Using CPAP machine for treating sleep apnea is the gold standard. However, it only ensures effective management of the disease and does not cure it. To get maximum benefit from the CPAP therapy, sleep apnea patients have to use CPAP machine daily.
CPAP machines aid in treating mild, moderate and severe sleep apnea. However, patients diagnosed with mixed apnea, central apnea, as well as Cheyne-Stokes respirations, undergo treatment using high-end technology devices like APAP (Auto-Adjusting Device) and Bi-PAP (Bi-level PAP). The most critical aspect of a CPAP machine is the air pressure, and this is determined after a person undergoes a sleep study.
Of note, every individual would have a different air pressure setting and what suits one person would not be helpful for another. Setting the correct air pressure on the CPAP machine is important because higher settings can cause central apnea episodes, which can aggravate the sleep apnea condition. These parameters are set by a qualified person, and any changes should be done by a skilled person and not by the user.
Notable Features in a CPAP Machine:
Enables gradual increase in air pressure from the lowest level to the prescribed setting. This feature is beneficial to people who need high-pressure settings to ensure that their airway remains open.
Helps cleaning the air before it enters the airway.
Enables easier exhalation against CPAP pressure.
An essential feature in every machine, humidifier prevents stuffiness or drying of the throat.
Allows recording all relevant information. It stores necessary data which enables doctors to analyze the sleep quality of the patient and take appropriate action.
Helps in reporting compliance, leak, pressure settings, as well as AHI parameters.
CPAP is always considered a burden by many sleep apnea patients. This is primarily due to problems being faced by people with regards to CPAP machine. The difficulties force many patients to think about quitting the treatment and find alternate treatment options for dealing with sleep apnea, one which does not involve CPAP therapy.
However, CPAP is considered as gold standard for sleep apnea treatment, and the user has to give oneself some time for making it work. Knowing benefits that can accrue from CPAP would not only improve the adherence but will also make the user love their machines. The below tables shows some benefits accrued by use of CPAP:
Before CPAP Use After CPAP Use Daytime somnolence Daytime alertness Becomes easily annoyed A calmer person Higher frequency of morning headaches Nil/reduced frequency of morning headaches Concentration and memory problems Becomes more focused Has hypertension and depression Effective reduction in hypertension and better management of depressive symptoms through better quality of life Weight gain Effective control of weight issues Sexual problems Healthy sexual activity
Major Health Benefits
Heals Heart and Reduces Associated Diseases
Sleep apnea not only results in disturbed sleep but also tags along many diseases. Consequences of sleep apnea that is undiagnosed/untreated are many and vary from daytime somnolence hindering normal daytime activities to increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, myocardial infarction, and stroke. Hence, it is essential to treat sleep apnea.
One of the most important benefits of using CPAP therapy is the role it plays in the healing heart. Research done by doctors at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has shown that sleep apnea patients, (esp. severe OSA patients) tend to have right-sided enlargement of the heart. Three months of sustained use of CPAP by these patients resulted in a decrease in the enlarged heart.
Decreases Risk of Hypertension and Myocardial Infarction
Sleep apnea left untreated amplifies functioning of nervous system’s nighttime sympathetic activity, which results in increasing the blood pressure (systolic as well as diastolic) besides increasing the risks of developing atherosclerosis and cardiac arrhythmia.
- However, use of CPAP for treating sleep apnea has been found to be helpful in decreasing the blood pressure (systolic as well as diastolic) as evidenced in HIPARCO trial.
- Sustained use of CPAP has also been associated with reducing the risk of developing myocardial infarction as well as reducing/eliminating premature heartbeats and tachycardia.
Decreased Daytime Somnolence
It is believed that appropriately using CPAP (i.e., used as prescribed) results in better quality of sleep while reducing daytime somnolence. People who suffer from morning headaches mainly on account changes in the O2 and CO2 levels during nighttime, tend to have a reduction in the intensity and frequency of these headaches.
Improved Cognitive and Memory Functions
Untreated sleep apnea is believed to result in the development of short-term amnesia. Use of CPAP results in better quality of sleep which results in improvement of short memory and cognitive functions, especially during daytime.
Improves Deep Sleep
Using CPAP typically results in users spending more time in deep sleep (stage 4 of sleep cycle) which is vital for the body to relax and heal itself. This, in turn, results in enhanced alertness the following day.
Prevents Development of Diabetes
Sleep apnea patients have been found to have increased risk of insulin resistance, while those already having diabetes have difficulty in controlling diabetes. Treatment with CPAP can help the sleep apnea patients to either eliminate chances of developing diabetes or better control their diabetes.
Better GERD Control
Patients are having Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) are noted to have increased intrathoracic pressure caused due to breathing against a partially/fully blocked airway. Use of CPAP helps in relieving the stress against airways which can, in turn, help in better control of GERD.
CPAP while not only aids in improving the sleep quality, also helps in increasing deep sleep stage which helps in promoting secretion of anti-diuretic hormones that controls nighttime urination in a better manner.
Improves Depressive Symptoms
Using CPAP enhances the sleep quality in a person which helps in enhancing the mood, thereby resulting in reduced feelings of depressive symptoms as well as increased psychosocial relationships in both personal and professional life.
Major CPAP Manufacturers
Company Machines Masks Accessories ResMed ✓ ✓ ✓ Respironics ✓ ✓ ✓ Fisher & Paykel ✓ ✓ ✓ DeVilbiss ✓ ✓ ✓ ProBasics ✓ ✓ ✓ Puritan Bennett ✓ ✓ ✓ Hans Rudolph ✓ ✓ ✓ Aeiomed - ✓ ✓ SleepNet - ✓ ✓ RespCare - ✓ ✓ Innomed - ✓ ✓ Ventlab - - - Human Design Medical - - - 3B Medical - - - Circadiance - - - Somnetics - - - CareFusion/Tiara Medical - - - Invacare - - -
Though CPAP therapy is relatively simple in theory, in real life many sleep apnea patients face difficulties while using them. Studies have shown that a majority of CPAP users discontinue it when they fail to get any positive results. Many patients can use it for few hours only instead of the recommended 8-hour period, mainly due to side effects such as aerophagia, bloating, claustrophobia, chest pain and discomfort, dry mouth, and nasal irritation. Many CPAP users are unable to confront these side effects, which are fairly common, and knowing how to rectify these problems would most likely increase the success rate.