If you’ve recently been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), or have a friend or relative with sleep apnea, you’ve probably heard of a CPAP machine. But what exactly is a CPAP machine? CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. Considered the gold standard for treating sleep apnea for over 30 years, a CPAP machine delivers a steady stream of pressurized air to help prevent the “collapses” that are characteristic of sleep apnea. By helping to keep the airway firm and open, the pressurized air provides the support necessary for the user to breathe freely and without obstructions. The CPAP machine, which is very basic and easy to use, is composed of three major parts:
. The CPAP motor is basically a small compressor. It draws in room temperature air and gently pressurizes it to deliver the right amount of air pressure you need to clear your obstruction. The air intake portion of the machine has a replaceable filter that screens out particulates and impurities. Most CPAP machines also have a small water tank that, when turned on, heats up the water to provide moisture to the air you breathe in. These built-in humidifiers are ideal for people living in dry or arid climates and those that frequently wake with dry mouth, throat, or nasal cavities.
The hose is simply the delivery device that transports the pressurized air from the motor to the wearer’s mask. While most hoses are six feet in length, the diameter of the hoses can be different depending on the machine that one uses. Most hoses are now heated to reduce water condensation accumulation caused by the humidifiers.
CPAP masks come in all shapes and sizes because not every individual will feel comfortable wearing the same type mask as others. While sizes and shapes may vary to fit different shaped faces, there are typically three mask styles to choose from: nasal pillows, nasal masks, and full face masks. Finding the right mask for your personal level of comfort is the most important part in having the CPAP work effectively for you.
Although CPAP therapy is still considered to be a very effective treatment for sleep apnea, many people stop using the CPAP machine because they find the mask to be uncomfortable or they experience problems such as nosebleeds or a runny or stuffed nose, eye irritation, dry mouth, headaches and continued tiredness after starting treatment. In addition, many find the CPAP to be cumbersome when traveling, plus the CPAP does require distilled water to be used, which is not always readily available. These problems often lessen as you get used to using the CPAP machine correctly. However, as many as half of CPAP users fail to use the treatment regularly because of these issues. Many of those people turn to an alternative treatment such as an oral appliance or surgical treatment.
In order to get a CPAP machine, you must receive a prescription from an accredited physician/sleep specialist after conducting an overnight sleep test to determine if you indeed have sleep apnea. The sleep test can be done in a sleep lab or we also offer a home sleep test at NYC SleepWell. Many prefer the convenience and comfort of the home sleep test.
As is typical with the cost of any electrical equipment or technology, the price of the CPAP machine varies greatly – from several hundred dollars up to $3000. Many insurance companies do cover the cost of the CPAP machine, depending on your deductible and plan. Our financial specialists at NYC SleepWell are here to help you decipher your insurance information and deal with your insurance company to maximize your benefits for CPAP or any other treatment we offer for sleep apnea.
If the CPAP machine does not work for you at first, the best thing is to have your sleep specialist help you with adjustments – including trying a different mask. If you simply can’t get used to the CPAP machine after adjustments, you may not be able to return the machine. Typically, the machine can only be returned if there is a defect. But this is an issue you’ll need to discuss with your provider. The key is to give the CPAP machine ample time to get used to. This may be a period of several weeks or even a month or more. Again, for those who just can’t get used to the CPAP machine, there are other options including the oral appliance and surgical treatments. At NYC SleepWell, our team of sleep specialists includes dentists, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, ENT surgeons, and anesthesiologists, so we’re well-prepared to offer any treatment option you prefer. Our goal, plain and simple, is to help you sleep well – and be healthy!