Recent advances in medical technology have greatly improved the performance of CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, machines. These devices help people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), allowing them to breathe more regularly at night. This results in a better, deeper night’s sleep with less snoring. OSA occurs when the soft tissues in the back of the throat relax and obstruct the airway, interfering with breathing and causing the noisy vibrations associated with snoring. In addition to helping you sleep better at night, the CPAP machine helps you avoid daytime drowsiness, sore throat, decreased work productivity, and disturbance of your partner’s sleep.
In someone with OSA, the airway narrows or collapses during sleep, causing oxygen levels to fall, which triggers the brain to wake the person briefly to re-open the airway. CPAP works by blowing air into the throat via a mask, subtly increasing air pressure in the throat and preventing the airway from narrowing.
Most people use a mask that delivers air through their nose. Nasal masks consist of a triangular-shaped gel or plastic cushion that covers the nose and rests from the bridge of the nose to just below the nostrils. Attached to this will be the headgear that secures the mask to your face and a plastic hose attaching the mask to the CPAP machine itself. If you struggle with claustrophobia or don’t like the mask leaving marks on your face, nasal pillows can be a great alternative. Nasal pillows are plastic inserts that look like headphone earbuds and are inserted in the nostrils. If you are a mouth-breather, there are masks large enough to cover both the nose and mouth or even masks that cover the entire face.
Most people are fitted with a mask during a sleep study. A sleep study, or titration study, is used to calibrate CPAP therapy. The majority of mask interfaces come in a variety of sizes, so make sure to explore your options to ensure the best fit for you. Try to select a mask that is large enough to allow adequate air delivery, but not too large to where there is excessive leaking of air (this is counterintuitive).
The headgear that is used to secure the CPAP mask to your head is usually made out of fabric that is machine-washable. Some may have Velcro for easy adjustment or plastic quick-release clips that allow you to fit it properly once, this way you don’t have to readjust it constantly. If you have a nasal mask and find yourself breathing through your mouth, a chinstrap can be helpful, but this is not recommended if you have a congested nose or deviated septum. About the machine itself, look for one that includes a humidifier, as the airflow from the CPAP can dry out your mouth and nose. Some machines now include built-in heaters that warm the moist air first.
If you want to guarantee you’re making the most of your machine, proper care and maintenance are necessary. To begin with, use distilled water to prevent build-up from natural minerals found in tap water. A great way to know how to clean your machine properly is by reading through the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions. The frequency of cleaning varies based on the part, but make sure to clean the mask and humidifier daily.
Following these steps will ensure that your CPAP machine is effective in helping give you a better night’s sleep. If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea or have questions regarding your CPAP machine, Vitale ENT can help! Call us today at (813) 336-2862 or make an appointment online.