According to the Public Health Agency of Canada's Sleep Apnea Rapid Response Questionnaire, approximately 858,900 Canadians over the age of 18 have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. If you're part of the 3% of adults who have been diagnosed, it's very likely that you have been prescribed continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, therapy. And you also know that, if left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to serious health problems, including heart attacks and stroke.
But if you have found CPAP therapy to be difficult, you're far from alone. A study reported in Canadian Respiratory Journal found that many people with sleep apnea who are prescribed CPAP use – in fact close to half of them – either never begin CPAP treatment or abandon it.
If you're thinking of giving up on CPAP treatment (or have already stopped) because you find the CPAP machine uncomfortable or claustrophobic, that shouldn't mean giving up on treatment entirely. Considering how serious the effects of sleep apnea can be, it's very important that you continue to investigate ways to treat your apnea.
Proper Mask Fitting
If your problem is with discomfort from wearing your CPAP mask, the first thing to do is to make sure that you've got the right mask for you. CPAP masks come in a range of shapes and sizes, some covering more or less of your face. Set up an appointment with your doctor to try out multiple masks to see if you can find something more comfortable.
It's also possible for a mask to wear out or become damaged over time. If you have a CPAP mask that used to be comfortable but no longer is, fixing it could be as simple as replacing it. If you've had your mask for a long time, it also may not have the newest improvements in mask comfort, such as gel or foam material that molds to your facial features.
One alternative to using a CPAP machine is getting a custom-fitted oral device from a prosthodontist like Dr Ronald J Shupe Inc. Prosthodontics is one of the nine dental specialties recognized by The Royal College of Dentists of Canada, and it covers, among other things, dental treatments for sleep apnea.
The most common oral device for treating sleep apnea is a mandibular advancement device. This device consists of two trays, an upper and a lower, that fit over your teeth and are worn when you sleep. These trays are connected to each other, shifting your jaw so that your jaw is moved forward.
These devices can be very effective in managing sleep apnea. A clinical trial reported in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine concluded that a mandibular advancement device was just as effective as CPAP treatment for its effects on blood pressure, sleepiness, and quality of life.
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