Are you trying to decide whether or not it’s worth using CPAP for your sleep apnea?
You’re in the right place!
This page is the most comprehensive guide to CPAP pros and cons for obstructive sleep apnea.
In this easy-to-understand guide you’ll learn:
- The good aspects of CPAP
- The bad aspects of CPAP (what makes CPAP difficult for some people to use)
- Some little-known alternatives to CPAP that are easy and effective
○ Why Do People Hate CPAP?
Nearly 18 million people suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
And CPAP continues to be the most frequently prescribed therapy for people suffering with OSA, with the National Institutes of Health stating that CPAP is the preferred treatment for OSA.
But if using a CPAP is so beneficial, why do so many patients hate their machines and stop using them?
A report from the US National Library of Medicine states that only 30-60% of CPAP users use their CPAP machine nightly. The rest of CPAP patients use their machines sporadically or not at all.
What causes this high rejection rate?
Dr. Ira Shapira, former assistant professor at Rush Medical School-Sleep Disorder Service, cites one main reason that patients hate using a CPAP: the mask must be worn all night, every night.
What a pain!
Other reasons people say they don’t like their CPAP machines include:
1. The mask makes them feel claustrophobic (this is an extremely common problem),
2. Facial irritations and breakouts caused by the straps on the mask,
3. The mask and hose do not allow them to sleep on their stomachs,
4. Difficulty in finding a comfortable sleeping position while wearing the mask,
5. Perceived embarrassment over other people seeing the CPAP equipment,
6. Bed partners object to the machines and the noises they make, even if the noise is not loud,
7. Allergies make using the mask very uncomfortable,
8. The need to take the CPAP along when traveling away from home.
And on and on…
While some of these reasons may sound trivial, they are very real to CPAP users and serious obstacles that keep people from using their machines.
Most of the complaints with CPAP equipment focuses on the difficulty and frustration of using the mask, the main element in CPAP treatment.
The best CPAP mask for sleep apnea has a snug fit over your nose and mouth to deliver pre-measured, CPAP-pressurized air down your airway. This is how the system keeps your upper airway from collapsing while you sleep.
But surely CPAP has some benefits? Let’s take a look…
○ CPAP Benefits
The Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at Columbia University reports that regardless of which type of sleep apnea you have, when you follow your doctor’s prescribed CPAP usage schedule, you’ll have fewer sleep apnea episodes.
One big benefit you’ll enjoy if you’re able to wear your CPAP equipment for a whole night is the ability to experience a full night of quality sleep, free of apnea episodes.
And that’s the goal: a night’s sleep without any apneas (i.e. stoppage of breathing). Because when you’re apnea-free, you’ll enjoy these health benefits:
● Improved cardiovascular function
● Decreased hypertension
● Reduced risk of onset diabetes
● Reduced risk of stroke
● Elimination of daytime drowsiness
● Better mental clarity and concentration
● Increased life expectancy
So again, if using CPAP eliminates sleep apnea, which results in so many positive benefits, why do so many people choose not to use their machines?
Keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for many health conditions.
Because we are all individuals, our bodies react differently to medical treatments. And that’s especially the case with sleep apnea.
So some people respond well to CPAP treatment, while others find it a nightmare. Here are some of the typical problems reported by CPAP users (you’ll want to think about these when deciding which sleep apnea treatment is best for you)…
○ CPAP Machine Cost: Don’t Forget These Important Tips
One question we often hear from our readers is, “What’s the cost of various CPAP models?”
It’s helpful to understand that the costs of these machines vary quite a bit, and that insurance may help offset the cost. So it’s difficult to provide an exact CPAP cost…
When trying to determine CPAP machine options, you’ll probably start with the price of the machine. CPAP machines run from $400 to $2,500, depending on the features included with them.
You’ll also need to calculate the costs of keeping the machines and parts clean, as well as regular costs for supplies, but those costs are minimal compared to the cost of the actual machine.
- If you’re looking for cheap CPAP machines, make sure you look into having your health insurance plan help you pay for the unit. You may find that your insurance company will pay for any machine your doctor recommends. Or the insurance may only help you pay for the machine if you pick a certain brand and model that the insurance company recommends.
- If you want a particular unit that your insurance won’t cover, you may have to pay for it out of pocket. Depending on your deductible, you may want to consider paying out of pocket to obtain a cheaper CPAP machine. Online shopping for these machines is an option for a cheap CPAP machine.
- And don’t forget to look at used CPAP machines. One form of used CPAP machine that some insurance companies prefer is renting the machine. One reason insurance companies prefer rentals is to ensure the machine works for you. Rather than going through the expense of purchasing a new machine, you’ll test it first to see if it is compatible with your apnea symptoms.
