For many years, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) has been the standard treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. Unfortunately, it’s not the right solution for everyone. Studies have shown that almost half of patients prescribed CPAP stop using them within three weeks. Considering the many dangerous complications caused by sleep apnea, such as hypertension, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease, this trend can spell trouble for many patients.
What is a CPAP?
CPAP machines are a positive airway pressure ventilator that applies mild air pressure to keep airways continuously open during the breathing cycle. The machine resembles a vacuum (and, in fact, the prototypes were modified vacuums), with a large body, plastic tube, and an endpoint which is usually a face mask meant to be worn all night.
Why Do Some Patients Dislike it?
Though incredibly effective at keeping airways open, the machine is bulky, obtrusive, and looks like something pulled straight from 70s sci-fi. Typically, patients have the a similar list of complaints when it comes to using CPAP.
- CPAP machines are loud
Because CPAP works by pressurizing air enough to keep airways open, the machine has been known to make continuous hissing noises. For light sleepers, this can make getting to sleep and staying asleep incredibly difficult. If the patient is sleeping with a new partner or is traveling with friends, this can make the experience awkward for the wearer.
- Patients get claustrophobic
Many patients predisposed to feelings of claustrophobia may find sleeping with CPAP to be difficult. To function properly, the mask must be secured to the patient’s face all night, accompanied by a plastic tube attached to the mask.
- CPAP masks can irritate skin
Even if you don’t have a full mask, it has to be secured in place somehow. The mask, straps, and tube can all cause skin irritation, leading to redness in the morning, sores, and acne.
- CPAP is a nuisance
CPAP machines require a significant amount of maintenance. You have to disassemble them, clean them, then reassemble them. They have to have a place to sit next to your bed, with an available outlet, and you have to sleep with the tube attached to your mask. And CPAP machines can be hard to travel with.
- CPAP causes more fatigue
Patients seeking to alleviate fatigue caused by sleep apnea might be disappointed with their results using CPAP. Because many find the device difficult to sleep with, often the machine can disrupt sleep patterns further.
Alternative Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatments
Fortunately for those suffering from sleep apnea, there are alternatives to CPAP masks, some of the most common being oral sleep appliances. Specifically designed to fit a patient’s mouth, oral sleep appliances are made to be comfortable and non-invasive devices that prevent the lower jaw from collapsing backward and blocking the airway.
For patients unwilling to deal with the discomfort of a CPAP masks, these devices are ideal for those who sleep next to a partner or travel frequently, as they can easily fit in a suitcase.
Although sleep apnea can be incredibly disruptive, treatment options don’t have to be. If you’ve been struggling with obstructive sleep apnea, schedule an appointment today.
Whether you’re struggling to sleep or worried about bothering your partner, if you live near Wilmington, NC, please call (910) 392-6060 today for an appointment with sleep dentist Dr. Michael Kuzma at Kuzma Advanced Dentistry.