This is a continuation of my love/hate series on treatment options for obstructive sleep apnea.
For those of you with severe obstructive sleep apnea, it can be a potentially deadly disease. Your chances of heart attack, stroke, cancer, car accidents and sudden death are significantly higher compared to those of you with mild to no sleep apnea. Before the 1980s, there was no way of treating this condition unless you opted for a tracheotomy (placing a tube through a hole in your neck).
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is now the most common recommendation for most people with obstructive sleep apnea. Without a doubt, CPAP has definitely saved millions of lives so far. However, there are many more millions who would love to be able to use CPAP but find that they just can’t use it no matter how much they try.
Here are the 7 reasons why I like CPAP, and will recommend it as first-line therapy for most people with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea:
1. CPAP has the most evidence
Since being developed by Dr. Colin Sullivan 35 years ago, most of the research and data on the benefits of treatment has been using CPAP. It’s now commonly accepted that CPAP can significantly lower blood pressure, sugar levels, death rates, car accidents, and various other medical conditions.
2. It’s readily available
Because it’s been around so long, it’s the most widely available. Sleep physicians are most knowledgeable and comfortable prescribing CPAP. Our health care system is set up to prescribe CPAP once you’re diagnosed with sleep apnea through your local medical equipment company. Insurance companies approve CPAP with minimal hassles.
3. It can report helpful information
Most of the modern CPAP machines can report important information every night, including the total number of hours used, any significant leaks in the system, and the average apnea-hypopnea index (AHI). In essence, it’s like doing a basic sleep study every night. This data can be used to track progress and do any necessary troubleshooting.
4. Studies have shown that CPAP is consistently better than dental devices or surgery
This is true, but only if you’re able to use CPAP regularly.
5. It’s possible to get immediate benefit without waiting months or years
In an ideal world, it’s possible to get your sleep test within 1-2 weeks and be set up with a CPAP machine within 2-3 weeks total. Dental devices can take longer, and surgery is usually recommended only after you’re not able to use or benefit from CPAP.
6. It’s now much more convenient
CPAP sizes are shrinking, much quieter, and much more user friendly. They also have portable battery packs and for the adventurous, portable solar panels for the battery. Airport security personnels are much more knowledgeable about these devices as well.
7. It saves lives, especially for severe OSA.
Despite all the positive features of CPAP, it’s only as good as the degree it’s used. Many others are able to use it religiously but don’t find that it helps them feel better at all. I will address more these issues in my future posts.
If you’ve had success in using CPAP, tell us your story below.