Sleep apnea, especially Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). is an extremely common disorder characterized by irregular pauses in respiration during sleep. Sleep apnea is most often treated with the use of a CPAP mask. CPAP’s work by forcing air into the lungs to compensate for any pauses in breathing during sleep.
For sufferers of sleep apnea the very mention of a CPAP can bring up an array of mixed feelings. On one hand the device brings the user piece-of-mind knowing that any trouble with breathing while asleep will be rectified by the continuous pressurized airflow. On the other hand, CPAP’s are often uncomfortable for the wearer and can aggravate feelings associated with social stigmas, or conflict with familiar sleep related behavior patterns.
Why go through the trouble of wearing a CPAP mask anyway? Sleep apnea disorders can have very serious consequences if left untreated. Sleep apnea disorders occur when there are irregular pauses during the individuals breathing pattern while asleep. The person suffering from this sleep disorder may be completely unaware that there is any problem whatsoever. Many times any individual will discover they are risk when searching for information on how to stop snoring, or after being informed by a family member of their snoring problem. During the daytime the symptoms of sleep apnea disorders often manifest as the sufferer feels overly lethargic and sleepy during the day, depressed, irritable, and cognitively impaired.
Extended pauses in the breathing cycle while asleep cause a decrease in oxygen levels in the bloodstream thus the brain and body isn’t properly recharged during sleep. In rare circumstances, sleep apnea may result in the death of the sufferer if breathing does not properly resume. Outside of the obvious daytime symptoms of sleep apnea many potentially fatal diseases are positively linked to untreated sleep apnea. A few diseases linked to untreated apnea includes coronary artery disease, cardiac dysrhythmias, and stroke.
While there are clear incentives for combating sleep apnea in all it’s manifestations, many patients find the use of a CPAP to be intolerable. A few common complaints often voiced by patients include, skin redness and irritation, dry eyes, dry and stuff nose, leaks in the mask, as well as feelings of claustrophobia and general discomfort. Many patients also complain that the feeling of forced air being blown in their face is extremely bothersome.
It’s important to note that not all sleep apnea sufferers experience these side effects of wearing a CPAP mask, and many of these complaints can be mitigated by wearing a properly fitted mask. For example, if your mask is leaking air it’s very likely that your CPAP mask is improperly fitted. Certain complaints such as dry nose, or mouth can be remedied by using a warm air humidifier in the same room as the equipment. If the patient is experience dry eyes as a side effect of CPAP use, an application of eye drops before bed can help significantly alleviate this problem.
Many patients not accustom to wearing a CPAP mask might forget to put it back on after using the bathroom at night, or simply remove it in their sleep. Other patients might believe their CPAP machine is unfashionable and may refuse to wear it for the sake of avoiding embarrassment. It’s possible that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) may be useful in developing new habits to help patients overcome their fear and aversion to CPAP therapy.
This is a contribution by Jeff at Stop Snoring Consumer Reports who’s mission is to spread awareness of the dangers of sleep apnea and snoring.