When Dave Williams fell asleep while stopped at a red light 12 years ago, he had to face up to a problem. "I was falling asleep at inappropriate times," says Williams, then 45, a business consultant in Cordova, Tenn. His doctor diagnosed obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition in which breathing pauses repeatedly during sleep, and symptoms include loud snoring at night and sleepiness during the day.
"People who have sleep apnea typically don't have any problems with their breathing while they're...
“We work very hard to try to get people to be more open to the idea,” he says. “What’s remarkable is, when they try it, they often say, ‘That’s not so bad.’”
There may be some hurdles at first, but they don’t have to be deal-breakers. Once you know what to do, you can sleep well with a CPAP machine.
Get to Know Your Gear
CPAP is short for “continuous positive airway pressure.” When you're one of the estimated 22 million people in the U.S. with sleep apnea, you can stop breathing, briefly, up to 30 times an hour when your airways close or get blocked. The CPAP machine pushes air into your nasal passages to keep them open.
The machine has a pump that controls the airflow, a tube that carries the air from the machine to you, and a mask that goes over your mouth, nose, or both.
Some things about it may take some getting used to:
Masks and straps: If you’ve never slept with something on your face, it’ll probably take some time for you to wear the CPAP mask without thinking about it.
Most modern masks fall in one of three groups:
A nasal mask that goes over your nose
A "nasal pillow mask" that fits under your nose
A full mask, which covers your mouth and nose
Among those three main types, there are other variations, including:
Full-face masks that go over your eyes as well
Nose masks with prongs that go into your nose
As long as the mask is sealed enough so that the air pressure from the tube stays constant, the CPAP will do its job. It’s up to you to find out which mask is most comfortable, and which straps are best to hold it in place. You may have to try a few different types before you find one you like.