Almost everyone who has been diagnosed with sleep apnea quickly turns to possible treatment options. The most effective and commonly used method is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), but what is CPAP? Take a moment to learn about the major components of CPAP, including the mask, tubing, and humidifier. Find out how CPAP effectively treats sleep apnea by creating air pressure through a mask .
What is CPAP?
CPAP is the gold standard in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. The CPAP device provides a constant flow of compressed air that helps keep the airways open, preventing them from collapsing. This air is supplied through a matching mask. CPAP has been used to treat sleep apnea since 1981 with few side effects . It is also effective in eliminating snoring, which usually occurs due to the vibration of the throat tissues. Although there are many different manufacturers of CPAP equipment, each device consists of the same basic components.
The CPAP machine is the workhorse of your treatment. Thanks to a small motor and a fan, it draws air from the room, filters it and creates air pressure, which is the mainstay of sleep apnea treatment. The new devices are small, often smaller than a loaf of bread, and relatively quiet. The newer ones are practically silent. Most run on electricity, but battery packs are also available.
The target pressure level is often determined by a sleep test called a polysomnogram . However, it can also be configured with an automatic titration function (AutoCPAP or APAP), which automatically determines the pressure required to keep the airway open. Pressure settings are determined by your sleep physician and set by your equipment provider.
In addition to the therapeutic pressure range, there is often a function that allows you to set a pressure ramp. This allows you to fall asleep at a lower pressure, gradually increasing to your desired therapy pressure, either after a set period of time or after your breathing becomes more regular, indicating that you are asleep.
Most models have sophisticated methods of tracking usage with an internal memory card. This data can also be transferred via internal or external modem to cloud storage that can be accessed remotely by your ISP. This can help your healthcare provider assess your adherence to treatment. You can also determine whether insurance will pay for your ongoing treatment.
As a comfort measure, the humidity of the air supplied by the connected humidifier can be increased. It is built into most of the newer models. There is a water chamber, which usually consists of a plastic reservoir that can be filled with distilled water . Heated humidifiers include a small heating plate that increases the amount of vapor and moisture that enters the inhaled air. When air passes over water, direct evaporation occurs and the humidity of the air increases.
It is very important to keep this body of water clean , as theoretically (and rarely) it could be the source of recurrent respiratory infections or even mold (however, a study published in 2017 did not find an increased risk of infections). It occurs only if the water is left in the tank unattended for an extended period of inactivity.
CPAP hose or CPAP tube
The next component, which is standard on all CPAP machines, is the CPAP tubing or tubing. The CPAP tube is generally made of flexible plastic that allows some movement. To be fair, it resembles an extension hose on a vacuum cleaner. It is usually around 6 feet long. However, with an adapter or connector, two lengths of tubing can be connected.
You should be careful not to make the hose too long, as this can reduce the pressure that is ultimately put on your mask. A tube connects the main outlet of the machine to the mask. It can be heated and have a temperature setting that you can control to prevent water condensation in the tube.
The CPAP mask is by far the most important part of your CPAP experience. This is where rubber meets the road and you will either fall in love with or hate your CPAP machine. There are three main styles of CPAP masks:
- Nasal pillows that sit in the nostrils.
- Nose mask
- Facial mask that covers the nose and mouth.
There are dozens of styles of CPAP masks available, so choosing one is especially important. Work with your doctor or equipment supplier to find the best mask for you , especially during the first 30 days of CPAP use, or anytime you are having trouble with your mask leaking or discomfort.
Get the word of drug information
CPAP can be an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, but it will only benefit you if you use it. If you are having difficulties, talk to your sleep specialist about other options , including bi-level therapy or BiPAP therapy . You can always be successful, but you may need some initial help.