Continuous positive pressure airway (CPAP) is a treatment used on patients with sleep apnea to keep their air passages open while they sleep. Obesity and age are risk factors for developing sleep apnea. It is more common in men than women. People with sleep apnea often snore loudly at night and feel tired even after a full night’s rest.

What Does CPAP Therapy Look Like?

This therapy involves a machine comprised of the following parts:

  • A mask that covers either your nose and mouth, just your nose, or a cannula that fits in your nose
  • A tube connecting the mask to the machine’s monitor
  • A motor that blows air through the tube connected to your mask

Who is This For?

This machine is highly recommended for any patient with sleep apnea. It can also be used for infants whose lungs have not fully developed.

When you are prescribed a machine you will also have a sleep technologist with you to adjust the settings for your comfort. The sleep technologist will set the machine to just enough air pressure to keep your lungs open.

There are many types of masks for these machines so don’t be shy to let your sleep technologist or doctor know if it’s not comfortable for you. Every patient also has a different adjustment period. Some take a few days while others may need a few months.

Why Should You Use One?

Besides the obvious benefit of keeping your airways open at night while you sleep, it will also reduce your snoring and improve your sleep quality. As your sleep improves, your daytime sleepiness will also decrease. Another positive is that it can lower high blood pressure.

What are the Side Effects of This Therapy?

Some common side effects include claustrophobia associated with being under a mask, and nasal congestion or a runny nose. These symptoms can be mitigated if you get a mask that fits correctly.

Most of these machines have the option for heated humidification, which can help with nasal symptoms.

How Long Will it Take For Me to Feel the Effects?

Most people feel the effects the moment they start using the machine. For some people it may take up to two weeks to feel the effects. If daytime drowsiness persists for 2-4 weeks, a visit to your sleep physician is needed to determine why you’re still sleepy throughout the day.

Best Practice Pointers

  • Test out your machine throughout the day to get used to the mask
  • Use the machine every night and for every nap
  • Start out with small adjustments to your machine
  • Use ramp mode, which gradually increases air pressure
  • Saline nasal spray can ease nasal symptoms
  • Keep your equipment clean
  • Place foam under the machine to quiet it so you can sleep better

If you’re still having issues, contact your sleep technologist for advice on what could be done to make the experience of using the machine better for you.