Monthly Archives: November 2014

Causes and Treatment of Sleep Apnea

sleep-apneaIf you’re concerned that you may have sleep apnea, or have just been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you may be wondering how someone acquires the condition. There are a number of ways a person can develop sleep apnea, including factors both in and outside of their control. The important thing to remember is, regardless of how you came to have sleep apnea, it is a serious medical disorder that requires proper treatment. You may, however, be able to mitigate the symptoms of sleep apnea by making some adjustments to your daily routine. Let’s talk a little bit about how people get sleep apnea and what they can do to manage their condition.

Developing Sleep Apnea

Narcolepsy at workSleep apnea develops when the muscles lining the back of your throat relax during the night. These muscles support the uvula, tonsils, tongue, and the side walls of your throat. When these muscles relax, they constrict your air passageways, preventing you from getting adequate respiration. When this happens during sleep, your brain will sense that you can’t breathe and will briefly rouse you so you can clear your airway and breathe again. You’ll wake up at the onset of the apnea and fall asleep again very quickly and likely won’t remember the event.

It all starts with the muscles in the throat relaxing, which can happen from a number of different causes. People with excess weight will develop fat deposits near their airway which can cause the muscles in the throat to sag, blocking your airway; this is why many people develop sleep apnea after they put on a few pounds. People with thick necks – whether naturally or through weight training – are also susceptible to developing sleep apnea. The muscles in your neck and throat will also start to sag as you get older, which explains why many elderly people have the condition.

There are several other factors that can make you more likely to develop sleep apnea than the average person. Males get the disease more often than women – though a woman’s risk of contracting sleep apnea rises after menopause – and blacks under thirty-five are more likely to develop the condition than other races of the same age. Drugs and alcohol can also relax the muscles in your throat, causing your airway to tighten over time. Tobacco users are particularly prone to developing sleep apnea, as smoking increases the amount of inflammation in your upper airway. Finally, people prone to nasal congestion will already have small airways and are more likely to experience apneas than other people.

None of these factors alone automatically signifies sleep apnea or the absence of the disease: plenty of otherwise healthy individuals simply have small airways while many elderly and overweight people don’t experience apneas at all. The only way to know for sure is to get tested, either by a doctor or with a home sleep study test.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) vs. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

There are two different forms of sleep apnea, and people develop and experience them a bit differently. Most people have obstructive sleep apnea, which affects people with small airways. Central sleep apnea, on the other hand, is a disorder where breathing stops because your brain doesn’t send the correct signals to the muscles in charge of managing your respiration. The factors that affect patients with OSA differ from those with CSA. Central sleep apnea patients often have the condition at birth or may develop it after a serious medical malady, such as a heart attack or a stroke; you won’t develop CSA just by gaining weight or aging. In 99% of cases, when we say sleep apnea, we’re talking about OSA, not CSA.

Managing Sleep Apnea

Depositphotos_7814223_sPeople suffering from sleep apnea can manage their condition by targeting some of the causes of sleep apnea. While you may not be able to make your sleep apnea disappear, you can reduce the severity of symptoms by losing weight, exercising, or abstaining from smoking. Some people see their sleep apnea correlate precisely with their weight gain and weight loss habits while others may never be able to get rid of sleep apnea entirely through lifestyle changes. For these folks, there are other medical options to help manage the condition.

Some people get surgery to open their airway wider. Others may opt for a dental implant in their jaw that helps to regulate their jaw position, which helps to maintain airflow by propping up the collapsing muscles in the neck and throat. Patients with nasal congestion sometimes use nasal pads to help keep their nasal passageways clear. The most common form of treatment, however, is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Therapy

respironics-comfortgel-blue-cpap-maskContinuous positive airway pressure therapy is the most common form of treatment for sleep apnea. CPAP has been doctor recommended for decades and remains the safest and most reliable form of treatment for OSA (CSA can be treated similarly). CPAP therapy works by directing air through the oral or nasal passageway: the positive air pressure helps keep the passageway unblocked throughout the night, allowing you to get an uninterrupted night of rest.

For successful CPAP therapy, all you need is a CPAP machine and a CPAP mask. There are a number of different machines, but each one functions basically the same by pumping positive air pressure. Your machine will be connected to a mask that seals around either your nose or your mouth via an enclosed tube. Air will travel through the tube and into the mask, where it will flow through your passageway, allowing you to breathe normally without waking. It’s a relatively simple mechanism and while it may take some getting used to at first, most people can adjust to wearing their mask at night. For those having a tough time, there are a number of comfort features that can be added to sleep apnea therapy to help make it easier to get adjusted.

Millions of people have used CPAP therapy and have reported feeling much better – just like their old selves—almost immediately after starting. The bottom line is, if you’ve developed sleep apnea, there’s no better way to treat it than continuous positive airway pressure therapy.

