What is CPAP therapy?
CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. CPAP therapy is the most commonly recommended, and the most effective, treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. A CPAP machine
provides air at a constant prescribed pressure. The air is delivered to you through a tube and a CPAP mask
. CPAP therapy provides a constant airflow which keeps the airway open so uninterrupted breathing is maintained during sleep. The air stream eliminates sleep apnea events (obstructions, also referred to as AHI – see more on this below) and allows you to get a restful and restorative sleep. The level of air pressure required to maintain your airway is determined during your sleep study. Your doctor will write a prescription for a CPAP machine set at a specific pressure (CPAP) or between a range of pressures (APAP).
How long will I have to use this therapy?
It is likely that you will have to use CPAP therapy for the rest of your life. One night without treatment usually causes an immediate return of the same symptoms that motivated you to get help in the first place. Your long-term use of CPAP therapy may simply require an individual commitment, and it may require support from your partner or family.
How often should I replace my CPAP air filter?
You will need to replace the air filter on your CPAP periodically. Check your user manual to see how often. Most devices require you to replace your air filter every six months, but some as often as every two months. If you live in a dusty environment, you may need to replace the air filter more often.
What is the ramp function?
The ramp function on a machine is a feature that allows for a gradual pressure build-up to your prescribed pressure. This improves comfort as the machine will remain at a lower pressure until you have fallen asleep.
What is AHI, or events per hour?
Apnea Hypopnea Index (AHI) is the number of times per hour of sleep that your upper airway partially or completely collapses, leading to a brief arousal (or awakening) from sleep or a drop in blood oxygen levels. The partial collapse of the airway is called a hypopnea. The complete absence of airflow through the nose and mouth, despite an effort to breathe as measured at the chest and abdomen, is called an apnea event.
The AHI is used to classify the severity of sleep apnea. This same classification is used to assess how well the CPAP machine is working.
The following guidelines are used in adults:
Fewer than 5 events per hour of sleep
Mild sleep apnea:
5 to 15 events per hour of sleep
Moderate sleep apnea:
15 to 30 events per hour of sleep
Severe sleep apnea:
Greater than 30 events per hour of sleep
What is EPR?
Exhalation Pressure Relief is a comfort feature which reduces the airflow at the time of exhalation, making the breathing process more natural.
Do I need a CPAP or APAP machine?
The difference between CPAP and APAP relates to the pressure required to hold the upper airway open. CPAP is also known as fixed-pressure, which means a single pressure level is set by your sleep specialist based on the average or maximum pressure required to prevent your apneas and hypopneas. APAP devices, however, can automatically adjust the pressure required to keep your airway open (also known as automatic, or variable-pressure). Instead of a fixed-pressure (for example, 10cm), APAP machines are built to fluctuate within a range of pressures as they deliver air, constantly adjusting to the minimum pressure needed to keep airways open. APAP machines
have a complex algorithm that detects on a breath-by-breath basis the pressure required at that moment to prevent apnea events. APAP devices deliver higher pressures during deep stages of sleep when needed, but then reduce pressure during the lighter stages of sleep making therapy reportedly more comfortable. An APAP prescription is typically a range between 4cm – 20cm of pressure.
Determining your suitability for CPAP or APAP is the responsibility of your sleep specialist.
What should I do if a sore develops on my face?
It is possible that the mask is pressing too hard on your face, often at the bridge of the nose or just under the nose. The solution is to wear the mask as loose as you can without breaking the air seal. Ensure the mask is central on your face (not tilted or lopsided), and tighten or loosen the straps as needed, until you can no longer feel any air escaping the mask. It is not advisable to use creams on your face at night before using your CPAP as this can prevent the ability to achieve an air seal. Following these steps can help to prevent sores and any air leakage issues with your mask.
Should I use CPAP when I have a cold?
A stuffy nose can make it difficult to breathe during CPAP therapy, and mucus discharge may dirty the CPAP mask, especially if you use nasal pillows. Some sleep apnea patients on CPAP therapy may feel caught between a rock and a hard place; their cold or flu makes using a CPAP machine unpleasant, but not complying with therapy will increase their OSA symptoms. We have compiled a few tips that help CPAP users battle a cold or the flu.
Use a heated humidifier to reduce dryness and shrink swollen nasal passages
Use a nasal pillow mask to open up your sinus passages, or a full face mask if passage is still too congested
Use decongestants or nasal sprays to help clear your airways (speak to your doctor or a pharmacist to see if this is suitable for you)
Elevate your head to allow mucus to drain
Wash your CPAP equipment regularly to prevent reinfection
Which mask should I use if I sleep with my mouth open?
If you are experiencing symptoms such as waking with a dry mouth or tongue, it is likely that your mouth may be opening while you are asleep. If you sleep with your mouth open, it is advisable to use either a full face mask
, or a nasal mask
with a chin strap
, in order for CPAP therapy to be effective.
Which type of mask should I use?
There are three types of masks available to use
with your CPAP machine, and factors such as face shape, breathing habits, and air pressure prescription will determine which is right for you. CPAP therapy may be delivered through a nasal mask which seals around the nose, or a nasal pillow mask which seals at the nasal opening, or a full face mask which seals around both the nose and mouth and is recommended for people who tend to breath through their mouth during the night. Many innovative and comfortable options are available and advances in the delivery of CPAP therapy are continually occurring.
Book a FREE mask-fitting consultation with us today to find the right mask for you!