Sleep apnea can be a serious issue. Not only can it be dangerous to stop breathing at night at intervals, it has a long term effect as well as a short term effect. There are two types of sleep apnea – obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type, and it occurs when the muscles in the throat are weak and relax too much during sleep, causing them to collapse. This blocks the flow of air while you're sleeping. It also contributes to snoring, and gasping for breath while sleeping.
The other, not so common type is central sleep apnea. This is caused by the brain not sending the right impulses to the throat muscles to open and close correctly during sleep. Both kinds of sleep apnea cause the short term effects of headaches and fatigue during the day. The long term effects of not getting enough oxygen can be severe, such as a weak immune system, heart disease and dementia.
For moderate to severe sleep apnea, you can use a machine called a BiPAP or VPAP machine, or a CPAP machine. A CPAP machine is used for obstructive sleep apnea, and a BiPAP/VPAP machine is used for central sleep apnea.
What is the difference between a CPAP and BiPAP machine?
CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. Continuous, because there is always a constant flow of air being passed through your windpipe while you sleep. This constant flow helps to keep weak throat muscles from collapsing. The pressure setting you need depends on the severity of your obstructive sleep apnea.
BiPAP stands for bilevel positive airway pressure. This abbreviation was trademarked by Respirionics for their machine that treats central sleep apnea. ResMed has a machine with their trademark VPAP, but it does the same thing. It has two alternating pressures of air that is more appropriate for some individual cases of sleep apnea.
How do I know which machine to use?
Your doctor will most likely want to do a sleep study to monitor your sleep apnea. You can do this in a clinical setting, or at home while a machine records your breathing patterns while you sleep. With the right testing and diagnosis, your doctor will be able to determine if a CPAP or BiPAP/VPAP machine will work for you.
A sleep specialist will determine which setting you need, and help you find the right mask for you. There are several different types of masks used with CPAP and BiPAP/VPAP machines, and they meet certain individual needs.
Using these machines can take some getting used to. You'll need to wear a mask while you sleep, and get used to air going through your windpipe. After you get used to it, you will love how much better you feel during the day, because you got the right amount of oxygen while you were sleeping. You'll feel much more energetic, and you won't need to worry about the long term health effects caused by sleep apnea.