If you’d like advice on which CPAP machine to choose, here are some of our favorites:
1. Best Regular CPAP Machine (Best At-Home CPAP Machine) – ResMed AirSense 10 CPAP Machine
Those seeking a strong all-around CPAP machine for use primarily at home will appreciate the extensive feature set of the ResMed AirSense 10 CPAP machine.
Our favorite aspect of the ResMed AirSense 10 is its built-in humidifier. Where many CPAP machines offer a humidifier as an add-on piece, which increases the size and cost of the unit, the AirSense 10 doesn’t need the add-on piece. You also can control the level of humidity this CPAP machine delivers with nine different settings levels.
The AirSense 10 can adjust the air flow automatically to deal with apnea events, providing increased air pressure as needed. Users can also adjust the level of air pressure that’s delivered during exhalation and inhalation, finding the right mix between comfort and performance levels for individual users.
2. Best Travel CPAP Machine – Respironics DreamStation Auto CPAP
During our testing of various CPAP machines, one of the biggest challenges we encountered is finding a unit that has the proper size for traveling. Most CPAP machines that provide a full set of features are full size units. And smaller units usually don’t deliver the top-end features.
That’s why the Respironics DreamStation Auto CPAP machine stood out to us. It is about 25% lighter than a typical CPAP machine with a footprint that’s about 15% smaller than average.
But Respironics didn’t skimp on the features. One of our favorite aspects of the DreamStation Auto CPAP machine is its ability to deliver data about your sleep through a smartphone app. The unit’s display screen is great for taking a quick look at the apnea events you may have had.
Additionally, the DreamStation CPAP has a heated tube that delivers humid air, making it more comfortable to sleep with this unit than with a dry-air CPAP machine. But this is an add-on piece.
3. Best Portable CPAP Machine – Apex Medical XT Fit CPAP Machine
The portability of the XT Fit grabbed our attention immediately, as it’s small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. But there are also plenty of great features available with this machine.
During testing, we never felt like we were missing significant operational aspects with the XT Fit. Sure, it’s not as powerful as some other CPAP machines – such as the Apex Medical XT Auto machine we’ll discuss next – but it has all of the important basic features in a small body.
One of our favorite features of the Apex Medical XT Fit is the ability to gradually increase the delivered pressure as you fall asleep. This makes it easier to fall asleep, but you’ll then receive the stronger air pressure from the CPAP machine once you’re asleep.
4. Best Auto CPAP Machine – Apex Medical XT Auto CPAP Machine
For those who want a CPAP machine that provides plenty of easy to use, automatic features, the best unit we’ve found is the Apex Medical XT Auto CPAP machine.
When sleeping with the machine at night, the XT automatically adjusts the air pressure it delivers to give the user the best performance level. During testing we found that some sensitive sleepers may find the automatic adjustment of the air pressure wakes them. But we felt like this great feature outweighed its drawbacks.
Additionally, the Apex Medical machine automatically adjusts its performance level based on the altitude at which you’re using it. And it automatically drops the pressure it delivers when the user is exhaling, which is another feature aimed at improving comfort.
For those seeking a humidifier with their CPAP machines, the Apex Medical XT offers this feature as an add-on purchase.
5. Best BiPap Machine – Respironics DreamStation Auto BiPap
If you’re interested in a BiPap machine, our favorite is the Respironics DreamStation Auto BiPap.
This DreamStation includes a Bluetooth connectivity option, allowing you to track your sleep patterns and the machine’s performance with a smartphone app. This is a great feature for those who want to be able to control their therapy a little more, as the DreamStation tracks many different aspects of your sleep patterns.
Like the DreamStation Auto CPAP machine we discussed earlier, the DreamStation BiPap has a small footprint, which is great. Its operational features are similar to the DreamStation Auto CPAP machine.
The DreamStation’s price is higher than a comparable CPAP machine, unfortunately, but that’s typical for BiPap machines. And the humidifier is an add-on piece, which greatly increases the size of the unit.
A BiPap machine operates in a similar manner to a CPAP, other than it uses a prescribed pressure level for inhalation (called the ipap), and it uses a lower pressure level for exhalation (called the epap). People who struggle to receive the desired results with CPAP machines may want to check with their doctors to potentially be switched to a BiPap machine.
○ CPAP Problems
Over the past two decades, federal health organizations, medical clinics, and medical centers at prominent universities have examined and tested CPAP use by sleep apnea patients.
These organizations agree that CPAP is supposed to be a painless treatment, but they also agree that CPAP is not flawless and has many “compliance” problems.
Common Problems You May Experience With CPAP:
■ Trouble getting used to the CPAP mask. One of the most common problems suffered by CPAP users is the discomfort and claustrophobia that comes with sleeping with a CPAP mask.
