Woman suffering from sleep apneaAt least 18 million people in the United States suffer from a condition known as sleep apnea but it often goes undiagnosed. In fact, one in 50 people who have it do not know it. That number correlates to between 2 and 4% of all Americans. The most common treatments include the CPAP machine, BiPAP machine and CPAP masks.

What is sleep apnea?
It is a sleep disorder where people will stop breathing multiple times during the night. It can be very serious and people who suffer from it are at least three times more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease and it is connected with approximately 38,000 deaths a year. People can stop breathing for up to 30 times a night and these periods can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. It can increase people’s risk for heart disease, stroke, obesity and diabetes.

What are the sleep apnea causes?
There are two types of sleep apnea. The first is obstructive, which is the most common. The throat relaxes in this type and breathing stops. The second less common is central sleep apnea in which the brain does not tell the body to breath.

How is sleep apnea treated?

  1. Continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP machine). People wear a CPAP mask that delivers oxygen at a higher pressure than the ambient air so that the airways remain open. Another option for this type of machine is the CPAP pillow which is a smaller mask. The CPAP mask covers most of the of the face whereas the pillow does not. It is really a matter of personal preference as to which people use.
  2. Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure Machine (BiPAP machine). This is similar to the CPAP machine in that they both require the person wear a mask through which oxygen is delivered at a higher pressure but the BiPAP has more than one setting for the pressure level and can be set for how many breaths per minute the person takes. If they drop below that level the BiPAP will automatically increase the pressure.
  3. Expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP). These are single use valves that are placed in each nostril. When a person exhales the air goes through a smaller opening, thus increasing the pressure and keeps the airway open. These are not nearly as effective as either the CPAP or BiPAP machines.
  4. Oral devices. These can be provided by a dentist and they keep the jaw in a position that helps to keep the airways open. Again the CPAP and BiPAP machines are more effective.
  5. Surgery. If all else fails, surgery is an option. The airways are enlarged via a number of methods. It is considered only after at least three months of another treatment option has been tried and it has failed.

Sleep apnea is really very serious. The reason most physicians recommend the CPAP and BiPAP machines as often as they do is that they really are the most effective way to treat it. Because the machines pretty much force oxygen in, people cannot stop breathing. People with sleep apnea stop breathing a number of times throughout the night for varying lengths of time and the impact on their health can be devastating.