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Published on January 25, 2022

cpap machine and equipment

What a CPAP Can Do for Your Health

The facts about American sleep problems are enough to keep you up at night.

More than 70 million people face disorders with their slumber – and almost 20 million have forms of sleep apnea.

A well-known medical device called the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) can help patients with certain diagnoses. But relief isn’t as easy as just grabbing one and going to bed.

“For the right patients, when used properly, the CPAP can make a big difference,” said Anthony Hericks, DO, Avera Medical Group pulmonologist and sleep physician. “It can significantly improve your sleep, and it may help control some conditions.”

Hericks said people using CPAPs who have diabetes, hypertension or atrial fibrillation may get relief that’s as affective as medication.

What is a CPAP and How it Works

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles and tissue in our necks relaxes during sleep, blocking the airway during sleep, causing brief and repeated interruptions in sleep and often, gasping and/or loud snoring.

“The CPAP consists of a mask, a hose and an electronically controlled air pump,” said Chuck Hanisch, RRT, BS, Avera Home Medical Equipment Clinical Manager. “Air is pressed into the airway, keeping it open and allowing breathing throughout the night.”

Getting the proper pressure setting, along with the right type of mask and proper fit all important parts of the process.

“Not all snoring is obstructive sleep apnea, and not all apneas are the same,” Hericks said.

Sleep Tests and Getting Your CPAP

Start with an appointment with your primary care provider or a specialist like a cardiologist or pulmonologist. If your doctor orders a sleep test, there are two possible types::

  • A formal, comprehensive sleep lab test, done in a clinical, inpatient setting.
  • A take-home sleep test using a device that monitors your sleep in your own bed.

Each has advantages. “The inpatient study in the lab allows us to monitor much more than abnormal breathing events during sleep,” Hericks said.

Another advantage of the sleep-lab test is that if you stop breathing during sleep, the monitoring technician can put a CPAP on you that night, in hopes of optimizing treatment pressure.

Home sleep studies are convenient and require no overnight stay in a sleep lab. They record results, and sleep specialists review them. In some cases, the information from the at-home test can lead to a recommendation of a formal, comprehensive in-lab exam, depending on results.

Once the results of a sleep study are reviewed, if a sleep problem is diagnosed, a prescription for the device is provided, and it’s usually filled at a home medical equipment service or store. With your doctor’s orders, home medical equipment can help ensure you know how to properly set the machine for use.

How Success Happens with CPAP Users

Once you get your device, expect some time for adjustment. Some sleepers never adjust to the use of the machine. Others swear by them and report “life-changing” results and a wide range of improvements.

“It’s a mindset,” said Hanisch. “We encourage people to try it while they are awake, watching TV or reading, so they can get used to the way it works and feels.” Give it some time before getting discouraged. Home medical equipment staff can adjust settings on the machine as needed.

The experiences of friends or family – like many things in life – also play a role. Hericks said when a patient has “a buddy” who says he uses a CPAP and it helps, it’s more likely his patient will stick with it.

Learn more about sleep disorders and how Avera sleep medicine professionals can help you.

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