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CPAP and Sleep Apnea Myths and Truths

I can set my watch every day by the 9 am phone calls or emails about the same CPAP questions that come up and though some are very entertaining (insert hour long phone call from the man claiming to be a NASA scientist), most can be easily answered in this blog. Every so often we like to identify misconceptions made about CPAP therapy, costs of CPAP equipment and the general understanding about obstructive sleep apnea. These are some our recent inquiries. Enjoy.

CPAP Myth 1: I use a ResMed CPAP machine so I must use a ResMed CPAP mask.

False. All CPAP masks are made with a port connection that has a universal size to fit all CPAP tubing, hoses and machines. There are many people that have a Philips Respironics CPAP machine but want to use a ResMed CPAP mask. Rest easy my friends and feel free to mix and match your CPAP brands accordingly.

CPAP Myth 2: I need a prescription for CPAP supplies and accessories.

False. Only items marked “RX Required” will need to have a prescription. It’s a head scratcher to see the number of people that come into our store locations and have been told by their medical equipment supplier that they need a prescription for tubing and filters or even headgear. That’s right, I said headgear; you know, that fabric strap that keeps your CPAP mask in place. I do want to make this very clear; YOU DO NOT NEED A CPAP PRESCRIPTION FOR CPAP MASK COMPONENTS AND CPAP MACHINE PARTS AND ACCESSORIES.

CPAP Myth 3: I’m a mouth breather therefore I need to use a full face mask or a chin strap.

True and False. People that suffer from sleep apnea and ARE NOT using CPAP therapy will typically “mouth breath” from your body’s natural self defense mechanism to survive. You simply are not getting enough air to the lungs during an apeanic event and thus you breathe through your mouth to intake more air and open the airway. However, with the use of CPAP therapy, the positive pressure opens the airway and in most cases allows you to just breathe in and out through your nose and thus a nasal pillow mask or nasal mask will work sufficiently. The correct use of heated humidity can also assist with mouth breathing.

The “true aspect” to the full face need for mouth breathing comes when people are on higher therapy pressures (i.e. 13 cm/H20 or higher) and using a nasal or nasal pillow mask. These higher pressures can cause the mouth to blow open thus creating a large leak and resulting in extreme mouth dryness. Patients that use bilevel (BiPAP) therapy typically benefit more from the use of a full face CPAP mask than a nasal mask, which will have a bouncing effect from the inspiratory and expiratory changes in pressure.

CPAP Myth 4: I’ve lost weight therefore I do not need to use my CPAP machine anymore.

Whoa, pump the brakes because you are getting way ahead of yourself. While it has been shown that being overweight can significantly contribute to your sleep apnea it does not mean that weight loss will correct your sleep apnea. There are so many different physiological attributes that cause sleep apnea that just basing it off of your weight is not wise. I have a friend that is the picture of physical fitness and health and I can tell you that he has such severe apnea that no matter what peak condition he is in, it will always be there.

Many people notice weight loss as a result of using a CPAP machine and they tend to feel better with marked improvement in quality of life. After a while they feel the machine has done its job and they no longer need it, however once they have discontinued use, their symptoms reappear. If you feel that you have lost enough weight and there are no other physiological connections to your sleep apnea, it is best to have a re-evaluation sleep study done (preferably using our home sleep testing program) to determine whether or not you still need CPAP therapy.

CPAP Myth 5: Standard CPAP machines are better than fixed pressure CPAP machines.

False. Auto adjusting CPAP machines have the capabilities to be auto adjusting or fixed pressure whereas fixed pressure CPAP machines only have one mode of therapy. Auto CPAP also saves you time and money by limiting the number of times you would need to visit the sleep center or physician for pressure adjustments. After a few years of use and possible weight fluctuations or changes in medication, a pressure adjustment would need to made however with auto adjusting technology, the Auto CPAP machine will adapt to these changes as needed.

CPAP Myth 6: Using my insurance is less money out of my pocket than self paying.

Unless you have less than a $500.00 deductible and 90% coverage, self pay will save you more money in the long run. The average deductible in 2010 was $1200.00 and what that means is you are paying you out of pocket the entire deductible and THEN your insurance kicks in (which may only be 70% or 80% coverage) and you will still be responsible for the CPAP co-pay . Just contact Jessica in our billing department to find out whether or not it makes more sense for you to self pay for CPAP machine and supplies.

CPAP Myth 7: Can you die from sleep apnea?

True. Mostly through contribution to co-morbid conditions but certainly a direct result and danger can be found in the hypoxia, stroke relation and heart attack. Sleep apnea is a silent but deadly killer that deprives all sufferers of quality of life and overall health.

CPAP Myth 8: Snoring is nothing to be worried about.

False. Refer to CPAP myth #7 for more clarification but snoring is usually the first sign of developing hypopnea (partial airway closure) upper airway restriction, and sleep apnea. Extreme snoring typically results in the same sleep disturbances (arousals and awakenings). The arousals have been shown to have a direct correlation with sustained hypertension (high blood pressure).

CPAP Myth 9: Wearing a CPAP mask isn’t attractive.

Do you find this attractive? No explanation necessary.

CPAP Myth 10: Sleep Apnea only affects older men.

False. This is very wrong on multiple levels. Sleep apnea does not discriminate based on age, race, gender, sexual orientation, political belief, tax bracket or any other factor. It has been shown to be more prevalent in certain genders (men) and certain nationalities but everyone is at risk. Know the warning signs and symptoms are key to determining if you should be tested for sleep apnea.