Center for Sleep Medicine
- What is CPAP?
- How Can CPAP Improve My Health?
- What is the Key to Using CPAP?
- What are the Common Side Effects of CPAP?
What is CPAP?
Continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, is the most common and effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). A steady flow of air under pressure from a CPAP device keeps your airway open and restores normal oxygen levels as you sleep.
Most people see positive results quickly, though this varies from person to person. For some, their initial night of using CPAP may feel like the first good night of sleep they have had in years.
The units you receive at home are much smaller than what you've seen in the lab. Most are smaller than a shoebox and weigh only two to three pounds. In fact, the nasal CPAP mask covers only the nose. This is the most common type of mask used in most labs. We have various types of nasal masks to fit all nose sizes.
A full-face mask is used for the patient that doesn't want a chinstrap or for other medical reasons is unable to breath through their nose.
Nasal Pillows are for the patient that may be claustrophobic or otherwise have trouble with the nasal mask. This is particularly good for the side-sleeper.
The pressure required to treat OSA varies from patient to patient. Your sleep specialist determines the appropriate pressure setting after reviewing your sleep study.
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How Can CPAP Improve My Health?
By normalizing your breathing in sleep, CPAP helps protect you from the severe health risks that are related to OSA.
The use of CPAP over an extended period of time may also help protect you from health problems such as:
- Congestive heart failure
- Coronary artery disease
- Irregular heartbeat
Many of the risks involved with sleep apnea are related to how your heart functions. The pauses in breathing during sleep that characterize sleep apnea can cause drastic changes in your oxygen levels and blood pressure. When this happens it puts a strain on your heart. Research has shown that people with OSA have a higher rate of death due to heart disease. The link is strongest between OSA and high blood pressure. Studies also show that CPAP may reduce blood pressure levels in people with sleep apnea.
Recent research has also shown that sleep apnea increases your risk of stroke. A stroke is a sudden loss of brain function due to a blockage or rupture of one of the blood vessels leading to the brain. Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and long-term disability in the U.S.
Studies show that people with OSA are two to four times more likely to have a stroke than people who do not have sleep apnea. The consistent use of CPAP may reduce this risk of stroke for a person with OSA
Increasingly, data has suggested that OSA may be related to glucose intolerance and insulin resistance. These are factors in type II diabetes, the most common form of diabetes. Treatment with CPAP can improve insulin sensitivity in people with type II diabetes and OSA.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Having sleep apnea can make you up to 10 times more likely to be involved in a deadly motor vehicle accident. The daytime sleepiness caused by OSA can make it hard for you to stay awake while driving. Treating sleep apnea with CPAP reduces your risk of being in an accident.
CPAP can reduce the sleepiness and daytime fatigue that are common symptoms of sleep apnea. By preventing pauses in breathing as you sleep, CPAP restores a normal sleep pattern and increases your total sleep time. This helps you to wake up in the morning feeling more refreshed.
Using CPAP may enable you to think, concentrate and make decisions better during the day. This can reduce your chance of injury at work and improve your productivity.
Decreased Medical Expenses
Individuals with untreated sleep apnea have higher health care costs compared to those without sleep apnea. These expenses may decrease when you use CPAP nightly to treat sleep apnea.
By keeping your airway open as you sleep, CPAP can also reduce the sound of snoring. You may not notice this because many people are unaware of their snoring levels. But your bed partner will benefit greatly from the quieter sleeping environment.
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What is the Key to Using CPAP?
The key is to continue using CPAP all night, every night and during every nap. You put your health at risk if you only use CPAP part of the time. Partial use also keeps your body from getting fully adjusted to the CPAP.
To get the maximum benefit from your CPAP you need to make a long-term commitment to improve your sleep and your health. Talk to your CPAP supplier if you need help with your CPAP treatment. Contact your Sleep Specialist if you experience problems. As mentioned previously, at MetroHealth we offer patient-tailored CPAP classes to help you succeed.
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What are the Common Side Effects of CPAP?
Some people may have trouble getting used to the pressure. Most units come with a ramp feature that slowly increases the pressure to the prescribed level over a set period of time. This allows you to fall asleep before the final pressure is reached.
- CPAP may cause nasal congestion. This can be remedied by the use of a variety of nasal sprays, a decongestant, or humidity, either cold or heated. This should be discussed with your sleep specialist.
- CPAP may cause a dry throat. Heated humidity on the CPAP machine generally fixes this problem. Adding a chinstrap to keep your mouth closed may also help. Certain individuals may benefit from switching to a full face mask.
- Some patients have trouble fitting the CPAP mask properly. At MetroHealth, we offer CPAP classes to address poor mask fit or other problems related to CPAP.
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