Do you have a loved one whose incessant snoring keeps you awake? You don’t have to suffer sleepless nights forever! In this article we’ll answer the question “how does a CPAP machine work” and how it can potentially save your life!
Surely you’ve seen old people in movies wearing CPAP machines while they sleep. But the idea that using a CPAP is just for the elderly is a stereotype.
CPAP machines help anyone who struggles with sleep apnea or snoring, no matter their age! But how does a CPAP machine work?
Understanding the answer to this question can help you feel more comfortable and confident in using one. It’s also helpful when suggesting it to a loved one who snores! Keep reading to learn how they help.
What is a CPAP Machine?
CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. CPAP machines are also called sleep apnea machines and sleep apnea masks. They’re personal and portable so you can keep yours by your bed.
The point of the machine, frankly, is to keep you alive while you sleep! Those with sleep apnea struggle to breathe and can even stop breathing altogether during the night.
A CPAP machine keeps the airflow moving throughout your airway via a mask that goes over your mouth and nose or, a simple nose piece. This stops the apnea (cessation of breathing) from occurring leaving you well rested in the mornings and avoiding the serious health complications associated with sleep apnea.
History of the CPAP
The original CPAP machine was developed over a number of years by Dr. Collin Sullivan, an MBBS, Ph.D. and FRACP. His goal was to make a machine that would successfully and safely treat obstructive sleep apnea via forced air.
Dr. Sullivan faced a lot of issues in product development. Since there wasn’t yet a common, noninvasive treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, sleep doctors didn’t have many patients to observe.
His clinic didn’t have enough patients to test his ideas consistently and effectively. He really had to pick and choose his test subjects conscientiously.
Then, in 1980, he found a perfect candidate with severe sleep apnea: Dr. Sullivan had recommended that the man undergo a serious throat surgery to alleviate his condition. The patient refused.
Since he didn’t want surgery, the patient was willing and eager to participate in Dr. Sullivan’s experimental sleep therapy. A noninvasive procedure to help his dangerous condition? It must have sounded so promising to him!
Dr. Sullivan used a nose piece CPAP on the patient. It worked beautifully!
Dr. Sullivan was able to witness the patient sleep deeply and breath normally through the night because of the CPAP machine. Dr. Sullivan was even able to observe the patient in his REM cycle.
Since then, CPAP technology has only improved and advanced. Now those who struggle with obstructive sleep apnea and chronic snoring have a great chance to experience real progress in their sleep health.
CPAP machines are the most common form of treatment for sleep apnea today. Sufferers can get their hands on a personal, portable airflow machine. All thanks to Dr. Sullivan’s work.
How Does a CPAP Machine Work?
In order to understand how CPAP machines work, you must first understand what causes snoring. Some types of snoring that are caused by colds or allergies are temporary and not considered serious or in need of treatment.
Chronic snoring on the other hand is an actual a medical condition with a cause, like obstructive sleep apnea. This is the kind of snoring that can be treated with a CPAP.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea & Chronic Snoring
Obstructive sleep apnea and snoring occur when your throat muscles relax and your tongue slides backwards into your throat. This blocks or partially blocks your airway.
It may just sound annoying and bothersome, but this condition is actually very dangerous. It causes breathing to start and stop throughout the night, but there’s no guarantee that once it stops it will start again!
Sleep apnea is also linked to hypertension, cognitive impairment, heart disease, and stroke. If it goes untreated it can cause serious issues for the sufferer.
Some people seek treatment to alleviate snoring. Some seek it to just sleep better. And some need it to sleep with peace of mind that they’ll wake up again.
This condition is very common among Americans. It is most prevalent in overweight individuals. The likelihood of having obstructive sleep apnea and snoring increases with bot an increase of age and weight.
Suspicious that you might have sleep apnea but not sure? Here are some common symptoms to keep an eye out for:
- Loud snoring
- Waking up throughout the night (sleep interruptions)
- Daytime fatigue
- Morning headaches
- Dry mouth
- Nighttime heartburn
- Waking up multiple times to use the bathroom (nocturia)
Obstructive sleep apnea and chronic snoring can generally be helped or eased by changing sleep positions and, of course, losing weight. Read more about obstructive sleep apnea and weight loss here.
The most common sleep therapy treatment prescribed to help sleep apnea symptoms is a CPAP machine. You may be surprised how much this little machine could help you!
Air From the CPAP to You
For something that keeps you alive and prevents such serious health effects, your CPAP machine is actually pretty simple. It has a small motor, a filter, a hose, and a nose piece or face mask.
It doesn’t have a big, clunky oxygen tank because it doesn’t use additional oxygen. Your CPAP machine pulls in the air from your room, runs it through the filter, sucks it through the hose, and pushes it into your nose or nose and mouth.
By providing a constant stream of air, you can continue to breathe even if your body stops. The stream of air keeps your airway open so there are no more obstructions. Whether your obstructive sleep apnea is a tongue/throat obstruction issue or a soft palette issue, the constant flow of air can help you out.
It’s a non-invasive and non-surgical method of sleep therapy. It’s also cost-effective, especially compared to surgery, pills, or a life full of sleep studies. You can see why it appeals to millions of Americans!
The CPAP has different options for the part that goes to your face. You can choose whether you want a machine with just a noise piece or one with a mask that covers both the nose and mouth.
The mask completely covers your mouth and nose together. That way you can breath through either your mouth or nose. If you’re afraid the mask would make you feel claustrophobic, go with the simple nose piece.
The nose piece is a thin rubber tube with nostril inserts. You’ve seen them used on hospital patients in movies, right? If you worry that the inserts in your nose would bother you, try the face mask.
If you don’t have a preference, consider asking your doctor. They might have a preference and suggestion about which would be best for your specific condition and symptoms.
What About the Noise?
Worried that the machine would actually keep you up at night with its noise? That’s a valid worry. Because your CPAP runs on a motor, it does make noise when it’s on.
But CPAPs today are much quieter than they used to be. Their design has advanced over the years. Much design effort has been dedicated to making the machine as quiet as possible while still being effective.
Ever slept with a white noise machine in your room? Imagine a noise machine or small fan next to your bed. That’s about the sound level you can expect.
If you’re sensitive to sound during the night, you may be surprised how quickly you get used to it. Don’t let the idea of “white noise” scare you away from trying a CPAP.
You most likely won’t have a problem sleeping with the white noise, most patients don’t. Plus, the forced air from the machine may stabilize your breathing so well that it actually relaxes you.
Most people end up sleeping better than before. In fact, the man in Dr. Sullivan’s 1980 experiment was delighted after the study because he had slept a full night for the first time in years!
Say Goodbye to Restless Nights
If you’re one of those struggling with a sleep disorder, you are definitely not alone. There are options for you.
Thanks to Dr. Sullivan and the scientific advancements made since 1980, sleep therapy now includes CPAP machine technology. You can even have a personal CPAP machine in your own house.
How does a CPAP machine work? Long story short, it pushes air into your airway for you while you sleep. You can potentially stop snoring, end sleep interruptions, be done with daytime fatigue and headaches, and sleep a full night with peace of mind.
As always, we hope you found this article, “A CPAP Can Save Your Life, But How Does a CPAP Machine Work?” both informative and entertaining. If you did, may we ask that you share it with your friends and family through social media. It really helps us a lot and is greatly appreciated!