Sleep apnea is commonplace in the United States, even if the person is unaware it is happening. Each pause in breathing, called an apnea, can last from a few seconds to minutes. These breaks in regular breathing patterns may occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour, and sometimes hundreds of times during the night. In each single breathing pause, the brain arouses people with sleep apnea in order for them to resume breathing. As a result, sleep is extremely fragmented and of poor quality.

Symptoms may be present for years without recognition, during which time the sufferer may become conditioned to the daytime sleepiness and fatigue associated with significant levels of sleep disturbance. The National Institute of Health posts that about 18 million Americans, or 1 in 15, suffer from sleep apnea and almost 80% of those affected are ignorant to the fact these breathing pauses are taking place, thus it more often than not goes unreported and undetected.

The Greek word apnea literally means “without breath,” and there are three types of apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. Out of the three, obstructive is the most common. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep. In central sleep apnea, the airway is not blocked but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. A combination of the two conditions is dubbed as mixed apnea.

OSA, which is the most common type affecting 90% of total sufferers, significantly impacts one’s daily routine and can be fatal in some instances. Untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, memory problems, weight gain, impotency, and headaches. Untreated sleep apnea may be responsible for job impairment and motor vehicle crashes. Sleep apnea can be diagnosed and treated. Several treatment options exist, and research into additional options continues.

One such treatment is a Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure System, or CPAP, and has been deemed the most effective treatment for OSA cases.

Mr. Vincent of Your CPAP Mask, an online store that sells CPAP Masks explains:

    “CPAP or Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure is a system that’s designed to help sleep apnea sufferers combat sleep problems. They provide positive pressure in the airways and prevent it from collapsing at the end of the respiration. The mask is usually worn over the nose and is attached to the CPAP device. There are several types of CPAP mask that you can choose from. A user can either choose from a full face mask, nasal mask or a CPAP nasal pillow.”

CPAP is very beneficial in the majority of people who continue using their machines. The system’s pressure can be adjusted to restore normal breathing during sleep.

Some statistics have shown that 1 in 3 patients stop using their CPAP within the first year. The main reasons that patients give for not using their CPAP are inconvenience and discomfort. Most of these problems are solvable by finding a mask that fits properly.

Vincent continues:

    “There are several options for buyers to choose from. They could either choose from a ResMed mask, a Mirage Mask or even a Respironics mask. The problem with CPAP masks however is using the device. Although technological breakthroughs have made these devices user friendly there still exists a general discomfort when wearing a CPAP mask. Most of the problems however can be solved with proper consultation from a health professional.”

Even though a CPAP mask device is certainly the most effective way to tackle sleep apnea, it is extremely important that these masks are considered taking a doctor or a sleep specialist’s professional opinion in mind, as they can help in determining the best comfort option for you and your family.

Written by Sy Kraft, B.A.