Breath is the source of all life. Without it, we couldn’t survive on this planet. It's so crucial to our physical, emotional, and spiritual health and the health of every plant and animal.
That's why it shouldn't all of a sudden stop when we sleep!
Unfortunately, people with sleep apnea face this reality every night. They go to sleep, not knowing that their breathing ceases for short bursts of time. It may appear to be a minor inconvenience, but it can have severe consequences for your health.
What is Sleep Apnea?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million people in America suffer from sleep apnea. This relatively common sleep condition is becoming a significant health concern across the country.
The three main types of Sleep Apnea are:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Central Sleep Apnea
- Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome (which is a combination of the two.)
Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax. This process narrows your airways, making it harder to breathe properly. Your brain then wakes you sporadically throughout the night to breathe. This frequent disruption is what causes poor sleep.
Central Sleep Apnea is a rarer condition and operates differently than the former. While in obstructive sleep apnea, your brain responds by waking you up to breathe, in central sleep apnea, it does not. Essentially, this means that you're not breathing at all for some time, which can result in waking up with shortness of breath.
Sleep apnea can be quite dangerous for your health if left undiagnosed. It can cause high blood pressure, impaired memory, fatigue, irritability, and can increase your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes.
Sleep apnea is a problem. So what can you do to solve it?
Why do I need a CPAP machine?
CPAP, which stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, is the most common sleep apnea treatment. This device opens your airway passages at night, so you breathe regularly. A machine pressurizes the air around you while a mask connected to the base by a long hose facilitates breathing in the wearer.
Despite the cumbersome mask, the health benefits are well worth the investment. Not only will you sleep better, but you'll be more alert during the day. Also, you'll be at a lowered risk for stroke and diabetes.
So don't mask the symptoms, mask the source.
Choosing a CPAP machine
When deciding which CPAP machine to use, getting a doctor's recommendation isn't enough. It's essential to find one that will accommodate your preferences while still providing for your needs.
But with all the available machines on the market, it's hard to know what you need.
Type of Masks
Your primary concern during the selection process will be your mask. There are three main types to consider.
These type of masks are worn over the nose and look like an elephant trunk. They come in a variety of styles to fit different facial structures. They also work well in high-pressure settings and fit securely during a restless night.
For mouth-breathers, however, they're not ideal because you run the risk of nasal dryness. Nasal masks also won't benefit those with a medical condition, such as a deviated septum, that makes breathing a challenge.
These masks are the most comfortable to wear and the least obtrusive. They're situated on the upper lip, connecting to the nostril by two nasal tubes. People who wear glasses or have a lot of facial hair will find this a reliable alternative.
Unfortunately, these also have some downsides. Like nasal masks, nasal pillows are not the best choice for mouth-breathers, and they don't work well in high-pressure settings. Besides that, the direct air pressure can cause nasal dryness and even nose bleeds.
This final type of mask seems intimidating at first but can be incredibly helpful at night. Full-Face masks cover both the nose and mouth and strap onto the face. It's the preferred mask for mouth-breathers as it sends air through both the nose and mouth. It's also beneficial for people with allergies.
But full-face masks have been known to leak air more than the other covers. It can also be difficult to watch TV or wear glasses due to its shape.
Other Factors to Consider
Although the mask is the most critical factor in CPAP selection, keep in mind these additional features.
Having a humidifier attached to your machine helps prevent dry throat. Ensure your CPAP machine comes with one.
Frequent travelers will need to take their CPAP on the road. Find one that is easy to carry if this is a concern.
Philips Respironics is one of the top CPAP machine manufacturers. Be aware of a company's reputation before you buy to make sure you're getting the best product.
If your mask came off during the night, you'd want someone to tell you. These machines beep to notify you when it starts to loosen. Restless sleepers will benefit from this added feature.
Loud sounds wake us all up. Check the decibel level on your CPAP machine to determine if it's too loud for sleeping.
Like with any product, your best bet is to try out different models. Find what works for you before you purchase something you won't end up using in the long run.
Living with sleep apnea doesn't have to feel like a life sentence. Sometimes, all it takes are a few behavioral changes to make a difference. Other times, it may require the use of a CPAP machine or other device.
Don't let sleep apnea stop you from getting a good night's sleep! You deserve it, and so does your health.
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