Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, therapy is considered the most effective way to treat moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA); yet not every patient adapts to it easily. Here are adjustment tips and alternatives to CPAP.
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The American Association of Sleep Technologists (AAST) says that the compliance rate among people prescribed CPAP therapy is about 60 percent. That means nearly one-third of patients abandon the therapy after a few weeks or months. The average CPAP use is four or five hours a night, and not the recommended seven-and-a-half hours.
Reasons for CPAP Noncompliance
Among the most common reasons people abandon their machines are persistent discomfort, allergic-type responses, and noise.
Adjustment to forced air: The CPAP machine uses a hose and mask attached to a machine that delivers forced air to the mouth and nose. This prevents the airway from collapsing intermittently during the night. Some people have a difficult time adjusting to greater air pressure. The AAST recommends ramping the pressure up gradually.
Ill-fitting mask: Some patients report a claustrophobic sensation when wearing their mask. This often occurs because the mask is too tight or does not fit properly. It can take some trial and error to find the right fit or mask type.
Stuffy nose: Leaky, poorly fitted masks can dry out your nasal passages. A CPAP with a humidifier and a heat option can help some patients breathe more easily.
Dry mouth and throat: If you breathe through your mouth while sleeping, CPAP can alleviate snoring but make dryness worse. Sleep specialists recommend a chin strap to keep your mouth closed or experimenting with different types of masks.
Allergic reaction: Some patients report feeling allergic to the CPAP mask. This is usually caused by infrequent mask cleanings, according to the AAST. Make sure you clean your mask and hose as directed. True allergy cases may arise if your mask is an old version made with latex. A CPAP mask allergy will usually appear on the first night it is worn, so make sure to contact your sleep specialist immediately if you experience a reaction.
CPAP noise: Newer machines are much quieter than older versions, but everyone’s noise tolerance is different. If your CPAP is keeping you awake, ensure the air filter is clean or speak to your sleep specialist. You can also try sleeping with earplugs or a white noise machine.
Unconscious mask removal: It is not uncommon for new CPAP wearers to pull their mask off during sleep. Often the problem is related to congestion. Consider a humidifier to keep your nasal passages moist or a chin strap to keep your mouth closed.
Oral Appliance Therapy as a CPAP Alternative
For those having a difficult time adjusting to CPAP devices, oral appliance therapy is a highly recommended alternative or adjunct. This mouthguard-type device repositions the tongue, jaw, or both to keep the airway open.
- It can be used alone for those with mild to moderate OSA
- It helps many people adjust to the CPAP machine
- It can replace CPAP therapy for those who are unable to adjust despite their best efforts
- It is ideal for travel
If you would like to learn more about CPAP alternatives, contact our Glen Burnie Sleep Apnea Dentist office for solutions that may help you get the restful night’s sleep you deserve.