Adjusting to a CPAP Machine: What to Expect

If you’ve been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you’ve likely heard about continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. It’s been a sleep saver and life changer for many but certainly requires an adjustment period.

Doctors Mark Glyman and Eric Swanson lead the surgical team at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Associates of Nevada. These top-level specialists share their expert perspectives on adjusting to life with a CPAP machine and information about the other therapies available for OSA.

Understanding CPAP therapy for obstructive sleep apnea

OSA, the most common type of sleep apnea, occurs when the muscles supporting your soft palate, uvula, tonsils, and tongue become overly relaxed during sleep. This causes these soft tissue structures to collapse and obstruct your airway.

When your brain senses a resulting lack of oxygen and rising blood levels of carbon dioxide, it startles you awake long enough to take a quick breath or two. These intermittent awakenings can occur from five to 30 times an hour as you sleep but are so brief that most individuals with OSA aren’t aware of them.

CPAP therapy delivers a continuous stream of air that offers just enough positive pressure to lift obstructing tissue away from your airway and keep it open. It’s a highly effective solution for many of the individuals experiencing the health effects of sleep apnea.

Adjusting to CPAP therapy

The air used during CPAP therapy flows from a small bedside machine that’s connected to your face via a hose that, depending on the style you choose, is attached to a nosepiece or a full mask that covers your mouth and nose.

Designed to be worn throughout the night and when you’re napping, many individuals find the mask or nosepiece, the straps holding them in place, and the noise of the CPAP machine tough to endure. There are, however, several steps you can take to help overcome the transition to CPAP.

Newer machines, for instance, are much quieter than older models, but a dirty air filter can increase the noise factor. Changing out the filter as directed can help solve this problem.

Other ways to adjust to CPAP therapy include:

It’s important that you check with your doctor before you stop using the CPAP machine, but other highly effective therapies are available for those who cannot tolerate its use.

Treating OSA without CPAP

The team at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Associates of Nevada offers both surgical and nonsurgical therapies for OSA.

Mild to moderate OSA often responds well to a customized dental appliance called a mandibular repositioning device (MRD). Similar to a sports mouthguard that’s designed for overnight use, an MRD temporarily shifts your lower jaw forward slightly. This holds your airways open so you can breathe more easily.

For a surgical fix, your oral surgeon may suggest a procedure called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty to tighten, remove, or reposition excess and potentially obstructive tissue from your soft palate and throat. If jaw positioning contributes to your sleep apnea, he may recommend orthognathic surgery to correct jaw irregularities.

If you’re struggling with obstructive sleep apnea, schedule an evaluation today at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Associates of Nevada. 

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