Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
CPAP devices are designed to treat "obstructive sleep apnea" (OSA). Many millions of people in North America suffer from this condition that impedes the breathing process while sleeping. Obstructive sleep apnea prevents the sufferer from getting a good night's sleep and causes snoring, choking or gasping and sometimes a short cessation of breathing while sleeping. The main cause of these symptoms with obstructive sleep apnea is that the airway is either partially blocked or completely closed off restricting airflow to the lungs. The blockage of the airway is often caused by weakened muscle tone in the throat but can also be caused by an over sized tongue or excess tissue in the throat.
CPAP devices, as the name implies, provide airway pressure to keep the airway open and make breathing easier and regular. The amount of pressure provided by CPAP is adjustable and the correct settings will be prescribed by your doctor or a respiratory therapist.
Some people have a problem getting used to having a constant pressure exerted on their throat while trying to sleep and can not tolerate CPAP. People who have this intolerance to CPAP can be prescribed what is known as a bi-level therapy device. These Bi-level machines sense the user's breathing and provide higher pressures during inhalation to open the airways and lower pressures while exhaling when the airways are less likely to be a problem.
A CPAP machine is basically a air pump that has different settings for providing the best results. To use the CPAP device the user wears a mask while sleeping that is connected to the CPAP device by an air hose. There are many different manufacturers and designs of masks and choosing the best product for the user's needs should be a joint decision with a medical professional who is familiar with these products.
The masks and tubing used with CPAP devices are relatively inexpensive. They will need to be cleaned regularly and replaced occasionally.
The use of CPAP devices is usually long term but because the use is only needed while sleeping others will have no idea a person is using them. The benefits of getting a good night's sleep far outweigh the aggravation of being tied to a machine while sleeping.