAP therapy, you’ll fall asleep quickly and easily each night. Most CPAP patients sleep much better once they’ve adjusted to their mask than they did before, and as they get used to therapy, they find that things like mask straps and machine noise don’t bother them at all. Most of the equipment can be cleaned or replaced quickly and easily: once you’re used to therapy, it’s no more troubling than flossing!
While CPAP isn’t right for everyone, a number of studies have shown that using a CPAP works well and that patients who do use their machines feel a real change in their disposition. In one study
measuring CPAP usage among sleep apnea patients, researchers found that those still using their CPAP four years after a sleep apnea diagnosis “complied well with treatment, were satisfied with their CPAP device and continued to derive benefit from its use.”
Another study attempting to measure the efficacy of CPAP in comparison to a more conservative management approach — where patients were given measures to improve their sleep hygiene and help losing weight — found that CPAP was much more beneficial. Researchers found
that “relief of sleepiness and other sleep apnea and hypoapnea symptoms and improvement in perceived health status was much greater in (the group) receiving CPAP.” The authors of the study concluded that the use of CPAP treatment was adequately supported and a viable way to manage the condition.
Taken together, it’s easy to see why CPAP remains a popular form of therapy for patients suffering from sleep apnea. The treatment has a long history of success, remains a viable way to effectively manage the condition, and with enhancements in compliance and comfort technology, is now easier to adjust to than ever. If you need help treating your sleep apnea, there’s no better form of therapy than continuous positive airway pressure.