Woman with sleep apnea

Continuous positive airway pressure machines (CPAP) are medical machines that are primarily used for respiratory conditions such as sleep apnea/sleep apnoea. They are useful in other health problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder or excessive snoring. They are also used as a transition device to help people who have been intubated to get off the ventilator and back to their normal breathing.

The machine consists of a rectangular shaped box with tubes that travel in and out. These tubes are plugged into a face mask that is snugly fitted onto the face over both the nose and mouth to form a good seal. Air travels in and out of the mask under pressure helping the person breath. It is often used at night for those with sleep apnoea or snoring problems.

Sleep apnoea is a common problem that interrupts the normal breathing pattern during sleep. The airway collapses at night when the neck muscles relax thus causing an obstruction. The CPAP machine helps to maintain the airway passage such that this does not occur. The machine is usually carefully calibrated beforehand such that the pressure values would suit the person. There are many specialist sleep study centers that can help to monitor the airway pressures and detect sleeping problems.

A CPAP machine
This is what a CPAP machine looks like

Sleep apnoea is a serious unrecognised problems and can take a toil on a person’s social and psychological well being. It can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, and it is associated with health conditions such as high blood pressure. CPAP machines can help to alleviate these problems but there are some downsides. The machines can be quite noisy and can interrupt sleep at night. It also takes a period of time to adapt to the constant air pressure at the beginning. The other problems associated with CPAP include irritation to the eyes and throat, so regular moistening or alternatively a humidifier is required.

Recent CPAP machines are much quieter and are easier to carry around. Some models are designed to be portable and can be carried on to a plane. Newer models can specifically detect when the user is breathing and increase pressure only when required.

Prices vary widely according to type and although early adjustments are required, it provides a safe and effective approach in the management of snoring and sleep apnoea. These machines help people to regain their energy and improve effectiveness and memory throughout the working day. The benefits can vastly outweigh the initial discomfort.

Resources for additional reading:

Long-term Use of CPAP Therapy for SleepApnea/Hypopnea Syndrome

Objective Measurement of Patterns of Nasal CPAP Use by Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The Use of CPAP Machines in Snoring and Sleep Apnoea