Why You Should Use a CPAP For Sleep Apnea

photo for Bre's BlogIf you’ve recently been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you may be looking at a CPAP machine and mask and wondering why you need to use them. ‘Why should I deal with all of this bulky equipment?’ you might ask. You could also be thinking ‘If I already have enough trouble falling asleep, how is trying to wear a mask at night going to help?’ These are good questions, but they are not themselves reasons to delay treating your sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that requires some form of treatment. No matter how you want to target the condition, it’s dangerous to ignore your symptoms and assume that sleep apnea will dissipate over time. While some of the health factors that trigger sleep apnea – such as weight gain or weak neck muscles – can be treated, sleep apnea itself is a serious medical hazard that requires attention. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to cardiovascular problems, liver failure, extraordinary fatigue, and in serious cases, even death. The bottom line is, if you have sleep apnea, it needs to be treated.

What Are My Options

rp_apex-medical-xt-prime-travel-cpap-machine.jpgIf you were just diagnosed with sleep apnea, don’t worry: once you have a diagnosis, fighting the disease is relatively simple and you’ll have no shortage of therapeutic options to treat it. Continuous positive airway pressure is the most common form of treatment — and least obtrusive – but for patients who simply can’t or don’t want to wear a CPAP mask, there are other choices available. Some, like the Provent Sleep Apnea Therapy system, don’t require a significant investment or a complicated medical procedure. While Provent’s system still requires a prescription and costs more over the long run, the nasal strips are easy to use and require less adjustment than CPAP therapy.

Other options present more complications. Oral and neck surgeries can be performed to re-align your jaw or clear room in your airways but these are not guaranteed to eliminate sleep apnea and come laden with the risks inherent in all surgeries. Surgery isn’t without merit and a number of people choose to target sleep apnea with an operation – including Red Sox first basemen Mike Napoli – but the costs and risks associated with throat and mouth procedures steer most people away from that form of treatment.

There are other forms of treatment out there – new solutions for sleep apnea are seemingly invented daily – but still the most reliable way to battle sleep apnea is with CPAP therapy. While cumbersome for some, CPAP’s are safe, reliable, and have a decades-long history of alleviating sleep apnea in patients from all demographics and backgrounds.

What CPAP Does

RespShop-37209-ResMed-AirSense-10-AutoSet-for-Her-1A brief digression into the nature of sleep apnea is required to best explain how a CPAP functions. A person develops sleep apnea when their airways become blocked: for a number of reasons, a person’s airway can become obstructed at night, though usually it happens when neck muscles near the airway sag, limiting the amount of room for air to travel in and out of the body. This inability to breathe is what is called an apnea: people with sleep apnea often experience several apneas per minute, which wakes their brain and makes it difficult to get a full night’s sleep.

Unlike surgery, which targets apneas by treating the underlying cause of the condition, CPAP therapy simply tries to keep your airway open all night. The system is entirely powered by the CPAP machine, which generates an airflow. This air is transported through a hose that connects the machine to your CPAP mask. Pressured air flows into the mask and through your nasal or oral passageways. The continuous – the ‘C’ in CPAP – air pressure forces your passageways open wider, allowing you to breathe much easier. The machine doesn’t do anything to target the core cause of sleep apnea but works to eliminate apneas by keeping your airway open all night.

Vital to this treatment is a highly functioning CPAP mask and machine. For this form of therapy to work properly, your mask must be sealed effectively: if your mask is worn loose enough for air to escape, your therapy won’t be effective. In order for air to flow in strongly enough to open your nasal passageway, you’re seal will need to remain uncompromised all night. Beyond the mask and machine, you can find a number of comfort accessories to make therapy smoother and easier to adjust to. You only really need the mask and machine, however, for effective therapy.

Why CPAP Is Recommended

CPAP therapy has endured as the most recommended way to treat sleep apnea for several decades for a number of reasons. While this form of therapy isn’t right for everybody, millions of people have successfully combated their sleep apnea with a CPAP, a track record that speaks for itself. Beyond history though, CPAP’s offer a cost effective and relatively unobtrusive solution to a serious health condition. Wearing a CPAP mask may take some getting used to, but many patients feel better instantly after first undergoing CPAP therapy. The bottom line is that sleep apnea is a serious medical condition and CPAP therapy is both an effective and highly recommended solution for treating it.

AirSense 10 For Her

RespShop-37209-ResMed-AirSense-10-AutoSet-for-Her-1The AirSense 10 For Her is the most innovative CPAP machine of 2014. The For Her is part of ResMed’s latest line of CPAP machines that debuted back in August and is the first machine ever built to accommodate the specific needs of female patients. If you’re a woman looking for a top of the line CPAP machine, it’s hard to do better than the AirSense 10 For Her.