In fact, in one Mayo Clinic article, it’s reported that most new CPAP users have trouble getting used to wearing a mask while sleeping. For some people, it takes weeks or months to get used to the mask. Other can’t get used to it at all and give up on CPAP treatment.
■ Leaky mask. As mentioned in a report from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, one frequently stated problem with a CPAP is a leaky mask. If your mask leaks, the amount of air pressure you receive may not be adequate.
■ Bad mask fit. Finding a CPAP mask style that correctly fits snugly on your face can be difficult, whether you use a mask for just your nose or mouth, or have a nose and mouth combination mask.
■ Dry or stuffy nose after wearing a mask. Some machines have heated humidifiers to prevent this problem. You can also use a nasal spray before putting the mask on.
■ Very dry mouth. If you sleep with your mouth open, the forced air pressure does add to a dry mouth situation. Using a chin strap to keep your mouth closed while sleeping can help.
(If you're interested in straps, make sure to check out the research we've done to find the best CPAP chin strap).
■ Annoying noise made by the machine.
■ Having to manually clean your CPAP equipment on a regular basis. If you don't clean the CPAP machine and related equipment daily, dangerous bacteria can build up inside the mask and hose.
The best solution to the slog of manually cleaning your CPAP equipment is an automatic CPAP cleaner, such as the SoClean CPAP Cleaner and Sanitizer. Make sure to check out SoClean CPAP reviews before investing in this kind of machine.
Of course, you may only experience one, two, or none of these problems, or you may experience a different problem. Most of these issues occur while you’re getting used to your CPAP – but some people never get used to these problems.
Now that you know about the pros and cons of using a CPAP, there’s another point of interest that you need to consider, and that is the risk of potential side effects.
Not everyone will have a side effect, but it’s important for you to know what some other users have encountered.
○ CPAP Side Effects
Side effects are possible dangers that can occur with almost any type of equipment or medication. This is also true with CPAP machines.
Some people adapt to CPAP without any problems while others may develop negative side effects from either the intake of forced air or from materials inside the CPAP.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, some of the side effects from CPAP usage include:
♦ Congestion, sneezing, nosebleeds, sinusitis, and a runny nose. These effects can sometimes be alleviated if your CPAP has a heated humidifier.
♦ Stomach discomfort and bloating can result from an incorrect air pressure setting. Your CPAP specialist can re-adjust the pressure setting to eliminate these side effects.
♦ The feeling of suffocation or claustrophobia. This is a difficult side effect to overcome with CPAP use, but can be treated with cpap alternatives.
Other side effects reported by Columbia University and the Sleep and Health Journal include:
♦ Sore chest muscles. This is a common result of having a more open lung capacity after years of decreased breathing ability. The soreness may subside as your body adapts to its new ability to handle more healthy levels of air intake.
♦ Facial skin rashes, abrasions, sores, acne-ulcers, and pinkeye. These are the usual side effects resulting from air leakage. Changing to a newer, cloth mask can help you get relief from some of these issues.
♦ Development of tinnitus from the noise made by the CPAP machine. If you experience this side effect, talk with your doctor about changing the style of your CPAP to a more modern system that may not require the use of a mask (see the CPAP ALTERNATIVE section that follows).
♦ Development of bronchitis and respiratory infections. These side effects can be due to incorrect or infrequent cleaning of your CPAP equipment. Following the manual’s maintenance guide can help to prevent these conditions.
Ready for some alternatives to CPAP?
You’ll be happy to know that there are many natural remedies for sleep apnea, sleep apnea devices, and (a last resort) surgeries that you can turn to if CPAP is not for you.
Many of these alternatives have been proven in clinical trials to cure (or significantly reduce) sleep apnea…
○ CPAP Alternatives
By now you might be asking yourself:
“Do most doctors prescribe CPAP therapy because it’s really the “gold standard” in effectively treating OSA…
Or do most doctors prescribe CPAP therapy because they think it’s the only effective treatment?”
It’s a great question. And the answer, in our experience here at Apnea Treatment Center, is that many doctors simply don’t know about alternatives to CPAP.
And even if they did know about new treatments, what incentive would they have to prescribe them – when CPAP manufacturers make billions of dollars a year (and their profits are growing)?
The fact is, there are many choices available for sleep apnea treatment without CPAP. In the section below we touch on a handful of those alternatives, including home remedies for sleep apnea, sleep apnea devices, and several types of surgery.
Home Remedies for Sleep Apnea:
Over the past decade there has been a lot of research into alternative therapies for sleep apnea that can be done at home.
Many of these treatments are easy, safe, inexpensive, and effective (and they’ve been proven in clinical trials to eliminate or reduce sleep apnea).
The most exciting type of at-home sleep apnea treatment is sleep apnea exercises.
