By Brian Acton
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines can help people overcome issues with sleep apnea, giving them the ability to get their proper levels of oxygen and achieve a better quality sleep. But if you’ve only seen them in passing, you may be wondering how a mask connected to a motor can possibly help anyone get better rest.
The technology behind CPAP machines is actually fairly simple to understand. Here’s what a CPAP machine is, how it works and how it can help people with sleep apnea get a better night’s sleep.
Who CPAP Machines are For
CPAP machines are designed to treat people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition in which an individual repeatedly stops and starts breathing during sleep due to an obstruction in their airway. It frequently occurs when your throat muscles relax too much during sleep and block the airway, causing you to wake up with a gasp or a snort throughout the night.
Frequently, people with OSA may not even be aware they are experiencing it. But signs of sleep apnea include snoring, frequently waking up during the night, and tiredness during the day.
If you suspect you have sleep apnea, you can consult a sleep specialist. They may send you to a sleep center, where specialists monitor your sleep breathing patterns and oxygen levels to see if you have OSA or another sleep disorder.
Anyone can develop sleep apnea, but risk factors include excess weight, high blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes.
What CPAP Machines Are
There are many different brands and types of CPAP machines on the market, but they all use continuous air pressure to help individuals with OSA breathe as they sleep. CPAP machines typically are made up of the following components:
- CPAP Motor: a small compressor that draws in room temperature air and pressurizes it before delivering it to your airway. The motor contains a filter that removes impurities in the air. Some CPAP machines have heated water tanks that provide moisture to the air so it doesn’t dry out your airway.
- CPAP hose: the hose is a simple tube that connects the CPAP motor to the mask, and carries the air to your airway. It is long enough to easily reach from a bedside table to your face.
- CPAP mask: CPAP masks come in many different types, and the individual can choose which one is most comfortable. They come in several shapes, sizes, and variations.
How CPAP Machines Work
When the CPAP machine is set up, the motor will draw in room temperature air to pressurize it to the settings determined by your sleep specialist. The pressurized air is then delivered through the hose to your CPAP mask. This air is continuously delivered to your airway as you sleep.
This constant flow of pressurized air creates a cushion that keeps your throat muscles from closing and blocking your airway. Your breathing will normalize, your oxygen levels are maintained, and you get a better quality sleep as you will no longer wake up gasping for air.
In the long term, CPAP machines can help you improve the quality of your sleep and remove the negative health effects of poor sleeping habits. If you suspect you may have OSA, it may be time to see a sleep specialist and see if a CPAP machine is right for you.