Monthly Archives: April 2015

Choosing the Right CPAP Mask

We know that patients struggle to pick the right CPAP mask for their therapeutic needs. With three types of mask available — full face, nasal, and nasal pillow — it can be difficult to determine which mask is perfect for you, especially if you’re new to CPAP treatment. At RespShop, we try to make it easier for you to pick the right mask.

To help you pick the right mask, we recommend that you consult the following infographic:

Choosing the Right Mask

The graphic illustrates some of the benefits of each type of mask. Let’s expand on all of the points found in the mask:

  • Active sleeper: most people toss and turn at night, and even if you just fancy a simple roll over once or twice, you’ll need a mask that can withstand the rabble. Full face and nasal masks won’t be dislodged easily and are smart choices for active sleepers.
  • Mouth breather: self-explanatory, but if you breathe through your mouth, you’ll need a full face. Most patients don’t need a full face, although many erroneously believe that they do because they’ve spent their whole sleeping lives breathing through their mouth. Of course, sleep apnea was causing them to breathe through their mouth, so once they are on CPAP, they should be able to finally use their nose.
  • TV friendly: some people fall asleep to the sound of the television. If you like to watch tv, you might find it difficult to do so while you’re wearing a bulky nasal or full face, although most of them should be fine.
  • Claustrophobic: A number of patients REALLY dislike the feeling of weight on their face while they sleep. These patients might struggle with nasal masks and they should absolutely steer clear of full face designs. Nasal pillow masks are less obtrusive, and they may feel more comfortable wearing one of those.
  • Facial hair: If you wear a mustache or a beard, the only mask that will work is the full face. If you have a beard but not a mustache, you can get away with using the nasal pillow, but if you have any facial hair above your lips at all, you’ll need the full face.
  • Small face: All three masks can work on patients with small facial bones, although the full face masks are larger and bulkier and may not seal effectively. For patients who do have tiny faces, we’d recommend that you use a nasal or a nasal pillow.

The infographic also reminds users of the optimal mask replacement and cleaning schedule. Your mask should be replaced every 6-12 months, and you should be getting new cushions as soon as you notice any signs of collapse in the gel or silicone, which usually happens after 3-6 months of regular use.

As for cleaning, we recommend that you use warm water, a non-abrasive soap, and a soft cloth. We recommend bringing the mask into the shower with you, and making it part of your daily routine to clean it that way. It’s important to always keep your mask clean.


rp_apex-medical-xt-prime-travel-cpap-machine.jpgThanks to popular demand, we’re back with another set of our famous CPAP FAQ’s. We get calls and emails from customers all the time, and we like to share the common questions and complaints we hear back from CPAP patients on our blog. CPAP works best when patients have as much information as possible, and with that in mind, we’re sharing some of the more common questions we’ve received in recent weeks.

What is your lightest nasal CPAP mask? 

We have two new masks that are basically the same weight. The AirFit N10 and AirFit N10 for Her from ResMed weigh less than a pound each, and then the Pico from Respironics is even lighter than that. Light masks are ideal for patients, especially people who dislike having any weight on their face while they’re trying to fall asleep.

I’ve breathed through my mouth at night my whole life: do I need a full face mask?

You might, but probably not. Most people mistakenly believe that they can’t breathe through their nose at night, but in many cases, the only reason they couldn’t do so was because they had untreated sleep apnea! Even if you’ve always opened your mouth, you can still probably breathe through your nose with a CPAP mask on. Be sure to ask your physician if you’ll be able to do so, as nasal and nasal pillow masks tend to be more comfortable than full face masks.

Would you ever recommend a full face mask? 

In some circumstances. As we mentioned above, there are some people who simply can’ t breathe through their nose, or can’t breathe through their nose well. For those people, the full face mask is the only option for effective therapy. Additionally, if you wear facial hair you’ll have better luck maintaining a quality seal than if you use a nasal or nasal pillow.

What’s a VPAP?

A VPAP is ResMed’s version of Respironics’s BiPAP; it’s just a bi-level machine.

What’s a bi-level machine? 

A bi-level is a slightly different type of machine than a traditional CPAP. CPAP stands for ‘continuous positive airway pressure,’ and the term describes a machine that blows positive airway pressure during inhalation.

A bi-level device adds pressure for both inhalation and exhalation. It’s a slightly different function and these machines are primarily intended for patients with central sleep apnea, as opposed to the more common obstructive sleep apnea (although patients with severe sleep apnea may be prescribed a bi-level in some cases). In general, the machines are not interchangeable and there is little crossover between people who need a CPAP and patients who require a bi-level.

Do I need a humidifier? 

No, the humidifier is strictly a comfort feature. Most patients prefer to use humidifiers, as they make inhalation smoother and can reduce some of the undesirable affects of CPAP therapy, but they are not necessary. Our CPAP expert Todd Ramsey put together this useful video about humidifiers, if you want more information.

If I have a heated humidifier, do I need a heated breathing tube? 

