If you’ve ever slept around someone else, chances are you’ve probably heard sleep apnea – even if you’ve never heard of it. Sleep apnea is a fairly common sleep disorder that often causes loud snoring. A little, light snoring is perfectly normal, but with this condition, you’ll know it when you hear it.
If you can hear you parents snoring from down the hall, they’re probably affected by sleep apnea. If your partner’s snoring shakes the walls, she or he probably has it. If your grandmother’s snoring can be mistaken for the sound of a Mac truck, she likely has this condition.
The sound of very loud snoring can be both annoying and disruptive to everyone else. However, sleep apnea can have much more serious for the person affected. Aside from waking up with a mildly sore throat and experiencing a much less restful sleep, those affected risk death every time they close their eyes. The disorder causes them to stop breathing in their sleep – the snoring is actually a result of the body struggling to breathe.
Luckily, there’s a cure: CPAP machines. CPAP machines are special machines that help a person to breathe continuously throughout the night. It is the only way to treat this condition. Keep reading for more information about sleep apnea and how CPAP machines fix it.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
The general condition is caused when a person stops breathing in their sleep, and the body attempts to take in more air. There are actually three different types of sleep apnea. Each one describes the reason why a person’s breathing is interrupted:
- Central sleep apnea: a less common form of the condition, in which the brain doesn’t send the right signals to the muscles needed for breathing.
- Obstructive sleep apnea: the most common type, this is caused when the throat muscles relax and block the airway, making it hard or impossible to breathe.
- Complex sleep apnea: a combination of central and obstructive, this one can be the most difficult to treat.
Risk factors that increase your risk of developing this condition include your age, sex, weight, and drug and alcohol use.
Older people – men in particular – are most likely to get sleep apnea. The risk only increases in those who are overweight or take sedatives or other depressants. Unsurprisingly, smoking also dramatically increases your risk as well as many other health and breathing problems.
Strokes and heart disorders also put you at a higher risk, and unfortunately, sleep apnea can also exacerbate these and other health conditions.
How Do CPAP Machines Work?
CPAP machines are the best treatment for sleep apnea. They work by increasing the air pressure in the throat while a person sleeps. In this way, they keep the airway open and unobstructed.
Most machines come with a mask that fits over the nose and straps around the forehead and under the ears. The mask is connected by a hose to the machine itself. This pumps a continuous stream of air through the mask and down the airway.
Some people find the masks to be bulky and uncomfortable. Also, the noise the machine makes can sometimes be as disruptive as the snoring. However, with a little time and patience, life with a CPAP quickly becomes more comfortable than without one.
Today’s models are more comfortable, quieter, and easier to travel with than older models, and the technology only continues to improve. For those who absolutely can’t stand a CPAP, there are other airway pressure devices out there – the most common one being the BPAP machine. Unlike the CPAP, the BPAP provides the user more pressure on the inhale and less on the exhale.
Some people also have luck with certain mouth guards that pull the jaw forward and open the airway, but these are usually only effective in very mild cases of sleep apnea.