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CPAP Therapy: Everything You Should Know

By Kyle Kirkland
If you have trouble breathing at night due to sleep apnea, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine may help get you the sleep you need.

Sleep apnea is a condition that interrupts healthy breathing during sleep. One commonly-prescribed option for sleep apnea treatment the use of a CPAP machine, which sends pressurized air into your airway in order to restore a healthy oxygen flow. Here is what you need to know about CPAP therapy.

What is CPAP Therapy?

CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure, and a CPAP machine uses a mask to provide a constant stream of pressurized air while you sleep. This pressurized air helps keep your airway open so that you can breathe properly, get healthy sleep, and snore less. 

“These machines are used to push air through the throat to keep the tongue forward (out of the airway) and prevent the tongue from obstructing the airway,” Nancy Addy, DDS, Diplomate, American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

CPAP devices are commonly used to successfully treat sleep apnea. They can be an important intervention, as untreated sleep apnea is associated with health issues such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeats or heart attacks
  • Depression and anxiety

Who is CPAP Therapy for?

A 2020 article published by the Annals of the American Thoracic Society reports that CPAP therapy is the predominant treatment method for obstructive sleep apnea. In obstructive sleep apnea, breathing is physically blocked while you sleep by improperly-relaxed muscles of the throat or mouth. 

“The purpose of CPAP therapy is to help decrease the number of events (times where you awaken from sleep due to breathing problems) for a person diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. The goal is to keep the tongue out of the airway so that adequate oxygen is delivered to the lungs,” Addy says.

Mayo Clinic notes that CPAP therapy can also be used by people with a rarer form of the disorder known as central sleep apnea. 

There are different types of CPAP machines, so you have options to make sure you find one that’s right for you. Mask types range from full face devices that cover your mouth and nose to smaller ones that just go over your nose. There are also machines with humidifiers that prevent your nose and mouth from drying out.

Think you may have a sleep disorder? Start your journey to more restful sleep TODAY.

Untreated sleep disorders can negatively affect your physical and emotional health. Sleep testing can help you get the answers you need to receive the treatment you deserve. WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.