So you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea or a similar condition and your doctor said you need a CPAP. You asked, “What is CPAP?” and the doctor explained all about it. Awesome! Now what? Here’s a simple guide to follow that should make the process a little easier.
Get the Machine
First things first, there’s THREE types of machines, the CPAP, BIPAP, and APAP. All three machines use masks and hoses, but each is different in the way it opens the airway.
CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) blows air constantly to keep the airway open and is the go to machine in most cases. However, some patients have a hard time breathing out against the air pressure, making it hard to tolerate. Enter the BIPAP.
The BIPAP (Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure) allows for two different air pressures, one for breathing in (which is higher) and one for breathing out (which is lower). This helps the patient who has a hard time breathing out while still allowing for the proper pressure on inhalation.
The third is the APAP (Automatic Airway Pressure). The APAP allows for the doctor to set a range of pressures that fluctuate throughout the night as needed. This is the least common machine as most patients are able to use either the CPAP or the BIPAP.
Now that you know what types of options are available to you, ask your doctor about it! Your doctor will typically recommend the CPAP machine, but it’s always worth having that conversation to see if another machine might work better for you. This should also bring some peace of mind that if one machine isn’t working for you that there are other options. Don’t give up yet!
Find a Mask That Works for You
There are hundreds of different masks that vary in size, shape, material, and style. All of the masks will (in a variety of ways) strap onto the face to create a seal and provide the air pressure needed to treat sleep apnea. We suggest trying each mask for 1-2 weeks before trying a different mask. Once you find a mask that works well for you you’re ready for the last step.
The main goal of the machine will be to keep your airway open in order to provide proper oxygenation to the brain. Most people find that once they find the right machine and mask that they tend to sleep better after a month of continuous use. This has a large amount to due with the fact that you’re no longer suffocating yourself when you sleep! Your body has a greater ability to relax and you sleep better.
If after all of this you’re still not able to tolerate CPAP or any of the other machines with a variety of masks, don’t worry, there are other options. Alternatives to the CPAP include significant weight loss for those who fall in the obese or morbidly obese category, surgery (which isn’t always a guarantee), or an oral appliance. Of all these, a dental sleep apnea device is the quickest and least invasive option.