Sleep apnoea machines, better known as CPAP machines, work by applying a gentle pressure to the airway to prevent obstructions from occurring through the night.
CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure.
When using a CPAP machine you will be wearing a mask. The mask is connected to the CPAP device via a tube, which is usually around 1.8 metres long. When you have a nice mask seal, the pressure from your CPAP device will help keep the tongue from collapsing onto the soft pallet.
Do CPAP machines really work?
The primary role of a CPAP machine is to keep the airway open. They do a terrific job in doing this.
To gauge whether CPAP machines are worth using or not there are a few different factors that need to be considered. In our clinic, we used a table with four different factors to determine the motivating factors for using a CPAP device.
Like anything, you need to have a clear understanding on what you are trying to achieve to gauge whether or not it has been a success. When considering CPAP, it is important to know what it can help with. When it is determined that somebody should try CPAP, I am always careful to get the balance right between motivating them enough to get excited about using the device, but not also overselling the benefits.
It is true, that some people do notice life changing benefits. In some other cases, we notice smaller benefits like stopping snoring, less need to get up for the toilet during the night, not feeling as sleepy in the afternoon etc.
CPAP is daunting for a lot of people and it takes a bit of getting used to. It makes sense that it takes getting used to as you have spent your whole life sleeping without something on your head pumping in pressure.
By determining what CPAP can help with in your particular circumstances will go along way in determining whether or not a CPAP machine will work for you.
Knowing what I know as a CPAP consultant who has been talking to CPAP users for 7 years, I would use a framework like this to make my decision on whether or not CPAP would work for me.
Is my snoring annoying my bed partner?
Is my snoring embarrassing me socially?
For example when on holidays or work trips
Am I waking unrefreshed in the mornings?
Am I sleepy or lacking energy during the day?
Am I getting headaches?
Am I getting a dry, sore throat?
Am I getting up for the toilet more than twice during the night/
Managing Health Conditions (Discuss this with your Doctor)
Could treating sleep apnoea help with my High Blood Pressure?
Could treating sleep apnoea help with my diabetes?
Could treating sleep apnoea help with my depression?
Could treating sleep apnoea help manage my heart condition?
Diagnosis from my Sleep StudyIs there enough statistical evidence from my sleep study to warrant treating my sleep apnoea?
That is the framework I would use on myself if determining whether or not I would give CPAP a try.
Sleep Apnoea is a sleep efficiency issue. One Sleep Apnoea event is the complete or partial blockage of the airway for 10 second or more. These blockages are followed by a brief arousal to get the breathing back in order again. This mechanism is a very good thing, however, if it happens to frequently, it can lead to a very inefficient sleep.
It is not uncommon to see this cycle of event happening for people more than 30 times an hour. In fact, we would have one or two diagnosis in our clinic a week of people having 60 of these events or more.
With CPAP we are aiming to reduce the frequency of these events to less than 5 per hour.
As an example, if somebody was having 60 events per hour and sleeping 8 hours a night, they would have around 480 respiratory events and arousals per night. Once CPAP is effectively working, this figure will drop to 5 or below per hour or less than 40 events per night.
In this person’s case, they are now having 440 less disturbances throughout the night…. Yes, you read that correctly, 440 less disturbances.
As you can understand, in situations like this, the patient will often notice significant differences in how they feel. Each case is different and the frequency of event will effect one person differently to the next.
Once you have had a sleep study, it is a good idea to discuss the report and treatment recommendations with your Doctor.
Overall, yes, CPAP does work, but it is important to work out within yourself what you are trying to achieve by using it.