Breaking Down CPAP: Sleep Apnea Myths

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Breaking Down CPAP: Sleep Apnea Myths

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a serious sleep disorder that is common in older adults. Those suffering from OSA have their sleep disrupted by irregular breathing. OSA occurs when the throat closes partially—or completely—during sleep leading to the airway being blocked. In some cases, this can cause the person to wake up.

One treatment option for OSA is known as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). CPAP uses a machine to increase the air pressure in your throat to prevent your airway from collapsing during the night. It is a common treatment and provides a nonsurgical method that can provide useful benefits such as a decrease in daytime sleepiness. 

With the introduction of the internet, knowledge has become easier to spread and share. Social media sites provide a plethora of information, but not all of it is correct or accurate. For medical conditions such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), misinformation can be harmful. 

Before making any major decisions about your treatment, make sure to discuss your plans with your doctor. For those hoping to quickly fact check their information, here’s a list of common sleep apnea myths:

Myth: People Who Snore Suffer from Sleep Apnea

Snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea, but this doesn’t mean that everyone who snores suffers from OSA. It has been found that people who don’t snore can still suffer from the disorder.

Myth: Sleep Apnea Can Only Be Diagnosed in a Sleep Lab

While a sleep lab is an efficient way to diagnose sleep apnea, there is also portable sleep testing technology that can be used in-home.

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Myth: Age Requirement for Sleep Apnea

One common belief is that sleep apnea occurs as you get older, primarily in overweight men. This information is false. While sleep apnea is more common for those older than 40, anyone can suffer from it. It was found that OSA affects 53% of men and 26% of women.

Myth: A Full-Face CPAP Is Preferred over a Nasal Mask

For those who don’t breathe through their mouth, a nasal mask can work well. Full-face masks tend to have more leaks and require higher device pressure requirements. 

Myth: Masks Are One-Size-Fits-All

Everyone has a different face and not every CPAP mask will fit yours. Finding a mask that fits correctly and feels comfortable is important.

Myth: There Are Low Risks with Untreated Sleep Apnea

A recent study has linked sleeping disorders, such as sleep apnea, with cognitive decline. This phrase means that sleep apnea can lead to memory loss. Dr. Charles Atwood, a sleep specialist, states that "sleep apnea is associated with repetitive drops in the blood oxygen level, which can affect various organs in the body differently." Other problems associated with sleep apnea include snoring, restlessness during sleep, dry mouth, a sore throat upon waking and trouble concentrating.

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Myth: Oxygen Therapy Is as Effective as a CPAP for OSA

Unlike oxygen therapy, CPAP addresses the problems with breathing during sleep. It is possible, however, for oxygen therapy to be prescribed along with CPAP.

Myth: CPAP Is the Only Treatment Available for Sleep Apnea

While CPAP is the most effective treatment for sleep apnea, it is not the only treatment. Surgery can be conducted to remove some of the tissue in the throat causing the blockage. Changes in sleep position, nasal dilators, mandibular advancement devices or using an anti-snoring pillow may also treat OSA. For people who are overweight, exercising and shedding pounds can improve your sleep apnea.

There are several types of CPAP machines available. Traditionally, a CPAP machine treats OSA by using an air blower that forces air through the nose and mouth with enough pressure to keep your upper airways from collapsing.

One type of CPAP machine will start the user off at a lower pressure. As the patient begins to fall asleep, the pressure will gradually increase. This type of device is beneficial as it can help reduce discomfort.

Another type of machine, known as a bilevel airway pressure machine (BiPAP), uses a different air pressure for breathing in. The machine allows the user to breathe out at a lower pressure and could be more comfortable. An auto-titillating continuous airway pressure (APAP) works by automatically increasing or decreasing air pressure as needed.

Final Thoughts

For those of you suffering from sleep apnea, ensuring you’re receiving proper treatment is important for both your health and well-being. Wearing a CPAP mask may be troubling at first and require adjustment, but there is technology available to help make sleeping easier. CPAP pillows are specially designed for CPAP users and feature a cut-out area for the mask to make sleeping easier.   

It is highly recommended for people suffering from OSA to seek treatment from their doctor. If you’re using CPAP, keeping the machine clean is important, as well as making sure you use CPAP every night. If you experience any complications, please seek medical attention right away.

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  • Becky McDowell
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