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When the CPAP Machine Just Isn’t Helping

cpapTreatment for obstructive sleep apnea is continuously evolving. The first CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines were put to use in laboratories and sleep clinics around the nation as far back as the mid to late 1980s. The devices pump pressurized air through a tube into a face mask worn by the patient at night during sleep. This pressure keeps the airway open during use, promoting easier breathing.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) says CPAP machines are the most commonly used method of treating adult patients with sleep apnea. Some of the side effects they list associated with the use of these devices are headaches, dry mouth, irritated skin and dry/stuffy nose.

The machines have evolved considerably over the decades since their invention. They are smaller, quieter and more comfortable than ever before.

So, if it’s such a popular recommended therapy for sleep apnea, why are 40-60% of those started on CPAP machines completely stopping or drastically reducing their use before the end of the first year? It isn’t because they are cured. Patients are told that stopping or reducing their use of the devices, even for just a night, will cause their symptoms to return usually immediately.

A common reason people stop using the machines temporarily is due to convenience. Even with more portable devices on the market, when going on trips, it’s just seen as a nuisance to carry around medical devices they may feel they don’t necessarily need for survival.

Other reasons people report for discontinuing use are:

  • Noisy
  • Uncomfortable
  • Claustrophobic
  • Sores and rashes caused by the mask
  • Temperature extremes caused by use: sweaty and hot in summer and chilly and cold in winter
  • Feelings of constant wetness due to humidity created by the mask and air
  • Tangling of hose around neck and arms
  • Falls off during sleep
  • Ripped off during sleep due to annoyance

The bottom line for people who just can’t seem to make the CPAP machines work for them is that they are more uncomfortable and restless while wearing the machines than they were trying to sleep with the symptoms of sleep apnea.

That’s not to say CPAP machines are not a great way to treat the condition for some people. With 18 million Americans suffering from sleep apnea, many of them find relief with these devices.

For those that don’t, there are other options. Topeka Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), Dr. Stefania Caracioni, specializes in dental alternatives to sleep apnea treatment and says,

“Sleep disorders left untreated can be life threatening. Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders are more common than you think – 90% of people who have sleep apnea don’t know they have it. The ones that do are often unhappy with traditional treatments and still aren’t getting the healthy and restful sleep they need. One solution we have had amazing success with is oral devices.”

These oral appliances are worn only during sleep and are similar at first glance to a sports mouthguard. Before you rush to the store to buy a football mouthpiece, understand they are more sophisticated than a boil-and-bite solution. They are custom fit to the patient using state of the art equipment. These advanced devices help position the jaw to keep the upper airway open for efficient and improved breathing.

Dr. Caracioni says,

“The key is FDA-approved oral orthotic therapy. FDA approval is very important because it means it’s safe, it does what it’s supposed to, and it’s effective. Most patients feel like a new person after starting this oral therapy. Their quality of life is greatly improved as they are finally getting the sleep they need to have energy and feel good, not only at night but during the day.”

The American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine lists the following advantages of this treatment method:

  • Portable and easy to travel with
  • Easy to care for
  • Comfortable
  • Easy to wear
  • Non-invasive

The best treatment for any ailment is a treatment that can be maintained safely and effectively long-term. For those who are simply unhappy with the traditional treatment for sleep apnea and snoring, there are options out there. The first step is asking the right questions so you can get the answers you need.