CPAP therapy is a non-surgical treatment that pushes a steady flow of air into the lungs, through the nose, using a CPAP pillow mask or the basic mouth and nose mask. The nasal CPAP pillow is usually prescribed for people who need a more minimal mask design in order to watch TV or read in bed, or for people who sleep on their stomachs or sides. This type of therapy is effective in treating people with sleep apnea or other sleep disorders that can disrupt normal breathing while sleeping. It can also be used to treat heart disease, respiratory disorders and to treat infants with underdeveloped lungs.
CPAP Pillow: What is Sleep Apnea?
People of all ages who have apnea make good candidates for PAP therapy. Frequent pauses in breathing will stop the flow of air to the lungs and this can occur ten to thirty times an hour. After each disruption, the body’s natural defense will kick in and the user will start breathing again, causing them to become wide awake.
These pauses in breathing are usually caused by some obstruction in the airway. The throat muscles can relax too much, in order to allow regular breathing and this can cause a blockage in the flow of air. When the airway becomes blocked, the individual can gasp, snort or choke. Once this occurs, the problem will usually correct itself and breathing will resume, only to become blocked again a few minutes later.
These periods of correction between pauses are usually so brief that a person will not remember them. This is why in many cases, apnea will often go undetected. The symptoms of apnea usually include choking or gasping during sleep, loud snoring, feeling depressed or irritable during the day, falling asleep easily at work or while watching TV, frequent headaches and a dry throat or mouth in the morning.
While sleep apnea may seem like a mild irritation, studies have shown that this condition can also be life threatening. Without proper treatment, apnea can increase a person’s risk for heart attack, irregular heartbeat, stroke, forgetfulness, hypertension and other related conditions. Treatment for apnea is almost always successful at restoring sleep and minimizing these risks. If you’re diagnosed with apnea you may be sent home with a nasal CPAP pillow and CPAP machine.
How is Sleep Apnea Treated?
People who suffer from mild apnea can find relief through simple changes in their lifestyle, such as losing weight, avoiding smoking and drinking and using allergy medications or nasal sprays. Others can breathe more easily by using a custom fit oral appliance or mouthpiece that works by adjusting the position of the tongue and lower jaw in order to keep the airways open during sleep.
People with moderate or severe cases of apnea will need to use the CPAP breathing device. This machine will blow air into the nose through a nasal CPAP pillow, which helps to keep the airways open while sleeping.
Side Effects of CPAP Therapy
Your doctor or sleep specialist can help you to choose a CPAP pillow mask that will best fit over your nose. The CPAP machine will be set to the pressure that’s required for your specific condition. Should you fail to notice any improvement in your sleep after one to two weeks, make an appointment with your physician, as the pressure settings may need to be adjusted.
After you have begun using the machine regularly, you’ll begin to notice some dramatic benefits, such as improved sleep, a reduction in anxiety and a better mood overall, improved memory and concentration and increased productivity. While most people will get used to using CPAP pillow therapy over time, others will experience some issues. This can include sore or inflamed skin, runny nose, sore eyes or earache, claustrophobia, dry mouth or throat and interrupted sleep.
Sore eyes, earaches and runny nose can be caused by a poor fitting mask and can be corrected with an improved fit or changing to a different style of mask. Using a CPAP machine with a built-in humidifier can also help. Inflamed or sore skin is also the result of an ill-fitting mask.
Some people will have problems getting used to sleeping with the forced air pressure from the machine. The ramp feature on the device will allow you to begin using a lower air pressure, which helps to build tolerance with this sensation. If this doesn’t help and you find that you rarely use your CPAP machine because it’s so uncomfortable, your doctor may recommend using a BIPAP machine, which features two different levels of air pressure, with a lower setting for exhaling.
If you usually sleep on your side or your stomach, sleep experts recommend purchasing a pillow specifically designed to be used with this type of therapy. These pillows will have cutouts, in order to accommodate the machine’s hose. This helps to prevent the mask from being pushed out of place during sleep.