Great question. No, you don’t, but most patients prefer to use them for two reasons. First, it helps keep the air from the humidifier warm as it travels up the tube. More importantly though, the heated tube helps eliminate rainout, which occurs when condensed water in the tube seeps into the mask. Here’s Todd again talking about rainout:

We want to thank all of our customers for their good questions this week. If there’s anything you’d like to know, please get in touch with us. We’re available on social media, as well as at our email — [email protected] — or over the phone, at 866-936-3754.

The Effects of My Child’s Sleep Apnea

CPAP-machine-respshopThis is Mark W’s essay, the fifth in our series of scholarship winners. 

Though not a direct victim of a sleep disorder myself, I do have a young child who suffered from extensive sleep apnea due to the inflammation and enlargement of his adenoids starting at about six months of age.  Though we were not given much of a clear reason for the root cause of his issue, doctors informed us that it was most likely due to a combination of bacterial infections and naturally oversized adenoids.

The initial prompt that led to the discovery of an adenoid issue with our son was his excessive and prolonged ear infections, on the order of five or six within a year.  It at the time seemed as if he were constantly on an antibiotic and with the concern from us and our child’s doctor, in conjunction with a sleep study, it was decided to pursue the issue further, eventually leading to surgery performed at Children’s Hospital to remove my son’s adenoids at about 18 months of age.

The greatest detriment to my wife and I personally, was the coinciding sleep apnea my son experienced.  To us he never seemed to be a deep sleeper and would routinely wake up eight to ten times per night—and waking us up in the process.  This of course occurred at the same time as the ear infections.  We went along with this, assuming it to be perhaps normal, as he is our first and currently only child.  We simply thought it was an extension of the nightly care a newborn required, except now he was around a year old.  Months went by and unfortunately the effects of getting heavily-broken sleep and few total hours began to wear on all three of us.  I felt as if I was on the verge of snapping after a particularly harrowing series of sleep-deprived nights where I achieved at most four hours of sleep, all while waking numerous times to tend to a crying child.

Reprieve came from a sleep study that verified that our son suffered from sleep apnea.  His enlarged and inflamed adenoids were causing him to suddenly stop breathing while he slept, the prime definition of apnea.  The doctors quickly linked the ear infections he was suffering and his trouble sleeping to his adenoids and appointments were scheduled for their removal.  Within weeks my wife, son, and I were on our way to the Seattle Children’s Hospital where we would be having the surgery performed during that same morning.

As he drifted off to sleep from anesthesia, we gave him a kiss and waited patiently.  He was in and out in roughly an hour, and we were on our way home not much longer than that.  That night was an immediate change.  The telltale amount of snoring and heavy breathing we had gotten used to coming from him was all but gone.  A few doses of Tylenol and several nights of readjusting to a rather normal sleep cycle meant all three of us felt, and behaved much better.

The distressing lack of quality sleep had left my wife and I harried.  We did fight excessively and were fairly quick to temper during the entire episode.  Our performance at work was also beginning to suffer in both minor mistakes and slowed progress.  We acknowledged it was the poor sleep we received each night and worked to not let our tested emotions get out of hand.  Our son also often acted sluggish and behaved spastically and aggressively due to his own limited amount of sleep.  Though we knew it was of no fault of his own and we love him dearly, at the time it was hard not to feel a small twinge of undeserved disdain.

Looking back at it, I am relieved and terribly happy the procedure was done.  Our son seemed to suffer minimally during the recovery period and our lives returned to a greater level of normalcy.  It would be a suggestion of mine for any parent whose child struggles with sleep and ear infections to query their doctor about the child’s adenoids.  The procedure is simple and the results are remarkable—no more ear infections and complete nights of sleep.

Five Reasons Why CPAP Therapy Is Better Than Ever

AirCurveLike most fields of medicine, the study of sleep-disordered breathing is an ever-evolving field. We know much more about sleep disorders — including sleep apnea — than we did even ten years ago, and the the quality of treatment for these conditions has improved in lockstep. One of the major beneficiaries of this trend is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy.

Since CPAP was invented in the early 1980’s, the industry has undergone a number of transformations. Through it all, we’ve seen steady improvements in the quality of equipment and the odds that patients will increase their compliance with the therapy. This is important: sleep apnea is a debilitating condition, and as more and more people are diagnosed with OSA every year, an effective solution for treating the disease becomes increasingly important.

Fortunately, CPAP is in better shape than ever. Seemingly every year, we see new improvements to masks, machines, or other equipment. To put it simply, there have never been more people invested in making CPAP both comfortable and functional. Read on for five reasons why there’s never been a better time to wear a CPAP machine.

1. Machine Comfort Features

Most premier machines — including the 60 series from Respironics as well as the AirSense and S9 lines from ResMed — come with several comfort features that either delay the onset of pressure until you’re fast asleep or reduce the amount of pressure upon exhalation. These features help you adjust to therapy by limiting some of the more unpleasant features inherent in CPAP.

