Continuous positive airway pressure machines, or CPAP machines, are medical devices used to treat some sleep disorders. Snoring and sleep apnea result from blocked airways while sleeping. CPAP therapy uses continuous pressure to help prevent the soft tissues in the throat and mouth from blocking the airways, disrupting overnight breathing.
Why CPAP Machines Work
Many people consider snoring to be nothing more than an irritating nuisance. Unfortunately, snoring can actually be a sign of larger breathing problems while sleeping. Snoring occurs when the airway becomes obstructed by the soft tissues of the throat and mouth. If the obstruction becomes total, breathing can actually be completely stopped. This is known as obstructive sleep apnea, and it is associated with a number of dangerous health problems like heart attack and stroke.1
CPAP machines deliver a small amount of increased air pressure to a sleeper so that the airway is kept open overnight. A mask is fitted to the mouth before bed, and a small specialized air pump provides air through an attached hose.
Continuous positive airway pressure treatment is very effective at treating snoring and sleep apnea.2 In fact, the benefits of a CPAP machine extend to nights when the machine is not used. A study found that there were fewer breathing disruptions in CPAP users even when they spent a night without CPAP solutions in place.
Why Snoring Is No Joke
Snoring is, by definition, a disruption of air flow while you sleep. Although air is still being inhaled and exhaled, the body has to work harder to move the same amount of air. Snoring is also a risk factor for a larger overnight breathing issue, obstructive sleep apnea. Snoring risk factors—such as being male, being overweight, drinking alcohol, or a congenitally narrow airway—are also risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea. Snoring causes are almost one-to-one with sleep apnea causes.
Sleep apnea is a genuinely dangerous condition where your body is actually unable to breath during the night. This leads to a drop in oxygen levels, and your body responds by elevating your blood pressure to compensate. Even while awake and breathing normally, obstructive sleep apnea increases the risk of high blood pressure.3
Sleep apnea increases the chances of developing heart diseases. Stroke and heart attacks increase with sleep apnea. In addition to these alarming health complications, there are quality of life issues like daytime grogginess and irritated bed partners from sleep apnea.
CPAP machines can mitigate snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, making continuous positive airway pressure a powerful snoring remedy and sleep apnea treatment.
Do you need a prescription to buy a CPAP machine?
Yes. CPAP machines are considered Class II medical devices by the United States4 FDA. This means you need a prescription to get a CPAP machine.
What can I use instead of a CPAP machine?
If you are using a continuous positive airway pressure machine to treat obstructive sleep apnea, then there are a few options. An oral appliance similar to a mouth guard can be worn overnight.5 The form-fitting plastic trays slip over your teeth, and a small elastic band or other source of tension draws your lower jaw forward. This has the result of helping to keep your airways open while you sleep.
What are the side effects of using a CPAP machine?
Some people have topical allergic reactions from wearing a CPAP face mask. Others report that the mask rubs and actually abrades their nose. Dry nose and mouth in the morning are commonly reported, and around a third of CPAP patients in a study reported nasal congestion.6
How much is a CPAP machine without insurance?
Continuous positive airway pressure machines can cost up to five or six hundred dollars without health insurance.7 In addition to the price of the machine itself, there may be additional costs for the tubing, filters, and face masks, which may need to be replaced regularly.
Can CPAP therapy weaken lungs?
Quite the opposite! A study of CPAP users found that lung function improved with regular and consistent continuous positive airway pressure therapy. The amount of CO2 in the bloodstream dropped, and the amount of oxygen increased. In addition, the volume of air able to be expelled went up by over 15 percent.8