Sleep apnea is a common problem that affects many adults, particularly males over the age of 40. CPAP machines help patients with breathing issues get adequate oxygen into their lungs, but the jury is out as to whether or not these machines are necessary or even helpful for the majority of people with sleep apnea. Here’s what you need to know.
Sleep Apnea Basics
Sleep apnea causes loud snoring and interrupted sleep because your breathing is obstructed while you sleep. Consequently, you don’t get enough oxygen going to your lungs and brain. Deprived of sufficient oxygen, people with sleep apnea may partially awaken multiple times during the night, which interrupts sleep. Severe sleep apnea has been linked to increased risk of heart problems and other conditions – and it can result in automobile accidents when sleep-deprived people get behind the wheel.
There are two basic types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central. The first kind, obstructive, is the most common, and involves a physical blockage that prevents proper airflow through the windpipe. In central sleep apnea, the brain and central nervous system fails to alert the sleeper that he or she needs to breathe. This type is very rare.
CPAP is short for continuous positive airway pressure. In CPAP therapy, you wear a mask that is connected to a machine that pumps air through a tube. For people who have difficulty breathing during the day or the night, these machines can be very helpful.
For some people with sleep apnea, the machines can be bothersome. Some common complaints from people who use CPAP machines at night are:
- Dry mouth
- Stuffy nose
- Feeling claustrophobic
- Mask falling off at night
- Mask causing friction or rash on the skin
- Air leaking out of the mask
- Noise from the machine is disturbing
It’s important to get a proper fit for CPAP machines and to select the right machine for you. Luckily, working with a sleep expert and an experienced device technician can improve your experience using a CPAP machine.
Do I Really Need a CPAP Machine?
There has been ongoing research into whether or not CPAP machines help people with mild sleep apnea. Opinions are mixed, but in general, experts advise that lifestyle changes should be made first, before trying CPAP therapy. Changes in sleep habits, diet, and other lifestyle choices can make a big difference for many patients. Experts often recommend:
- Weight loss for patients who are overweight
- Changing head and neck position in bed to allow opening of wind pipe (air tube)
- Nasal (nose) corticosteroids to reduce swelling and obstruction
Dental appliances may be helpful if these changes listed above do not help.
For patients with severe sleep apnea, CPAP machines or even surgery may be necessary.
Never treat yourself before consulting with your doctor or sleep expert – there are many reasons that you may not be sleeping well, so make sure to get an accurate diagnosis before your symptoms worsen.
If you suspect you have sleep apnea, call us today at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine to schedule an appointment. Sleep apnea is treatable and we specialize in sleep disorders of all kinds. We look forward to your call at (815) 477-7350 or request an appointment online today.