Obstructive sleep apnea affects around 20 million Americans and can lead to hypertension, heart attack, stroke, depression, muscle pain, fibromyalgia, morning headaches, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Monday, November 2, 2009

What is CPAP?

In obstructive sleep apnea, the relaxation of muscles when we sleep leads to the collapse of the airway, which prevents air from reaching the lungs and oxygen from being sent to the brain. When the brain senses the oxygen shortage, it partially awakes to tell the muscles to reopen the airway. This constant waking and rewaking is what prevents sleep apnea sufferers from getting regenerative sleep.

CPAP is a system for preventing airway collapse. It involves the use of a pump and an airmask that covers the nose and mouth of the person being treated, and it works by constantly pumping air into the airway with sufficient pressure to prevent airway collapse. This prevents the apneic events.

CPAP's main advantage is that it treats all levels of obstructive sleep apnea with a very high success rate when used properly. Thus, it prevents people from suffering the life-threatening consequences of sleep apnea. Optional equipment like humidifiers and in-line filters can also help people who suffer during dry periods or from allergies.

The biggest single disadvantage of CPAP is that it can be difficult to use properly. The instructions are complex, many people find it a nuisance to use, so they just don't. Even when people do use it, the mask often doesn't stay on all night, meaning that people are not receiving the full treatment necessary to combat sleep apnea. All put together, only about a third of people prescribed CPAP actually have good success with it.

In addition, those who wear CPAP often find it uncomfortable. Some find it hard to sleep, while others get breakouts from the straps or oral or nasal irritation from the air. Some CPAP machines can be noisy, making them as detrimental to partners as snoring.

Fortunately, for most people suffering from mild or moderate sleep apnea, and all snorers, there is an alternative to CPAP: oral appliance therapy. Oral appliances hold your jaw in a proper position during sleep, which in turn keeps your airways open. Oral appliances are comfortable, portable, and silent.

If you would like to learn more about CPAP and its alternatives, please contact Dr. Ira Shapira at the Snoring and Sleep Apnea Treatment Center in Gurnee, Illinois, today.

posted by Lynn at 8:20 AM