2. Advancements in Humidification 

While CPAP humidifiers are nothing new, they are smaller and more effective than ever. Once much clunkier than the machines themselves, humidifiers are now small and transportable enough to fit on travel CPAP machines. As a bonus, patients who use their humidifier in conjunction with a heated breathing tube can experience all of the benefits of humidity without having to deal with rainout.

3. Lighter CPAP Masks

Naturally, CPAP masks will get lighter over time, and it’d be silly to think that we’ll never see anything lighter than the Pico or the AirFit. But both are extremely lightweight masks and each has been designed to seal effectively. In 1990, your CPAP mask may have looked like a football helmet; the AirFit’s and Pico’s of today, however, weigh less than a pound.

4. Hygienic CPAP

It’s never been easier to clean your equipment and ensure a sanitary therapy experience every single night. Water chambers and tubes are often robust enough to withstand the dishwasher, and masks are made from waterproof material that allows you to simply give it a scrub in the shower. Between that and items like the SoClean — which cleans your equipment with oxygen — it’s never been quicker or easier to clean your CPAP gear.

5. Aesthetic Improvements 

While this may not seem all that important, it’s worth mentioning just how much better CPAP equipment looks than it used to. Gone are the days of the Bane masks and ugly devices: the AirSense 10 (pictured above) looks more like an iPod docking station than a CPAP machine!

If you’re a CPAP patient, or if you’ve tried it before but found it ineffective, take heart from these five reasons why CPAP is better than ever. CPAP compliance has never been easier: if you’ve given up your CPAP therapy before, hopefully these developments will inspire you to give it one more shot.

He Sounded Like Was Choking: A CPAP Story

Sleeping with Untreated Sleep Apnea

This is Alexis R. with the fourth essay in our series of scholarship winners. 

When I was fourteen, my father started to snore when he slept. We found it funny, because my grandfather also had a reputation for loud snoring. Assuming it was merely another similarity between the two men, we didn’t worry about it. But the snoring only got worse and worse. Soon my father couldn’t fall asleep without sounding as if someone was choking him. It was terrifying to be in the same room as him when he slept. Then he started to stop breathing in his sleep. It wasn’t major at first, just a quick stop in the snoring. We didn’t realize what it was; we were simply glad the snoring had stopped. Then it continued, with him stopping breathing for seconds at a time. He would jerk awake, sometimes gasping for breath like he’d run a marathon.

We knew it wasn’t normal, but my family had never heard of sleep apnea, and so we had no idea what to do. My father grew angry and moody from lack of sleep. He’d wake up six or seven times in the night, gasping for breath like a dying man, waking my mother up as well. Tensions rose, and soon my father started to have blood pressure problems. He’d grow red-faced at the least provocation when he used to have almost dangerously low blood pressure. All of it came to a head when he fell asleep at a family gathering and the rest of my family experienced his snoring and waking. My aunt, a nurse, was the first one to mention sleep apnea as a possible cause. We jumped on it, and convinced my reluctant father to go have a sleep study done in order to finally figure out what was wrong and how to fix it.

When the results came in, it was a definitive answer. Yes, my father had sleep apnea. Yes, he actually was choking when he snored like he had been. And yes, his breathing completely stopped for an average four seconds, six times a night. He was only completing one or two sleep cycles a night on average, and this was causing all of the symptoms he’d been experiencing. The doctor told us that my father would have to start losing weight—the weight on his neck was effectively choking him when he lay down to sleep. In the meantime, the doctor prescribed a CPAP breathing machine that would pump air into his lungs, getting much needed oxygen to his brain and into his blood.

My mother and I were thrilled there was a solution to his problem. My father was not so enthusiastic. “It looks like something that comes down from the top of an airplane when you’re about to crash,” he complained. “It looks like a torture device.” He was completely fine with going on a diet and beginning to exercise to lose the weight on his neck, but he refused to use the CPAP machine. His efforts to lose weight were interrupted however by his high blood pressure. It became clear to even him that if any of us were to get some sleep, he needed to wear the CPAP machine at night. It took a few months for us to see real changes in my father’s behavior. He didn’t always wear the machine, and he complained the entire time. But we saw a difference on the nights he did wear it, and soon the nights he wore it began to outnumber the nights he didn’t.

After five years of using the CPAP machine, my father had lost enough weight that his sleep apnea had almost disappeared, even without his using the machine. He still has the machine, and uses it occasionally to this day. Now, according to him, he was always for using the CPAP machine, and he earnestly speaks on its behalf to any of those daunted by the prospect of its use. Sleep apnea is a problem that not only affects the individual, but the entire family unit. It can cause rifts between spouses, cause anxiety in the children of those who suffer from it, and cause entire families to become depressed. In my experience, anyone with even a suspicion that they or a family member may have sleep apnea should see a doctor immediately. Early action can be the best prevention, and it will prevent possibly permanent side-effects.