CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, a device that keeps your wind tunnel from collapsing during sleep. The CPAP machine works by increasing air pressure in your throat to keep your airway open throughout the night. While CPAP is the most common — and effective — nonsurgical treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, it is also used to treat central sleep apnea and sleep apnea in children. CPAP machines are also commonly used to treat patients who suffer from sleep apnea combined with coronary artery disease.

Wearing a CPAP mask may sound cumbersome, but is often necessary for sleep apnea sufferers to establish a normal sleep pattern. This decreases daytime sleepiness, making you more alert and possibly improving job productivity, concentration and memory. CPAP treatment can decrease the possibility of heart failure in those who suffer from coronary artery disease. Ongoing use of CPAP has also been known to lower blood pressure and decrease anxiety and depression.

Sleep apnea machines are only available by prescription. A sleep study is usually needed to determine whether you have sleep apnea and what type of treatment is best for you. CPAP machines are often lightweight (about 5 lbs.) and usually small enough to fit on a bedside table. The standard CPAP includes a machine, tube and mask. The machine delivers a steady stream of pressurized air into the mask via the tube. This pressure can be adjusted according to patient need.

The fit of your CPAP mask fit is critical — it must create a seal between the mask and face or CPAP will not be effective. Many CPAP masks are now cushioned for a more comfortable fit.

Sleeping with a CPAP mask may take some getting used to — some patients find wearing the mask uncomfortable. It is common to experience mild discomfort in the first few nights of use. Common complaints include CPAP masks that leak air, meaning the mask is not properly sealed and may need to be replaced or refitted.

It’s important to note that CPAP corrects sleep apnea but does not cure it. The CPAP mask must be worn every night for the entire length of the sleep cycle in order to remain effective. Insurance may cover part or all of the cost, depending on the type of machine you use. Check with your insurance provider first before purchasing your CPAP to determine your coverage.
If you think sleep apnea may be causing your daytime drowsiness, get help. A dentist can diagnose sleep apnea and steer you in the right direction for sleep apnea treatment.