Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs when the airway becomes blocked by a physical obstruction. The muscles and tissues of the throat and upper chest may become too lax and sag down into the airway preventing proper respiration from occurring. The muscles that support the airway are collapsible, and many OSA patients suffer from a total collapse of the airway when they sleep.
Positive Airway Pressure Machines
Sleep Apnea machines are widely prescribed; they are the most common treatments for Obstructive and Complex Sleep Apnea. The machines create streams of oxygen rich pressurized air that keep the airway open and free of obstruction during sleep.
Understanding the make-up and functioning of a Sleep Apnea breathing machine is simple. Each model of machine suggested for patients with Sleep Apnea have the same basic composition. The three main components of any Positive Pressure machine are the flow generator, the connective tubing, and the interface.
PAP Machine/Flow Generator: The Positive Airway Pressure machine itself is known as the flow generator. The main component of the machine, the PAP provides a regulated pressurized stream of airflow.
Tube: The pressurized air produced in the flow generator travels through a tube or hose before being connected to the interface. In some accessorized machines, the tube connects to the machine through a humidifier.
Interface: The pressurized stream of air enters the body through the interface. The interface connects the flow generator to the airway of the user; the interface can be a nasal mask, a full facial mask, a lip-seal mouthpiece, or a nasal pillow. Apnea patients will find some interfaces more comfortable than others, and successful machine therapy relies on the comfort of the patient.
Fixed, Bi-level, and Automatic Machines
CPAP: Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), also called fixed airway pressure, is the most common form of breathing therapy; it treats the most common form of apnea, Obstructive Sleep Apnea. The machine produces a constant stream of air at a fixed pressure. The air pressure level remains the same throughout the night, and forces the airway to remain open. There is enough air pressure being pushed into the upper airway to keep the passage open, but the pressure is not high enough to disturb the sleeper.
Bi-PAP: Unlike CPAP machines, Bi-Level Positive Airway Pressure Devices provide two different pressurized streams of air throughout the night. The Bi-PAP machine includes software that can register and analyze the breathing patterns of a patient during sleep. The rate and levels of inspiration and exhalation are recorded and the machine produces a higher level of pressurized air during inspiration (Inspiratory Positive Airway Pressure) and a lower level of pressure during the sleeper’s exhalations (Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure).
APAP: Automatic Positive Airway Pressure machines are auto-titration devices; they are also called “smart” machines. APAP machines automatically adjust the level air pressure expelled throughout the night. The software in APAP machines records changes in breathing pattern and produces an algorithm that duplicates your breathing pattern. The algorithm can tell when your respiratory functions are compromised and it produces more pressure. After normal breathing resumes, the machine reduces the level of pressure. Although these machines are the most accurate and reliable, they are quite expensive.
Additional Features and Accessories
Ramp: Patients who have problems falling asleep caused by the pressurized air often use a ramp. The ramp is used to lower the air pressure for a short period of time; the pressure gradually rises to the suggested pressure preventing sudden arousals.
Mask Liner: Liners for the interface of your mask can help prevent air from escaping around the edges of the mask. Cloth mask liners are popular and also help prevent skin irritation on the face.
Chin Strap: Nasal mask wearers often breathe with their mouths open during PAP machine therapy. A flexible chin strap is made of elastic and can easily keep the patients mouth closed while they sleep.
Altitude Adjustment: Most machines are equipped with manual altitude adjustments. If you travel a lot with your PAP machine, however, it might be smart to invest in a machine that automatically adjusts to changes in altitude.
Humidifier: A humidifier can help reduce dry mouth and nasal irritation by adding moisture to the pressurized air stream with low humidity. The most effective humidifiers use heated water chambers that eliminate the dryness of the compressed air produced by the machine. A heated humidifier is either integrated into the machine through the tube, or it has a different power source altogether.
Data Logger: A detailed event log is a great tool for medical professionals. It makes recording and analyzing your episodes of apnea easier and faster.
Purchasing a Machine
Online: Purchasing PAP machines online is quick and easy. If you know what you’re looking for, simply enter it into a search engine and explore the results. Shopping online is perfect for Sleep Apnea patients that stay home most of the time, or can not get around easily.
DME: Your doctor will be able to refer you to a DME (Durable Medical Equipment) provider in your area. DME specialize in selling home medical equipment and will be able to help you figure out what types of PAP are right for you. Meeting with an informed DME provider will allow you to test your options before you purchase them; reducing the likelihood of dissatisfaction.
Issues with Sleep Apnea Machines Includes:
Test Sleep Apnea at Home
WatchPAT: The Watch-PAT 100 is an FDA approved portable diagnostic device for testing and analyzing sleep used by Sleep Apnea patients at home. This device is quickly becoming the preferred method of diagnosis for people with sleeping disorders because they can do it in the convenience and comfort of their own bed. Because Watch-PAT 100 is used at home, it can record the actual sleeping habits of a patient in their own environment. The device is worn on the hand and records Peripheral Arterial Tone (PAT) and pulse rate. It uses actigraphy, oximetry, and the recorded information identifies Sleep Apnea events. Many people prefer this machine over waiting for a polysomnography.