Wearing a CPAP mask to help with sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a long-term chronic condition that robs its sufferers of the sleep they need to live healthy, active lives.

"Untreated sleep apnea can result in a variety of medical issues," says Paul Sweeney, a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) and President of Coastal Sleep, a sleep therapy clinic with six locations in the Lower Mainland. "These include hypertension and other heart issues. Often there are vague symptoms that people experience that they just don't associate with a lack of sleep."

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The primary treatment for sleep apnea is a  CPAP, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine. The CPAP therapy is delivered through a mask that is worn over the nose each night while sleeping.

"The CPAP blows air pressure into the throat and prevents the tongue from collapsing and blocking the airway," Paul says. "The mask models today are more tolerable than they were in the past. If you wore a CPAP mask 10 years ago, you would notice that the difference from then to now is like night and day."

While the idea of wearing a mask every night might seem unappealing to some, Paul suggests you consider the alternative.

"The majority of people are so pleased with the results and the positive affect on their day-to-day life that they see the mask as just a minor inconvenience," he says. "A very small number have existing medical conditions that may prevent them from wearing the mask, and an even smaller number may find they're not responsive to the treatment."

In those cases, patients could consider an oral appliance.

"We work with a local dentist to fit the patient with an appliance that draws the jaw forward,” Paul explains. "It's not ideal for some, as long-term use might affect the patient's bite."

And unlike with an oral appliance, Coastal Sleep is able to offer a complimentary trial of the CPAP treatment to ensure the correct fit and tolerance.

"The oral device would need to be purchased right away," Paul notes.

While surgery, involving the removal of tonsils or any redundant tissue in the throat, is an option, it's not always effective in adults.

"Children and young adults are the preferred candidates for surgery," Paul says. "It has less effect on an older population."

For more information about the variety of CPAP masks available in the Tri-cities area, call Coastal Sleep at 604.279.9066, visit their website or send them an email. There is a Coastal Sleep facility in the Tri-cities area located at 602-2950 Glen Drive, Coquitlam. Coastal Sleep can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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