The CPAP breathing machine was invented to help people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. “CPAP” stands for continuous positive airway pressure. The machine directs an even airflow through a nasal mask that seals around the nose to maintain the pressure level, which keeps the airways open. This allows the patient to sleep through the night without the multiple episodes of breathing restriction that characterize sleep apnea.
Before a CPAP machine leaves the medical supplier’s store, it will be set to the pressure that was determined during the patient’s sleep study. Additional adjustments may be necessary over time, as the patient’s physical condition changes.
When patients are able to tolerate sleeping with the CPAP mask, they usually experience fewer symptoms of sleep apnea, such as fatigue and daytime sleepiness. Sleeping partners also report that CPAP users snore less, so the partner also sleeps better.
Other Types of Machines for Treating Sleep Apnea
An APAP machine is a more advanced, feature-rich (and more expensive) machine than the traditional CPAP machines. The APAP, or AutoCPCP, will automatically adjust the airflow pressure on a breath by breath basis so you receive only the minimum pressure needed to keep your airway open during sleep.
A BiPAP machine, also called a BiLevel or VPAP machine, delivers two separate and distinct pressures. The higher pressure is delivered when the patient inhales and the lower pressure comes through the mask when the patient exhales. As with the CPAP machine, the pressure is set by the doctor’s order or prescription, and was determined through a sleep study.
Does the CPAP Machine Always Work? CPAP Batteries
Unfortunately, the “compliance” rate is fairly low. This means that the treatment is discontinued by the patient either because of the discomfort associated with the masks, a feeling of anxiety or claustrophobia caused by the mask, or the noise of the machine itself. Some patients have difficulty keeping the masks in place during the night. And some patients feel embarrassed by the need to use the appliance, especially if they’re dating.
If a patient gives up the treatment due to one of these factors, they obviously receive no benefit. When the machine is tolerated by patients, the success rate appears to be fairly high, although finding statistics for non-compliance is much easier than finding statistics for successful outcomes.
Fortunately, for patients with fairly mild symptoms, there are less invasive (and much less expensive) natural alternatives for treating this sleep disorder, so people who cannot tolerate wearing the mask still have viable options.
Why a Prescription is Needed for a CPAP Machine
The specific airflow pressure is set by your doctor, who will carefully review the results of your sleep study. When the machine is purchased, it will be set to the correct pressure, in accordance with your doctor’s prescription. Most health insurance policies will cover the expense of both the sleep study and the CPAP machine, because they are both ordered by your doctor.
The sleep study is needed in order to correctly diagnose your sleep problem, which could be caused by something other than obstructive sleep apnea. If the study finds that you do have OSA, your doctor will then determine if a breathing machine will help reduce your symptoms. He or she will then determine exactly which type of machine would be best for your specific condition.