CPAP Class Helps Sleep Apnea Patients Adjust

Learning how to use and adjust to CPAP machines improves results

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) For many people who suffer from sleep apnea, the remedy can be as problematic as the disorder. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines are used for most patients, which blows air into the upper respiratory tract through a mask worn over the nose at night, to keep the airway open.

Many patients find these masks uncomfortable to sleep in and stop using them, but a new class offered at the Stanford Sleep Medicine Center has shown that learning how to use the devices and personally adjust them has greatly improved patients' use of CPAP machines, and their resulting sleep.

"Learn how to properly use your CPAP machine for best results."

Robert Upchurch, an aircraft-mechanic trainer, was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea last year and put on CPAP. But he had trouble with the machine, feeling that the air pressure was too high and waking up with a dry mouth and sore stomach. He stopped using the CPAP, until he heard about a new monthly class offered at the Sleep Medicine Center to help patients learn how to use CPAP machine effectively.

“At my evaluation at the Stanford Sleep Medicine Center, I woke up in the morning and told the doctors that I had slept well,” Upchurch said. “They said, ‘No, you didn’t.’”

Michelle Cao, DO, a Stanford Hospital pulmonologist who leads the class, lowered the airflow pressure and refitted the face mask on Upchurch's machine. She also showed him how to adjust the humidifier to prevent dry mouth, and gave guidance on diet and sleep schedule to combat sleep apnea.

“I had forgotten what it was like to wake up rested,” Upchurch said. “I could have just walked away from it, but going to that class made a huge difference."

Cao says that while CPAP machines are the gold standard in treating sleep apnea, adherence to the treatment varies from 20 to 80 percent. When patients learn how to use their machines in a way that is right for them, results can improve drastically.

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Review Date: 
July 5, 2011
Last Updated:
July 7, 2011