Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough – Sleep apnea affects nearly 30 million people in the US. That’s approximately 9% of the population. The condition causes interruptions that pause breathing because the throat or airway has collapsed, creating blockage. This is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and is the most common type. Central sleep apnea (CSA) occurs due to neurological issues when the brain doesn’t communicate to continuously breathe during sleep. There is also a complex type which is the combination of OSA and CSA. The CPAP machine, which stands for continuous positive airway pressure, has become a widely used tool to help address these sleep issues. Almost 8 million people use a CPAP machine, and studies point towards it being 99% effective. The machine can send pressurized airflow into the nose and mouth which keeps the airways open for normal breathing.
The CPAP machine has a motor that produces pressurized air that generates a steady stream of air
through a tube. The person wears an air mask that fits around the nose or mouth and the flexible tube is
connected to the mask. The air that comes through pushes through the blockages so that the airways
remain open. Now nothing will obstruct the oxygen getting to the lungs and breathing won’t be paused.
There are several benefits to using a CPAP. These include of course better sleep quality, feeling less
sleepy during daytime, lower blood pressure, reduction in blood glucose, lower cholesterol levels, and
lower risk of heart attack and/or stroke.
The machines are all very similar in style based on brands and designers, but there are variations
between the CPAP, BiPAP, and APAP. The BiPAP stands for bi-level positive airflow pressure. There are
two pressure levels. One is for inhaling and the other is for exhaling. This machine is used by people who
don’t like the CPAP and who have high levels of carbon dioxide in their blood. The APAP machine stands
for automatic positive airflow pressure. It checks your breathing through the night and automatically
adjusts the pressure accordingly. This works for people who change positions a lot or take medications
that can affect breathing. There are different options for masks. Selection of which mask type is based
on comfort, type of sleep apnea you have, and your breathing habits. There are nasal masks with pillow
type cushions and there are full masks that cover the nose and mask.
A person who has Medicare Part B and who is officially diagnosed with sleep apnea, will qualify for
Medicare paying 80% of the machine cost. Whether renting it or buying it, the person will need to pay
their deductible and the other 20%. Otherwise, CPAP machines can vary between $500 and $3,000
Some people complain of dry mouth, nosebleeds, feeling claustrophobic, feeling bloated, nasal
congestion, feeling uncomfortable, and skin irritation. However, left untreated, sleep apnea can cause
headaches, depression, high blood pressure, higher risk for heart attack and stroke, diabetes, and
feeling constantly tired and fatigued. There can be pros and cons to using the CPAP, but the health issue
should not be ignored. Sleep is essential and interrupted sleep over a period will catch up with the body.
Some people can be in denial, but if you’re snoring loudly, having mood swings, feel tired too much of
the time, have headaches, and insomnia, then it’s best to get checked for sleep apnea. Being proactive
versus reactive when it comes to our health is always the recommended protocol.