CPAP Therapy 101: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy can reduce daytime sleepiness, improve mental health, and even permanently lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases — all of that in only a few months. However, things can go terribly wrong if it’s taken by the wrong person or in the wrong way.
So, if you’ve just heard of CPAP therapy and intend to begin with it soon, here’s a comprehensive guide for you. We’ve covered everything about CPAP therapy, from who requires it to troubleshooting your CPAP machine.
Let’s dive in!
Who needs CPAP therapy?
CPAP therapy is generally recommended for:
- Individuals diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
- People with chronic snoring issues
- People who have trouble sleeping and have failed to respond to other remedies
- Those who have difficulty maintaining proper oxygen levels during sleep
Note that you must not take CPAP therapy in any case (even those mentioned above) unless it is recommended by your healthcare provider. If you haven’t undergone a sleep study or an evaluation by a medical professional and only think it’s a good solution for you, it’s not a good idea to use CPAP.
What are the parts of a CPAP machine?
Here’s a breakdown of all the essential parts of a CPAP machine:
- Machine housing: It’s the compact and durable outer covering of a CPAP machine that encloses all the internal components.
- Motor: The motor is the core component that generates the airflow and maintains a consistent pressure during use.
- Air filter: The air filter ensures that the air entering the machine is clean and free from dust, allergens, and other airborne particles.
- Water chamber: Some CPAP machines feature a built-in humidifier with a detachable water chamber. You can fill up the water chamber, which then heats up and moisturizes the airflow. This prevents dryness and irritation of the airway.
- Tubing: This is the channel that delivers pressurized air from the machine to the patient’s mask. It is flexible and designed for comfort.
- Mask: The CPAP mask is worn over the nose, mouth, or both, depending on the type of mask used. It creates a seal against the face so the pressurized air does not escape and is delivered directly into the airway.
- Headgear and straps: The headgear secures the mask in place during sleep. In some CPAP machines, you’ll find straps too. They fasten the headgear and maintain a snug and comfortable fit.
- Exhalation port: It releases exhaled air into the external environment and ensures proper ventilation. It also prevents carbon dioxide buildup within the mask.
- Control panel: The control panel consists of buttons, knobs, or a touchscreen interface that allows the user to adjust settings such as pressure level, humidity level, and ramp time.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that some machines are battery-powered while others need an electrical outlet to work.
How to use a CPAP machine?
First, find a suitable place for the CPAP machine. It should ideally be close to the head of the bed and an electrical outlet. Next, check if the filter is sitting in its place as mentioned in the instruction manual.
Then, attach the hose to the machine and the mask. This should not take much effort and will produce a clicking sound when the connection is tight. If your CPAP machine comes with a humidifier, fill it with distilled water up to the mark on the container and place it back into the machine.
Now, wear the mask. Tighten the straps around your head and adjust the headgear as need be. Remember, it should not press or pinch your skin.
Once done, plug the CPAP machine’s wire into the electrical socket and turn it on. As the machine does its work, you will feel pressurized air running into your air passage and gradually leaving. Keep in mind that it may take you some time to get used to it (it took some people three months). We recommend trying different sleep positions until you find the right one.
How to clean a CPAP machine?
To clean your CPAP machine, disconnect the mask and tubing, wash them in warm soapy water, and rinse thoroughly. Allow these components to air dry. Next, wipe the machine’s exterior with a damp cloth.
Also, make sure you regularly replace the machine’s filters as recommended by the manufacturer.
What are the types of CPAP machines?
A CPAP machine is a standalone machine that delivers a constant air pressure to your lungs to ensure steady breathing and a better sleep. However, there are three more enhanced types of these machines.
- Bi-Level PAP: It uses different pressures for inhalation and exhalation.
- Auto CPAP: It self-regulates air pressure to ensure the airways are always open.
- Adaptive Servo-ventilation: It’s suitable for people with central sleep apnea. It delivers a mandatory breath only when necessary.
How to choose the right CPAP machine type?
We recommend considering the following factors to choose the right CPAP machine:
- The severity of your sleep apnea
- Prescribed air pressure
- Your breathing pattern
- Advanced features like data-storing capabilities
- Your budget and insurance
Another important factor to consider when choosing a CPAP machine is compatibility with different mask types.
Ideally, the machine should be compatible with a range of mask types or at least your preferred mask type.
If you don’t have a preferred mask type, you can check out CPAP Direct’s range of CPAP masks and pick one.
When to replace your CPAP machine?
It’s generally recommended to replace your CPAP machine every five years. However, if there are signs of excessive wear and tear or if the machine exhibits decreased effectiveness at any time, you should not wait for five years to pass.
What are the signs of failed CPAP therapy, and what to do next?
If you experience your original symptoms despite using CPAP, it might mean failed therapy. This means you might still experience increased daytime sleepiness, excessive snoring, or an inability to concentrate.
In this case, it’s best to consult your healthcare provider. They will most likely recommend a surgical procedure to remove the excessive airway tissue that’s blocking air.