What Are Sleep Apnea Exercises?
These aren’t calisthenics! Sleep apnea exercises involve exercising the muscles around your upper airway or your diaphragm. And one particular type of exercise focuses on fixing the way you breathe.
The key difference between the different sleep apnea exercises is the type of exercises used to strengthen your breathing-related muscles.
Remember: the underlying cause of obstructive sleep apnea in most sufferers is weak muscles in the upper airway…
When you fall asleep, your throat muscles aren’t strong enough to keep your upper airway open – which is why your throat closes and you stop breathing so many times during the night!
Sleep apnea exercises cure this – by strengthening the muscles of your upper airway.
We cover the 5 main types of exercises below:
1. Mouth and throat exercises for sleep apnea are hands-down the best new sleep apnea treatment we’ve seen here at Apnea Treatment Center.
This therapy (also called “oropharygeal exercises”) is a natural way to help you to:
a. Strengthen your upper airway muscles so they remain open when you are sleeping,
b. Strengthen your tongue muscles to prevent your tongue from sliding backward into your throat during sleep.
Mouth and throat exercises consist of facial exercises that you can easily do at home, and have no side effects. This type of therapy has been tested in various clinical trials, and has been proven to cure (or significantly reduce) obstructive sleep apnea.
2. Singing exercises for sleep apnea are similar to mouth and throat exercises, but involve (you guessed it!) singing specific songs. The songs are meant to work your vocal chords and tone the muscles around your upper airway.
3. Didgeridoo therapy for sleep apnea involves playing an ancient Australian wind instrument called a didgeridoo. By blowing into the “didge” (as it’s called for short), you’re also strengthening your airway muscles.
4. Yoga exercises for sleep apnea strengthen your diaphragm, which can increase your breathing function and reduce sleep apnea symptoms. As a bonus, yoga has also been proven to reduce stress, and can even help you to lose weight!
5. The Buteyko breathing technique for sleep apnea is a different twist on sleep apnea exercises.
The inventor of the Buteyko technique (Dr. Konstantin Buteyko) originally invented the technique for asthma, which it has been proven to cure. He subsequently started applying it to sleep apnea, because he felt the cause of sleep apnea was the “incorrect” way that many people breathe. The Buteyko method is meant to correct this “hyperventilation” of breathing.
Sleep Apnea Devices:
A sleep apnea device is simply a piece of equipment you can buy to help reduce your sleep apnea symptoms. Here are some of the more popular devices:
Sleep apnea pillows can be purchased over-the-counter and are specifically designed to keep you from sleeping on your back (because that position increases pressure on your airway).
Sleeping on your back also encourages your tongue and uvula (that tiny bell shaped piece of tissue at the back of your soft palate) to slide backwards, which can block your breathing.
Prescription dental devices (also known as a dental appliance for sleep apnea), as noted in a University of Maryland Medical Center report, are designed by a dentist or orthodontist to prevent your tongue from shifting backwards and blocking your throat during sleep.
Inspire is a new device that requires an outpatient procedure to implant a generator and a breathing sensor lead to activate the device. The device monitors your sleep breathing patterns and, when needed, sends a mild stimulation signal to key airway muscles to keep your airway paths open.
Provent consists of two small disposable nasal patches that are attached into each nostril using hypoallergenic adhesive. Using your body’s own inhalation and exhalation, the device enables your airway to remain open during sleep.
Sleep Apnea Surgeries:
Nevertheless, if you have an anatomical problem that is causing your obstructive sleep apnea, surgery might be the best option for you.
Here are a few of the most common types of sleep apnea surgeries:
Nasal surgeries correct obstructions within your nose that target three main areas: the septum, the nasal valve, and the turbinates.
Turbinates are a network of vessels, bones, and tissue that work to filter, warm, and hydrate the air that comes in through your nasal pathways. If they become swollen, you’ll be congested all of the time and you’ll have difficulty in getting sufficient levels of air.
Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (which thankfully has an acronym, UPPP) removes any excess tissue you might have within your pharynx and soft palate.
The pharynx is located at the rear of your mouth where it intersects with the top of your throat. The soft palate is located in the back portion of your mouth’s roof area.
This section of your upper airway is a site where obstructions commonly occur. UPPP surgery will keep this area open and prevent any further collapsing in the back of your mouth.
○ Wrapping Up
You now have a treasure trove of information that will help you decide whether to use a CPAP or to try another avenue to manage your OSA!
If you’re currently on a CPAP treatment regimen, don’t stop or reduce your routine until you’ve discussed other options with your sleep apnea doctor.
(Looking for more alternatives to CPAP? Give this list of new sleep apnea treatments a try!)
To read the article related to this video please click this link: CPAP Alternatives We’ve Got You Covered!