By Sue Sarko
If you’ve been diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, chances are you use a CPAP or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine while sleeping at night. It is estimated that 4 million people in the United States use CPAP therapy today, and an additional 35 million Sleep Apnea cases remain undiagnosed.
C-PAP therapy is the most commonly prescribed method for treating obstructive sleep apnea. It works by gently blowing air through the airway at a pressure high enough to keep the airway open. This treatment is regarded as the most effective method for treating obstructive sleep apnea, however, using a CPAP can present certain challenges for the patient.
The Sleep Apnea Association gives patients a grade of C- concerning compliance with CPAP recommendations. Considering the serious nature of the disorder, this is a dangerously low grade. While several factors contribute to low compliance rates, mask discomfort is one of the larger issues. Masks tend to press against the face causing pressure and discomfort. The constant flow of air from the machine can result in dry, cracked skin. CPAP users also complain that they feel restricted to a certain sleeping position and that the hose gets in the way during the night.
Your first step should be to consult with a practitioner about the right type of mask. There are many varieties available. Also, be certain that your air pressure levels are set appropriately and that you are using the right type of CPAP machine.
Once you’ve got the right equipment in place, you might consider looking into the various sleep apnea aids, accessories and pillows that can help patients deal with comfort issues and improve compliance rates.
A sleep apnea pillow, for example can go a long way toward relieving mask pressure against the face, and can also help reduce mask leaks. Hose covers made of soft materials that glide more easily over sheets are available as well. Skin creams applied prior to bedtime each night help keep skin moist and healthy and certain pillows are designed to allow freedom of movement during the night.
Many Durable Medical Equipment (DME)) stores carry C-PAP accessories such as sleep apnea pillows and other aids, or you can check your local bedding and pillow stores.