Medical studies have revealed that approximately 4% of all middle aged men and 2% of women have some form of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea has been defined as a series of breathing cessation episodes during sleep that are caused by blocked or collapsed pharyngeal tissues in the airways that results in its victims having significant interrupted sleep. The most popular form of treatment for sleep apnea is the application of an apnea machine or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure device (CPAP), which is a small compressor that exudes air through tubing and a small face mask to open up the blocked airways. Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea sufferers usually snore excessively, experience significant day time drowsiness and lack of energy, and are often overweight (which can cause the throat tissues to collapse). Untreated sleep apnea can lead to serious health problems. Sleep apnea causes its victims to not receive proper amounts of oxygen to the body as a result of the blocked or collapsed airways. Over the long term, this lack of oxygen puts undue pressure on the heart which can result in increased blood pressure, palpitations, or stroke. Thus, it is very important to address any potential airway blockage issues, such as snoring, with a doctor before long term damage is done.
Unfortunately, statistics show that 80% of sleep apnea cases go undiagnosed in the United States. The main reason being because most sleep apnea sufferers believe that it is “normal to snore” and that nothing can be done to treat the condition. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, just small lifestyle changes can have an immediate impact on eliminating or lessening the condition such as: losing weight, not using certain medications, and avoiding the supine position while sleeping. If these changes don’t improve the situation, the application of an apnea machine may be required.
How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
If your Doctor suspects you have sleep apnea, you will be asked to go to a sleep laboratory for testing. Typically, the testing requires a two night stay. The first evening is used to determine if sleep apnea is present. While a person sleeps, a polysomnography computer uses various electronic patches, which are attached to the body that can determine if the episodes of breathing cessation are occurring. In the event a confirmation of sleep apnea exists, then the person will be asked to stay the next night, where they will use a apnea machine while they sleep to see if the apnea condition can be remedied.
One of the indicators that sleep labs look for in determining the severity of a persons sleep apnea is the number of terminations in breathing that are taking place (apnea) and the declines in airflows that cause sleep arousal (hypopnea). These disturbances are summarized on an hourly basis and referred to as the apnea-hypopnea index (or respiratory disturbance index). Medical studies show that if a person has over 15 of these disturbances in a one hour period, that long term mortality rates are increased and that they are more subject having secondary heart related issues.
Apnea Machine Options
An apnea machine uses very specialized air pressures to open up blocked airways and tissues. An apnea mask, which is attached to the nose, mouth, or both receives the air pressure from the apnea machine and delivers to the blocked airways. It is important to note that there are many different types of apnea masks and that it is essential to have a comfortable one (studies show CPAP compliance drops significantly if the mask is uncomfortable). Unlike like apnea masks, there are only a few different models of apnea machines and most operate under the same principle. The most popular, the CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) delivers a constant, steady airflow to its users.
However, for some CPAP users, the constant flow of air can become uncomfortable and not allow them to exhale properly. For these people, “smart CPAP’s” have been created to allow for various levels of air pressure. In fact, these “Bi-level” apnea machines are called BiPAP’s or Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure devices. A BiPAP apnea machine gradually uses increases and decreases air pressures so that its users can better tolerate airflow. As one would suspect, a BiPAP apnea machine is more costly than a CPAP because of the technology requirements needed to moderate air flow pressures but it certainly has been proven to help people who are having air pressure issues with CPAP Therapy.