CPAP Machines and Other Sleep Apnea Treatments: Which Is Right for You?
Most Cases of Sleep Apnea Require Treatment With CPAP or Other Breathing Machines
The most common treatment for sleep apnea is the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. This device gently forces pressurized air into your airway (to keep it open) via a tube that’s attached to a face mask, which you wear over your nose and mouth (or in some cases just your nostrils) while you sleep. Your doctor will likely recommend that you continue to make healthy lifestyle changes in tandem with using the CPAP machine.
Although CPAP machines are the most common treatments, some people dislike them or find them cumbersome or uncomfortable, and they’re unable to sleep well while using the apparatus. “About one-third love it, one-third think it’s so-so, and one-third hate it and think it’s the devil,” says Robson Capasso, MD, the chief of sleep surgery and an associate professor of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, California.
Common complaints that Chervin has heard from patients include those on this list:
- “The mask hurts the bridge of my nose.”
- “It makes my mouth dry.”
- “It leaks on the sides.”
- “It makes me feel claustrophobic.”
If your doctor has prescribed a CPAP to help you manage sleep apnea and you are having problems with it, let your doctor know. A different type of face mask may solve the problem. In other cases, using a humidifier along with a CPAP machine can help with mouth dryness.
If used correctly and well tolerated, a CPAP can effectively manage sleep apnea and is one of the most effective solutions currently available, according to the guidelines. But there are other types of breathing machines that can be more effective depending on the type of sleep apnea you have, as well as how well you tolerate a CPAP. Alternatives include the following:
- Auto-CPAP Machines These devices automatically adjust the pressure while you sleep.
- Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure Machines These units deliver more pressure when you inhale and less pressure when you exhale. These devices, which can be particularly helpful in strengthening the weak breathing pattern in individuals with central sleep apnea, can be set to automatically deliver air if the machine detects that you haven’t taken a breath after a set number of seconds.
- Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure Devices Research has shown that these small single-use devices, which are placed over each nostril before you go to sleep, may be an effective treatment for sleep apnea for individuals who cannot tolerate CPAP machines. (6) These small adhesives (which fit securely over each nostril) allow air to go in freely but are designed with small valves that close when you breathe out, increasing the pressure in the airway so it stays open.
Video: 3 Tips for Sleeping With a CPAP
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