Women Experience Sleep Apnea Differently

Men and women both experience the debilitating side effects of sleep apnea. In both genders, untreated patients with sleep apnea will snore loudly during sleep and will feel excessively tired and groggy throughout the day. The specific behavior of apneas, however, are a little different in men than women.

In general women have smaller airways than men, which triggers apneas more frequently than men experience them. The narrower airway gives less room for oxygen to flow from their lungs and consequently they have upper respiratory disturbances relatively frequently. Like with men, each disturbance awakens the brain and prevents women from sleeping peacefully throughout the night.

Introducing the AirSense For Her

Knowing that women experience upper respiratory problems more often, ResMed designed the AirSense for Her to target the problem. The event detection algorithm in the For Her machine is built to respond to apneas quickly and aggressively as they arise. Conventional CPAP devices increase pressure by 3 cm H20 after three consecutive abnormal breaths. The For Her reacts quicker by increasing pressure after just one unnatural breath, treating the apnea as it arises. To compensate, the For Her increases pressure by just 2.5 cm H20, so you won’t feel as much of a sudden spike in pressure.

Like in any CPAP machine, the For Her’s event detection software will know when the apnea has ended and will reduce pressure back to your prescribed setting. Frequent apneas are particularly destructive to sleep, and if you experience them often, the instant relief the For Her provides could be a panacea for your sleep apnea.

Premier CPAP Therapy

In addition to the innovative algorithm, the For Her boasts all of the top notch features you’d expect in a modern ResMed CPAP machine. The AutoSet features EPR, a newly designed ramp, advanced data management capabilities, new event detection programs, an overhauled humidification system, a brand new heated breathing tube, large buttons, and an easy-to-learn user interface. All of these, combined with an aesthetic flowery design makes the AirSense for Her the best machine for women on the market.

If you have any further questions about the AirSense 10 For Her, or any of our other products and equipment, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re available in our Redmond office from 8-5 PST Monday through Friday. We can also be reached over the phone (866-936-3754,) on social media, or at our email, sales@respshop.com. We always enjoy talking to customers and sleep apnea patients, and we’ll never pressure you into a sale. Get in touch for your sleep apnea today!

CPAP Tips Explained: Part II

36995-ResMed-Climate-Line-Tubing-1-respshop-disthingOn Twitter, we’ve been using the hashtag #cpaptipoftheday to deliver helpful information to our followers. We’ve been posting these regularly over the last month and like last week, we’d like to expand on a couple of our tips here. Below, we’ve compiled a detailed summary of some of our most recent CPAP tips. We hope they’re helpful!

1. Remove The Water Chamber Before Filling It

For just about every CPAP machine, you’ll want to remove the water chamber from your humidifier before you fill it each night. While some machines allow you to pour water into the chamber without necessitating its removal from the humidifier, by doing so you run the risk of spilling water onto your machine. Since your machine is electric, this could damage the hardware. We don’t feel like the risk is worth it. Besides, if you take the chamber out to fill it with water you’ll get into the habit of washing it regularly.

2. If You’re Still Snoring, Something’s Going Wrong

This one should be intuitive. If you’re using a CPAP and you’re still snoring, your sleep apnea is probably not being treated properly. This doesn’t mean your therapy is ineffective or that your machine isn’t working: perhaps you need to make sure your mask is tight enough or that your pressure settings are correct. Either way, if you’re snoring, something needs to be changed going forward.

3. Nasal Masks Blend Lightweight and Comfortable

Nasal CPAP masks are more popular than nasal pillow and full face masks for a reason: they offer more durability than the former and tend to be lighter and more comfortable than the latter. If you breathe out of your nose and can withstand having a cushion on your nasal bridge, we’d recommend trying a nasal mask for optimal comfort and results.

4. Heated Breathing Tubes Augment Your Humidifier

Many of the newer CPAP machines — including the AirSense and S9 series from ResMed as well as 60 series machines from Respironics — come with heated breathing tubes. These tubes can be attached and used just as easily as a normal breathing tube but they provide warmer air. This helps to battle symptoms like dry mouth and nasal congestion and also permits a soothing breathing experience. These tubes are only compatible with specific machines and humidifiers so don’t buy a ClimateLine tube with a Fisher & Paykel machine!

5. RespShop Carries Supplies and Accessories For (Nearly) Every Mask and Machine

At RespShop, we have all of the supplies you could ever need for your CPAP therapy. If you need a replacement tube, filter, cushion, chinstrap, headgear, side cover, port screw, flip panel, water chamber, gecko pad, SD card, battery charger, or anything else, we have it. We carry replacement parts for all of our machines, masks, and humidifiers, making us the go-to source for all of your CPAP therapy needs. If you’re having trouble finding anything in our inventory, don’t hesitate to reach out to us over email (sales@respshop.com) or over the phone (1-866-936-3754). Get in touch for help with your sleep apnea therapy today!