The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, although there is also central sleep apnea and complex sleep apnea (a combination of the two previous types. Obstructive sleep apnea happens when there is a blockage or narrowing of the airway affecting breathing cycles during sleep.
Central Sleep Apnea is when the brain briefly stops sending signals to the muscles controlling breathing. This can lead to someone missing one or several breathing cycles in a row. Sleep apnea is usually quite treatable, and the treatment prescribed is very dependent on the severity of the case.
A sleep apnea machine is one method that may be used to help relieve an individual of sleep apnea.
How Does it work?
It works by blowing air into the affected person’s lungs at the appropriate pressure to assist and regulate breathing. This stops breathing and hence sleeping cycles from being affected, and the person can have a deep and restful sleep if the machine is effective.
It is usually placed at the bedside and can be used at home, there are two main types of device, Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure machine and a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine.
Reasons to Use a device if It Is Recommended
- Can completely alleviate snoring
- May allow your sleeping partner (if you have one) to have a more restful sleep because you are
- You may feel less tired
- You may feel less daytime fatigue
- May reduce the chances of other illnesses associated with sleep apnea, such as high blood pressure.
- Reduces chances of low oxygen saturation levels in the blood and hypoxaemia
- May reduce stress levels and likelihood of anxiety attacks
- Can help you get on with your daily tasks without the fear of feeling very tired and sleepy
Why Some People Find Using a Device Difficult
- High levels of discomfort.
- Strong feeling of claustrophobia (as some of the masks cover a large portion of the face).
- Irritation through dry air being pumped into the lungs (in the absence of a humidifier).
- Having air “forced” into the lungs is an unnatural and unfamiliar process which many people find it difficult to get used to
- Inconvenience of wearing a mask, the noise of the machine and the tubing making it difficult to move freely.
Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP)
BiPAP machines are also sometimes known as Variable Positive Airway Pressure machines (VPAPs). They make breathing easier for users by having different settings (air pressures) for exhaling and inhaling. These machines use varied amounts of air pressure depending on whether the user is breathing in or out, to increase comfort levels and effectiveness of the machine.
Some people favour these over CPAPs because they say that the regulated breathing feels more natural. BiPAP and VPAP machines can vary the pressure depending on the individual’s breathing cycle at the time. At the present time, however, CPAP machines are used more often.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
If an individual is prescribed to use a sleep apnea machine after observation has led to the diagnosis of a certain type of sleep apnea, it may a CPAP.
Unlike BiPAP machines, CPAPs usually have a constant air pressure for both inhalation and exhalation. This sometimes makes it difficult for a person to exhale if the air pressure through the machine is quite high, which can feel unnatural for some people using CPAPs.
The health professional that has diagnosed the sleep apnea is usually the one who will set the air pressure levels in the machine to the levels they see as most appropriate to help reduce the severity of the individual’s sleep apnea. A CPAP machine is more commonly used in treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea, as the air pressure from the machine can stop the airway from getting narrowed or becoming blocked.
If you are using a CPAP machine you will have some sort of mask covering your face. The mask is just one part of the apparatus, but the part that many people struggle with. There are many different masks available so that the individual has the greatest chance of feeling comfortable. The mask should form a seal with the person’s face so that no air escapes, but should not be too tight either.
Different types of masks include:
- Nasal sleep apnea mask – Most commonly used
- Pilot type sleep apnea mask – usually used in cases with blocked nasal passages
- Bubble sleep apnea mask – covers the whole face, rarely used.
- Sleep apnea nasal pillows – two soft cones which fit inside the nostrils
Some Sleep Apnea Machine FAQs
- Using a humidifier – Some machines come with an in-built humidifier to keep moisture in the air that passes into the lungs of the person using the machine. A humidifier can increase comfort by reducing the irritation caused internally and externally by inhaling air that is very dry.
- Are they comfortable? Technology is moving at a rapid rate, meaning that each new sleep apnea machine that is released becomes quieter and smaller. However, some people struggle immensely to use them because of feelings of discomfort and claustrophobia.
- Buy or Rent? – A sleep apnea machine can be very costly, but it may be more cost-efficient to buy, particularly if it is used over a prolonged period of time.
- Any other machines available? Yes, another option may be an Automatic Positive Airway Pressure (APAP) machine. This is a sophisticated piece of equipment which uses a computer to regulate the breathing by tracking the user’s breaths.
- Short term? Not necessarily. As sleep apnea is usually a chronic illness treatment may be prolonged. However, some people see drastic improvements in a short space of time, providing they have the correct sleep apnea machine.
- Other treatments? There are many other alternatives to sleep apnea machines, ranging from lifestyle changes to surgery. It is very dependent on the specific case, the type and the severity of the individual’s sleep apnea.