Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Therapy
CPAP Therapy 101
Sleep apnea is typically caused by the collapsing of your throat’s soft tissue while you sleep. This type of physical condition cuts off your air supply and causes you to suffocate repeatedly during the night. To prevent this event from happening, the most highly recommended and commonly prescribed treatment is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Therapy.
This type of therapy requires a specialized CPAP machine that delivers a continuous flow of air into your body through a sleep mask. This airflow forces the soft tissue of your throat to remain open and allows you breathe normally throughout the night. The positive effects of this type of treatment are often dramatic and immediate.
While CPAP therapy is simple and straightforward (thus its popularity) it is also specialized and unique to each individual. For instance, in order for a CPAP machine to be truly effective, it must be titrated.
Titration is a process by which the level of air pressure your machine delivers is adjusted to meet your exact needs. Having too low of an air pressure setting can cause your therapy to be ineffective while having your air pressure set too high can be discomforting and may keep you awake.
There are also several options for the type of mask you can where. While some patients may need to use a particular type of mask due to their specific sleep disorder, most can choose between nasal pillows (small), nasal masks or full-face masks (large). Even within these three major categories there are further options to choose from. For most patients, it’s simply about choosing the mask that is most comfortable for them.
Finally, there are different types of machines a patient may choose from as well. Again, the type of machine you use may be dictated by the type of sleep disorder you suffer from, but you may also have a choice.
Besides the standard One Pressure CPAP machines there are also BiLevel & BiPAP machines. These types of machines blow at a higher pressure when you inhale and at a lower pressure when you exhale. There are also BiPAP STs which will breathe for you if your disorder is severe enough to require it and AVAPS machines which will gradually self-adjust to match your current breathing patterns.
It is because of these various options and settings that it is essential to have your sleep disorder diagnosed and treated by physicians board-certified in sleep medicine.
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