What Sleep Apnea treatments are available?
There are several treatment options available for Obstructive Sleep Apnea. The more common treatments are:
- CPAP therapy
- Lifestyle therapy including lifestyle changes like weight loss, smoking cessation, positional therapy and improving your sleep hygiene
- Oral appliances therapy
The ‘gold standard’ treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea is CPAP therapy. That is because research has shown this to be the most effective treatment for most Sleep Apnea sufferers.
So what exactly is CPAP therapy?
CPAP therapy is a safe and non-invasive treatment and consists of 3 main parts – an air pump, a mask and a tube that connects the two. Sleep Apnea is a sleeping disorder whereby a sufferer’s breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep. This happens when the upper airway collapses preventing airflow into and from the lungs.
How CPAP works is that the air pump provides air pressure via the tube and mask into the throat, keeping the airways open while you sleep. Receiving enough airflow during your sleep means your brain will not jolt your body awake to breathe, and you will not experience disruptions through the night when you sleep.
CPAP is an ongoing treatment and is designed to work straight away. The best way to get an effective therapy with CPAP is to persist at using it every night when you sleep. If you stop CPAP therapy, the symptoms you used to experience will also start coming back very quickly.
How many types of CPAP devices are there?
There are 2 main types of CPAP devices.
As you can probably tell, an Automatic Pressure device means the device can automatically adjust the pressure to be pumped through the tube. This is designed to be intuitive and can thereby adjust the pressure based on how much you require at each point.
A fixed pressure device means that a fixed air pressure is programmed, so it will pump a fixed pressure of airflow through the tube. This pressure setting will be determined during your CPAP Trial and under your Respiratory and Sleep Specialist’s guidance.
Another type of device which is less commonly prescribed is known as BiLevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP or BPAP). Like the CPAP device, BiPAP devices are also a non-invasive form of treatment for Sleep Apnoea. They are designed to also keep the airways from collapsing and allow users to breathe during their sleep.
However, the difference is that BiPAP devices deliver two pressure settings instead of one like the CPAP does. In the BiPAP, one pressure setting is for inhalation (IPAP) and a lower pressure setting is for exhalation (EPAP). For some patients on CPAP, exhaling is uncomfortable because the constant pressure makes it difficult for them to breathe against. This is the case especially for those who require high pressures on CPAP. With a BiPAP device, the pressure can be set to a higher setting for inhalation in order to keep the airways open, but deliver a lower pressure during exhalation so the user can breathe out comfortably without feeling like they are fighting against the pressure.
BiPAP may be prescribed for patients who require high pressures but cannot get used to CPAP especially for exhalation. It can also be recommended to patients who require some breathing assistance, or for those who have congestive heart failure and other conditions affecting the heart and lungs.
There is a time and place for both CPAP and BiPAP machines for therapy, depending on your individual needs. If your therapy on CPAP isn’t effectively treating your sleep-disordered breathing, there may be a need to try the BiPAP device. Due to the complexities of treatment, we work closely with the Respiratory and Sleep Physicians to determine the best course of treatment for our patients.
Always remember that one size does not fit all. It’s best to always try a device before you decide to buy and to work closely with your doctor and ourselves to find the best fit for the success of your therapy.
Which is the best CPAP device?
There is no “better” or “worse” device. There is also no such thing as “the best CPAP machine”. It is only dependent on which one is more suitable for you. Some patients may have a more stable condition so a fixed pressure will work well for them. For others, an automatic pressure device will be more suited to them as their pressure needs may fluctuate. And for some, a BiPAP may suit them better as their condition may be more severe or more complex.
Your best bet is to go through a CPAP trial first. During the trial, we will follow up with you weekly and do a download so we can analyse your sleep data and determine which type of device will work best for your therapy needs.
What brands of devices are available?
We believe in using only the best equipment available for our patients. We therefore carry all the CPAP equipment from the major reputable brands to provide patient choice. The choice in brands of CPAP devices and masks are also solely dependent on patient suitability and fit.
Mask fits are especially vital. Using a poorly fitted mask will cause leaks which compromises the effectiveness of your therapy. If air is escaping instead of going into your system to keep your upper airways open, you will not be able to breathe in your sleep despite being on CPAP therapy.
Moreover, using a poorly fitted mask can create an uncomfortable experience for yourself and your bed partner. When your mask leaks and air escapes from the mask, it gets very noisy and can disturb your sleep and your partner’s sleep. The air that is escaping also blows into your eyes, causing discomfort and irritation.
If you are just starting your CPAP therapy, or are interested in changing your mask, do a mask trial first and try various types of masks before you commit to buying one. This ensures you are getting a mask that fits you well and helps you sleep better. Remember that everyone has a different face shape and facial features, which means unless you try the mask on, it will be hard to determine the right size and right mask for you.