Do your family members complain about your snoring? Do you often wake up groggy or struggle with concentration during the day?
If so, you may have sleep apnea.
Although sleep apnea is common, doctors estimate as many as 80% of cases are undiagnosed.
What is sleep apnea? How is it diagnosed and treated? What is a sleep apnea machine, and how does it work?
In this post, we’ll reveal everything you need to know about sleep apnea and available treatment options.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a common condition that affects at least 9% of women and 24% of men.
This disorder occurs when your breathing gets interrupted during sleep. You may stop breathing hundreds of times during the night, for a few seconds or up to a minute or longer.
There are two types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea results from a blockage of the airway, usually from the soft tissues in the back of the throat.
- Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to signal the body to breathe during sleep.
While obstructive sleep apnea is more common, both conditions produce common symptoms. These include:
- Loud snoring
- Waking up gasping or choking
- Waking up with a sore or dry throat
- Daytime fatigue
- Morning headaches
- Difficulty concentrating
- Decreased libido
While these symptoms aren’t usually serious, the long-term effects of sleep apnea can be. Left untreated, sleep apnea can increase your risk of depression, hypertension, and diabetes.
How Is Sleep Apnea Treated?
The first step in treating sleep apnea is to get a proper diagnosis from your doctor or dentist. Your treatment options will depend on your overall health and the type of sleep apnea you have.
Weight loss and avoiding sleeping on your back are two common suggestions. Avoiding alcohol, cigarettes, and sedatives can also reduce symptoms.
For mild cases, your dentist may recommend a simple oral airway device. This device holds the jaw in place during sleep, keeping airways clear and open.
Moderate to severe cases may require the use of a sleep apnea machine. You may also hear this referred to as a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine.
How Does a Sleep Apnea Machine (CPAP) Work?
The thought of being hooked up to a machine while you sleep may sound intimidating. Although the device does take some time to get used to, the benefits are worth it.
The sleep apnea machine works by pumping carefully calibrated air into your airways. The device straps over your nose and mouth and connects to the machine with an air hose.
Depending on the size of the machine, it may rest on the floor beside your bed or on the nightstand. Air pumps continuously through the night to keep your airways open and give you better sleep.
6 Tips For Using Your Sleep Apnea Machine
If your doctor or dentist recommends that you try a sleep apnea machine, what should you expect?
Here are six expert tips for getting the most out of your CPAP machine.
1. Get the Right Fit
There are many types of masks available with sleep apnea machines. Faces come in all shapes and sizes, so the right mask for someone else may not work for you.
Full face masks cover your mouth and nose and include straps that stretch across your cheeks and forehead. This style is ideal if you move a lot in your sleep.
Other styles feature nasal pillows that rest under your nose and fewer straps across your face. This may help you feel less confined and more relaxed while you sleep.
2. Give It Time
Even when you find the perfect mask, you’ll still need time to get used to wearing it.
Start with short “practice” sessions during the day. Wear the mask by itself while you read or watch TV. Then try attaching it to the machine with the air turned on.
Once you’re used to how it feels, try using your sleep apnea machine during a nap. Finally, introduce it at bedtime, and try to wear it consistently every night.
It may take several weeks before you know if the mask and air pressure settings are right for you.
3. Find the Right Air Pressure
At first, you may notice some difficulty tolerating the feeling of “forced” air.
Most CPAP machines include a ramp feature that adjusts the air pressure over time. You can start with low pressure to help you fall asleep. Automatic settings on the machine will gradually increase the air pressure to your prescribed setting.
If this doesn’t work, talk to your doctor or dentist about switching to a different sleep apnea machine. Some offer more customized options, including variable pressure contours.
4. Keep Your Sinuses Clear
Your sleep apnea machine will include a heated humidifier. You can adjust the humidity level to a setting that’s comfortable for you.
If you notice a dry or stuffy nose in the morning, try a saline spray at bedtime. Continued nasal dryness or sinus problems could be a sign that your mask doesn’t fit correctly.
5. Learn to Relax
If you feel claustrophobic when you slide the mask on, take a few deep breaths.
Begin by placing the mask over your face without fastening any of the straps. Start the machine on a low-pressure setting, then try securing the straps.
Give your mind and body time to adjust to the device. If you still feel jittery, you might try some relaxation exercises to reduce your anxiety.
6. Keep the Filter Clean
Most sleep apnea machines are virtually silent.
If the slight noise bothers you, first ensure the air filter is clean and free of debris. If the machine seems noisier than it should be, have your doctor examine it to ensure it’s working properly.
If the machine is functioning normally and the noise still irritates you, try sleeping with earplugs. You could also invest in a white-noise sound machine.
Final Thoughts on Sleep Apnea
For those who can tolerate it, a sleep apnea machine can do wonders for sleep quality and overall health.
Would you like to know more about CPAP machines or other treatments for sleep apnea?
Contact us today at Dentrix DentalCare to discuss any questions or concerns you may have.