Sleep apnea is a condition that causes sufferers to stop breathing repeatedly while sleeping, causing frequent awakenings during the night and many other symptoms of poor sleep quality. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is an effective treatment for many people who suffer from sleep apnea. It uses CPAP masks to help sufferers sleep through the night and can even reduce or eliminate the symptoms and negative health effects sleep apnea can cause.
So, if you think you might have sleep apnea, you might be wondering how you can get yourself a CPAP device to help you sleep better. To get a CPAP device, you have to be diagnosed with sleep apnea by a sleep doctor, who will then decide if CPAP therapy is right for you and your treatment plan. That means you'll need to be given a CPAP prescription by your sleep doctor.
Let's break down the steps you should take toward getting a CPAP prescription and how it all works.
Do You Need CPAP Therapy?
The first thing to do if you think you need CPAP therapy is to get a sleep apnea diagnosis. That starts with recognizing the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea and then engaging a sleep doctor for a diagnosis and a treatment plan.
What Are Some Warning Signs for Sleep Apnea?
There are a number of symptoms caused by sleep apnea, and the severity of this disorder varies from mild to severe. Here are some warning signs to look out for:
- Very loud, persistent snoring
- Waking up repeatedly during the night
- Choking or gasping for breath
- Stopping breathing repeatedly during sleep
- Poor sleep quality and difficulty falling back asleep
- Frequent trips to the bathroom during the night
- Waking up with a dry or sore throat
- Waking up with a headache
- Daytime sleepiness and lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, and mood changes
What can make sleep apnea tough to spot is that many of these symptoms can happen without the sufferer realizing it. That's why it's often a sufferer's partner who first spots the warning signs!
Think You Have Some Sleep Apnea Symptoms? Here's What's Next
Simply spotting one or more symptoms or signs of sleep apnea is not enough for a diagnosis. The next step is to consult a sleep doctor.
After consulting with you and looking at your medical history, your sleep doctor will perform a sleep study. During the study, you'll spend a night in a sleep lab being monitored and observed closely. The sleep study technicians will note how many times you stop breathing and wake up during the night—these are called "apnea events." Sleep apnea can only be properly diagnosed by being observed in a sleep study like this.
Understanding how many apnea events you experience during a given period of time will show your sleep doctor how severe your case of sleep apnea is. Your sleep study will also help your sleep doctor determine what type of sleep apnea you have—in other words, exactly what is causing you to stop breathing repeatedly while sleeping. That will also help your sleep doctor put together the right treatment plan for you, and they will decide whether CPAP therapy should be part of your treatment.
What Are the Different Types of Sleep Apnea? Is CPAP Therapy Good for All of
There are two main causes of sleep apnea, and there are three main types of this disorder.
1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
OSA is the most common type of sleep apnea. It happens when a physical obstruction blocks airways during sleep, causing apnea events.
CPAP therapy is well-known to be an effective treatment for OSA sufferers, and many patients experience better sleep quality and overall quality-of-life using properly administered CPAP therapy.
2. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)
CSA is less common than OSA, and it happens due to a communication issue inside the central nervous system, hence the name. Basically, the signals the brain sends to the body to breath get mixed up, so the message is never delivered.
CPAP therapy can be effective for some CSA sufferers, but it only treats the symptoms and doesn't cure the disorder. Many times, sleep doctors will focus on treating the other conditions causing the CSA using medications and other therapies.
3. Mixed Sleep Apnea
Mixed sleep apnea, also called complex sleep apnea, is simply a mix of both OSA and CSA happening at the same time. It can sometimes happen for people being treated for OSA using CPAP therapy—they can develop CSA symptoms during treatment.
Right now, there's no truly effective way to treat mixed sleep apnea, but often, patients can set their CPAP devices to the lowest possible air pressure setting that keeps their airways open while avoiding the development of CSA symptoms.
The Bottom Line? It's Up to Your Doctor
No matter what type of sleep apnea you may have or the severity of your case, the only way to get a CPAP prescription is to visit a sleep doctor, perform a sleep study, and follow your doctor's prescribed treatment plan.
If you do begin CPAP therapy, be sure to stay informed on the latest in CPAP news and compliance. Aside from developing soft breathable CPAP mask liners to help those with sleep apnea rest, we at RemZzzs also share our expert insight into getting the most out of your CPAP device. If you'd like to stay up to date on CPAP news and compliance, subscribe by clicking below.