A CPAP treatment program—proven safe and successful for sleep apnea.
If CPAP treatment has been identified by your sleep specialist or doctor as the most effective therapy for treating your sleep apnea, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with how CPAP therapy works and the options that are available within this treatment. CPAP machines are to be used every night or as directed by your doctor for optimal results.
A sleep apnea CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device is often recommended as a treatment for mild to severe sleep apnea. The purpose of it is to blow out positive pressure that will keep the upper airways and the pharynx open during breathing. Snoring will stop completely, and there will be no more breaks in airflow to the lungs. This CPAP system is a tightly fitting nasal or facial mask that is attached via tubing to a Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) machine.
With a tight seal created between one’s face and mask, the PAP machine produces a flow of air passing down the tube to the mask. The effect of the air passing through a small valve creates a back pressure that is transmitted to the user’s airways, thus opening the airways and allowing air to enter. CPAP settings allow for adjustments in the amount of pressure used to keep the airways open.
There are two types of machines that can provide CPAP therapy:
- A standard CPAP machine allows your doctor or sleep specialist to define appropriate CPAP settings and set the machine to blow a constant set pressure.
- An Auto-Titrating CPAP machine allows your doctor or sleep specialist to define appropriate CPAP settings and set the machine to blow a range of pressures.
APAP–for patients who cannot tolerate a regular CPAP system, APAP might be the alternative solution.
Auto-Titrating Positive Airway Pressure (APAP) relies on the same definition as a CPAP machine with one important difference. Whereas a CPAP machine delivers a single pressure all the time, APAP machines work with different algorithms in order to maintain open airways with the least amount of pressure required. The machine adjusts pressure levels throughout the night depending on sleep conditions. By responding (automatically) to different respiratory events (sleeping on back versus to their side, REM sleep, etc.), many patients find it more comfortable and more apt to use and stay on a PAP therapy.
Travel CPAP – for patients that frequently travel and want to take CPAP therapy on the go!
Travel CPAP machines are growing in options and sophistication. Travel CPAP machines come both in standard and Auto-Titrating options. The units are typically smaller and can operate with an external battery and are therefore more portable. Some units are even FAA approved for use in-flight! Travel CPAP machines are great as backup units or for those who don’t want to sacrifice a good night’s sleep on vacation.
Bi-Level- another treatment solution for sleep apnea.
Still, if the sleep study specialists determine that your disorder is very severe or CPAP pressures are intolerable, then the recommendation might be to use a Bi-Level Machine. This type of machine differs from the standard CPAP in that it blows air at two different levels, whereas CPAP uses a single level of air pressure.
By using a Bi-Level machine, patients can breathe easier as the machine reduces the pressure level during exhalation, allowing the patient to exhale more easily and breathe more comfortably. Bi-Level may also be used for patients who require some breathing assistance. Bi-Level has been prescribed for patients who have congestive heart failure and other serious diseases affecting the heart and lungs. CPAP and Bi-Level machines look similar and the attachments are the same.
*Bi-Level therapy is often referred to as BiPAP. Although, BiPAP is a registered trademark of Respirionics, the two are understood by most professionals.
As one relates an APAP treatment to CPAP, an Auto-Titrating Bi-Level exists as well.
Similair to APAP machines, Auto Bi-Levels are auto adjusting devices that detect airway closures and adjust accordingly. In addition to the standard Bi-Level and Auto Bi-Level machines, there another two models designed to effectively treat additional symptoms:
Bi-Level ST – Spontaneous Timed can be set to deliver a certain number of breaths per minute. If the patient does not initiate a breath within the timed setting, the machine will initiate for the patient.
Bi-Level ASV –Adaptive Servo-Ventilation is a further step up. The machine learns a patient’s normal breathing pattern and stores the information in a built-in computer. After the patient falls asleep, the machines uses pressure to normalize his/her breathing pattern and prevent
breaks in breathing.
A sleep study is the best way to address and define a treatment program for sleep apnea.
If you're still not 100% sure whether you actually have sleep apnea, the general recommendation is to undergo a special sleep study test at a sleep apnea clinic or a Home Sleep Study test. The overnight test (Nocturnal Polysomnography) requires the person to be admitted to a sleep clinic or hospital environment, while the Home Sleep Study test can be performed in the comfort of one’s own bed. During the sleep clinic study, instruments measure heart rate, blood pressure, eye movements, muscle movements, blood oxygen levels and respiratory functions while one sleeps. The sleep study test can help diagnose which (if any) condition or disorder is apparent during the sleeping cycles. Since the most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, several options would be considered.
It might be caused from enlarged tonsils or polyps (this is especially evident in sleep apnea in children). Constrictions in the nose or throat because of the placement of the tongue, the soft palate, or any other tissue are also common causes. If the sleep study points to problems with a deviated septum, then doctors will often recommend surgery to help correct the septum deviation, which will allow for more airflow through the throat and nasal passages. An ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist can advise on all treatment options available, both surgical and non-surgical. Though other types of surgery are an option, it is usually done in extreme cases of sleep apnea or after other treatment programs have proven unsuccessful.