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How Does a CPAP Machine Treat Sleep Apnea?

CPAP machines have long been considered the go-to solution for treating sleep apnea. With a constant flow of pressurized air, these devices help prevent sleep apnea episodes, ensuring that you can get a full, uninterrupted night’s sleep.

But have you ever wondered how your CPAP machine accomplishes this important function? Here is a closer look at how CPAP machines work.


CPAP mask

CPAP machines were first introduced in 1981 by Dr. Colin Sullivan in Australia. After performing research on dogs with airway obstructions, Dr. Sullivan created a mask that could be used on human patients.

As The Lancet reports, “Air pressure was controlled with a circuit that raised pressure until passive obstruction of the airway was cleared. His first test patient was a 43-year-old construction worker who did not want a tracheostomy—back then the only treatment. At very low pressures, PAP cleared the man's airway and allowed him to sink into a deeper sleep, as well as being sleep-free the next day. An elated Sullivan tried the technique on four other patients.”

Though Dr. Sullivan initially viewed CPAP as a rescue therapy, patients eventually requested being able to use the device to self-treat their sleep apnea at home. This led Dr. Sullivan to develop a portable device for at-home use, which became widespread in Australia by the late 1980s.

Since then, CPAP technology has continued to improve, and new companies have continued to drive innovation in ensuring that individuals with sleep apnea have an effective way to treat their condition.

Basic Principles

Both the CPAP machines first invented by Dr. Sullivan and those that are used today operate on the same basic principles. The device draws in air from the room, which passes through a filter and is then pressurized based on the settings of the CPAP machine. Modern CPAP machines deliver pressure ranging from 4 to 25 centimeters of water pressure.

Tubing and a mask interface deliver this pressurized air from the machine to the patient. The constant flow of air creates a type of air “splint” inside the breathing passages. This keeps the throat from collapsing, while also helping to keep the tongue and uvula from shifting into a position that would block the airways. The flow of air ultimately prevents the vast majority of sleep apnea episodes.

The constant flow of pressurized air also helps reduce the vibrations that cause so many sleep apnea sufferers to snore at night. With consistent use of a CPAP machine, the sleeper can maintain healthy oxygen levels throughout the night and avoid the many harmful health consequences of sleep apnea.

Of course, to achieve the desired results, the right pressure setting is critical. Sleep studies performed by a medical professional are used to determine the severity of an individual’s sleep apnea, as well as what pressure level will be necessary for treatment. While too much pressure can prove uncomfortable, too little will fail to deliver the needed benefits.

BiPAP and APAP Differences

BiPAP machine

Not all patients achieve success with a standard CPAP machine. For example, individuals with central sleep apnea will experience pauses in breathing because their brain isn’t sending the proper signals.

Patients with central or complex sleep apnea will typically use a BiPAP machine, which delivers two distinct pressures. These devices operate on a timed mode, delivering a higher pressure for inhalation and a lower pressure for exhalation. Pressure can also auto-adjust when a pause in natural breathing is detected.

By operating on a timer, the lungs will continue to inflate, ensuring that the body maintains normal breathing.

Automatic CPAP machines take things even further by constantly monitoring a user’s breathing patterns. The device measures airway resistance to anticipate and detect the onset of a sleep apnea event. The device uses these measurements to increase or decrease pressure throughout the night.

CPAP Challenges

If your CPAP or BiPAP device does not seem to be delivering the desired outcomes, don’t give up! Instead, consult with your sleep specialist to determine what the issue is.

Sometimes, you may need to adjust your pressure settings so that there will be enough airflow to keep your throat open throughout the night. Others may have trouble adjusting because they have the wrong type of mask for their breathing and sleeping style. A sleep specialist will help you identify what is wrong and make needed changes so you can enjoy more effective treatment.

It is also worth noting that it often takes a few weeks before CPAP users begin to notice a significant difference from using the device. This doesn’t mean your CPAP machine isn’t working. Be patient and give it time to help you manage your sleep apnea.

Get Quality Sleep With the Help of a CPAP Machine!

It is incredible to think that the basic principles that led to the development of the first CPAP machines continue to prove so effective today. When you are compliant with CPAP therapy and wear a mask that provides a proper fit, you can have confidence that your sleep quality and overall well-being will improve.

Of course, getting the CPAP equipment you need can sometimes prove to be more costly than you would like — particularly if you don’t have insurance to help cover your expenses. No Insurance Medical Supplies was designed with such issues in mind, offering significant discounts on products from leading brands like Fisher and Paykel, Philips Respironics, and ResMed. Free shipping for orders over $89 and available financing can make your purchase even more affordable.

With a CPAP machine, quality sleep is close at hand. Place your order today to start enjoying the rest that you deserve.


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