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The Ins and Outs of CPAP Machines

One in five adults suffers from at least mild sleep apnea. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in which weight on the upper chest and neck contributes to blocking the flow of air. This blockage can cause people who suffer from OSA to stop breathing while they sleep, or, at the very least, cause them to snore, wake repeatedly and leave them feeling groggy and irritable in the morning.

CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines keep the airway open during sleep by delivering slightly pressurized air. By keeping the airways open this way, it is possible for people with sleep apnea to get some continuous sleep.

Overview of CPAP Technology

Most CPAP machines are very small, so you can keep it on your nightstand. Be sure to wash your face thoroughly before going to sleep because it is best for the mask if you do not use it with any creams on your face.

Follow the instructions that come with your specific CPAP machine to turn on the equipment. Put the mask over your nose and mouth, or just over your nose depending on the type of machine. You are now ready to lay down and go to sleep.

The CPAP should be used every night while you sleep and during every nap. If you only use it occasionally, you may put your health at risk and stop your body from fully adjusting to the breathing assistance.

CPAP comes with three main parts:

  • A mask that fits over your nose or your nose and mouth. (Straps keep the mask in place while you're wearing it.)
  • A tube that connects the mask to the machine's motor.
  • A motor that blows air into the tube.
  • Benefits of New CPAP Technology

    Sleep apnea, left untreated, can have serious complications. By using a CPAP machine you are protecting yourself from these health risks:


    Recent research indicates a likely relationship between type 2 diabetes and obstructive sleep apnea. OSA is related to glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, both factors in type 2 diabetes. Using CPAP to treat sleep apnea can improve insulin sensitivity and glucose levels.

    Heart Disease

    People with cardiovascular problems (high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke) have a high prevalence of sleep apnea. If you are suffering from that condition today, the chances of developing hypertension in the future increases significantly. CPAP as a treatment can lower blood pressure during the night and the daytime.


    Obstructive sleep can cause plaque buildup in the arteries, which can cause a heart attack or stroke and increase the risk of ischemic stroke by as much as three times in men. Consistent use of the CPAP can reduce the buildup in the arteries, and by doing so reduce the potential for a heart attack or stroke.

    Common Concerns

    Despite the many benefits to CPAP use, some users have reported some concerns about side-effects from usage. Some of these issues include:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Irritation of the eyes
  • Claustrophobia
  • Machine noise interferes with sleep
  • Mask not fitting properly
  • Many of these side effects can be relieved by talking with your doctor about decongestants, nasal sprays, use of a humidifier (though the majority of CPAP machines contain a heated humidifier), or even trying a different CPAP machine. Using a CPAP can take some getting used to, but the benefits can certainly outweigh the initial minor annoyances.

    How to get a CPAP

    The first step is for a doctor to diagnose you with sleep apnea. You will have to take part in a sleep study where your breathing is monitored in a sleep clinic. If your results indicate sleep apnea, you will receive a prescription for a CPAP machine that will provide the type of breathing therapy you need.

    Sleep apnea is not to be taken lightly. Though some may joke about their spouse's snoring or constant waking, if you suspect something more serious it is important to contact a physician and begin treatment if necessary. If you don't feel that CPAP is working, there are other positive airway pressure devices. Be sure to ask your physician about other possible options.