Sleep apnea is a common and potentially dangerous sleep disorder. During sleep apnea, your breathing pauses multiple times throughout the night. Sleep apnea symptoms include excessive daytime sleepiness, lack of concentration, and moodiness.
There are three types of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by either a blockage or a narrowing of the airway, which results in disrupted breathing. Central sleep apnea is disrupted or shallow breathing caused by an inability of the brain to correctly transmit signals to the body to breathe regularly. Mixed or complex sleep apnea is a combination of the two previous types.
In order to correctly treat any of these types of sleep apnea, it is important to participate in a sleep study to ascertain what sleep apnea equipment and treatment is best for you based on the type and severity of your condition.
Positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy has been an effective treatment for those with moderate to severe cases of sleep apnea. PAP machines provide pressurized air in order to make sure the throat is open, ensuring that you can breathe easily. These devices deliver the pressurized air either through a face mask or nasal plugs worn during sleep.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are typically the first prescribed device for all types of sleep apnea, but in particular are used to treat obstructive sleep apnea.1 These devices work by attaching a mask and tube to a machine that provides a continuous flow of pressurized air that allows the person to breathe and prevents snoring.
There are several other kinds of PAP breathing devices. These offer different forms of pressurized air. For example, there are bilevel positive airway pressure (BIPAP) and adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV) devices. BIPAP machines use two different levels of pressurized air, one for breathing in and another for breathing out. ASV devices adapt to the breathing patterns of the patient. ASV is a relatively new technology. Because these devices are “smart” machines, they can adapt the pressurized air to match the patient’s breathing. For this reason, these machines are sometimes more comfortable.2
These variations on the CPAP machine all function in fairly similar ways to reduce the effects of sleep apnea and snoring, and may be more effective for patients with central sleep apnea or complex sleep apnea.3 Many practitioners prescribe the CPAP device first, as it is a less expensive option than an ASV or BIPAP device.4
For those who are suffering from less severe cases of sleep apnea, oral devices can be a better, less invasive, alternative. Many different kinds of oral devices are FDA-approved, and can be custom-made and tailored to the patient's specific needs.
One device that can help with mild sleep apnea is the mandibular advancement device (MAD). These anti-snoring devices are molded to your mouth to move your jaw forward in order to help create more room and open airways during sleep. Another popular oral device is a tongue retaining device. This keeps the tongue forward and prevents it from blocking the throat during sleep.
These devices can reduce or prevent snoring and the effects of sleep apnea. These oral devices are cheaper and more portable than CPAP machines, but there is less research on their efficacy.5
Yes, CPAP machines are an FDA-approved and regulated Class II device. You cannot purchase one without a prescription from a doctor.
A CPAP machine is used for patients with sleep apnea to regulate breathing patterns. It provides continuous pressurized air into the airways in order to prevent apneic episodes.
The best device depends on the individual’s diagnosis and the severity of sleep apnea. The most universally accepted and used device is the CPAP machine.
If you are getting mild respiratory illnesses or your CPAP machine smells like mildew, it can be a sign of a dirty CPAP machine. It is important to keep your CPAP machine clean, otherwise it can accumulate bacteria and mold, and risk making you sick. CPAP devices including the mask, tubing, and headgear should be washed in hot soapy water every day.6 The filter and humidifier should be washed weekly and the machine service once a year to make sure there are no problems with your CPAP machine.7
If you are suffering from sleep apnea or snoring, it is better to avoid sleeping on your back. Instead, try sleeping on your side, as this sleeping position is less likely to put pressure on and restrict the neck area.
© 2021 American Sleep Association.