Is Nasal CPAP Therapy?
Nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is a nonsurgical
treatment that provides a steady flow of air to the lungs through the nose. Nasal
CPAP is a common treatment for those with obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep
disorder that disrupts normal breathing and interrupts deep sleep. It may also help
infants with underdeveloped lungs breathe more easily.
Needs Nasal CPAP Therapy?
Individuals of all ages who have obstructive sleep apnea often
make good candidates for nasal CPAP therapy. Sleep apnea is a chronic condition
that disrupts sleep. Frequent pauses in breathing actually stop the flow of air
to the lungs. After each pause, the body’s natural defenses kick in to start
the breathing again, pulling the individual out of the deep sleep stage.
Some obstruction in the airway typically creates these pauses in
breath. Throat muscles that relax too much to allow normal breathing can block
the flow of air. A large tongue or tonsils may also create an obstruction. A
blocked airway can cause the individual to snort, choke, or gasp. At this
point, the problem tends to correct itself and breathing resumes, only to
become blocked again moments later.
Are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
The corrective periods in between pauses are often so brief that
the individual doesn’t remember them. That’s why in many cases, sleep apnea
goes undetected. Symptoms, however, may include:
- snoring loudly (though not everyone who snores
has sleep apnea)
- gasping or choking during sleep
- feeling irritable, depressed, grumpy, or
impatient during the day
- falling asleep at the drop of a hat, such as
while watching television, reading, or even working
- forgetting things
- having frequent or hard-to-treat headaches
- having morning dry mouth or sore throat
Though sleep apnea may seem at most an irritation, the disorder
can be life-threatening. Without treatment, sleep apnea can increase the risk
- heart attack
- irregular heartbeat
- high blood pressure
- other related conditions
Fortunately, treatment is most always successful at reducing
these risks and restoring sound sleep.
If you see your doctor and receive a sleep apnea diagnosis, your
doctor may send you home with a nasal CPAP device.
Is a Nasal CPAP Device?
People with mild sleep apnea may find relief through simple
lifestyle changes, such as avoiding alcohol, losing weight, and using nasal
sprays or allergy medications. Others breathe more easily with a custom-made
mouthpiece or oral appliance that adjusts the position of the lower jaw and tongue
to help keep airways open during sleep.
Individuals with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea,
however, often require a breathing device called a nasal CPAP machine. This
device blows air into your nose through a nose mask, helping to keep the airway
open while you sleep. A small machine, called an air compressor, is placed on a
bedside table and connected to a tube and mask that fits over your nose. This
machine delivers a steady flow of air through the tube and mask, exerting just
enough pressure to keep muscles and tissues from collapsing and blocking the
Your doctor or nurse will help you choose the mask that best fits
over your nose, and then will adjust the settings on the CPAP machine to the
pressure required for your condition. If you don’t notice improvements after a
week or so, check back with your doctor, as they may need to adjust the
After using the machine regularly, most patients report dramatic
benefits, including the following:
- improved sleep
- less anxiety and better overall mood
- improved concentration and memory
- increased productivity
Are the Complications Associated with Nasal CPAP Therapy?
Though most people get used to using the CPAP machine over time,
others experience problems. These may include the following:
Runny Nose, Earache, or Sore Eyes
These may be due to an ill-fitting mask. An improved fitting can
correct this. A heated humidifier attached to the machine may also help.
Sore or Inflamed Skin
This is also usually the result of an ill-fitting mask, or one
that’s too heavy or improperly cushioned.
Claustrophobic Sensation of Feeling Closed-In
Different types of masks with straps that cover less of your face
Uncomfortable Sensations with Forced Air
The "ramp" feature on the machine allows you to start
with lower air pressure, which can help you better tolerate this sensation. If
this doesn’t help, other machines (called BiPAPs) that automatically adjust
pressure while you’re sleeping may help.
If this problem doesn’t go away after a few weeks, ask your
doctor about a CPAP device that covers both your nose and mouth.
In most cases, working with your doctor to make adjustments to
your device will result in a solution that will feel more comfortable.