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Continuous Positive Airway Pressure

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure

This diagram shows the anatomy of sleep apnea (source:

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most common treatment for sleep apnea. For this treatment, you wear a mask over your nose during sleep. The mask blows air into your throat at a pressure level that is right for you. The increased airway pressure keeps the throat open while you sleep. The air pressure is adjusted so that it is just enough to stop the airways from briefly getting too small during sleep.

Treating sleep apnea may help you stop snoring. Stopping snoring does not mean that you no longer have sleep apnea or that you can stop using CPAP.

Any experience with this form of sleep apnea treatment? Share your experiences with other nurses.

Sleep apnea will return if CPAP is stopped or if it is not used correctly. Usually, a technician comes to your home to bring the CPAP equipment. The technician will set up the CPAP machine and make adjustments based on your doctor’s orders.

CPAP treatment may cause side effects in some people. Some side effects are:

  • Dry or stuffy nose
  • Irritation of the skin on your face
  • Bloating of your stomach
  • Sore eyes
  • Headaches

If you are having trouble with CPAP side effects, work with your sleep medicine specialist and technician. Together you can do things to reduce these side effects, such as:

  • Use a nasal spray to relieve a dry, stuffy, or runny nose.
  • Adjust the CPAP settings.
  • Adjust the size/fit of the mask.
  • Add moisture to the air as it flows through the mask.
  • Use a CPAP machine that can automatically adjust the amount of air pressure to the level that is required to keep the airway open.
  • Use a CPAP machine that will start with a low air pressure and slowly increase the air pressure as you fall asleep.

People with severe sleep apnea symptoms generally feel much better once they begin treatment with CPAP. When using CPAP, it is very important that you follow up with your doctor. If you are having side effects, talk to your doctor.

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