This week, the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) hosts National Respiratory Care Week to celebrate and promote respiratory health. To do our part to help raise awareness of respiratory health, and sleep apnea in particular, we’re highlighting 10 things you may not know about the most common form of sleep-disordered breathing and its primary treatment: continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy.
1. Eight things are proven to make sleep apnea worse.
More than 25 million Americans are afflicted by obstructive sleep apnea, and there are at least eight things that have been proven to worsen their symptoms: weight gain, alcohol, prescription medications, other medical problems, sleep position, sleep deprivation, smoking and anatomy (e.g., enlarged tonsils, a deviated septum or a smaller-than-usual airway).
2. Sleep apnea is linked with high blood pressure and therefore with heart disease.
Sleep apnea patients experience gaps in breathing, which can lead to an increase in blood pressure as the body struggles to maintain a constant oxygen flow. It would follow, then, that treating sleep apnea helps lower blood pressure—and research backs this up. According to a Swiss study, CPAP therapy reduces both systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure.
3. Sleep apnea may increase risk of gout and arthritis.
Sleep apnea is also linked with gout, which is one of the most common causes of painful arthritis. After following nearly 16,000 patients with apnea for an average of almost six years, researchers found that 4.9 percent of them developed gout, compared with 2.6 percent of those without the disorder.
4. Sleep apnea is linked to depression.
Signs of clinical depression are extraordinarily common in people who have obstructive sleep apnea, but they can be much improved following CPAP treatment. Among sleep apnea patients who adhere to CPAP therapy for three months, clinically significant depressive symptoms remain in only 4 percent.
5. Sleep apnea is often missed in black Americans.
A new study conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital looked at 852 black men and women in Jackson, Mississippi, and found that 24 percent of the study participants had moderate or severe sleep apnea, but only 5 percent had been diagnosed by a doctor. “In other words, over 95 percent of this sample experience nightly stresses associated with periods when breathing stops and oxygen levels fall,” said study author Dayna Johnson. “Asking about habitual snoring and measuring neck size (a risk factor for sleep apnea) can help identify individuals at risk.”
6. Treating sleep apnea can aid recovery of people who’ve suffered a stroke.
People who have suffered a stroke or mini-stroke may benefit from treating their nighttime breathing difficulties with CPAP. Treatment of sleep apnea, which is a known risk factor for stroke, with CPAP therapy has been shown to provide significant benefits for these patients, even greater than the benefits of tPA, the FDA-approved drug treatment for stroke.
7. CPAP therapy can change your life…
When adjusting to CPAP therapy, many patients report feeling frustrated with the adjustments to treatment. However, it can be helpful to remember its many benefits, including relief from migraines, a healthier pregnancy, weight loss and even happier life partners (whose sleep also improves as a result).
8. … if you stick with it.
For all the benefits of CPAP therapy, it’s notorious for poor patient adherence. When 20 years of reported data was analyzed, researchers found that one-third of people don’t stick with the therapy, in spite of advances that include quieter pumps, softer masks, and improved portability. They concluded, “CPAP continues to stand at the top of the treatment modality spectrum for OSA despite the problematic shortcomings described above.”
9. You need to clean your CPAP machine frequently.
As for how often you should clean CPAP equipment, recommendations vary from one manufacturer to the next, but most suggest the same general guideline: Daily cleaning is optimal.
10. Not all cleaning methods are created equal.
If patients clean CPAP equipment regularly using the traditional protocol—soap and water or wipes—there’s a high margin of error, as it’s nearly impossible to adequately reach every part of the equipment or remove all germs and bacteria. Plus, many people don’t want to take the time to thoroughly clean their CPAP regularly. The most effective way to maintain a clean CPAP machine is with an automated device like the SoClean CPAP Cleaner and Sanitizer. Using activated oxygen technology, the machine destroys 99.9 percent of CPAP germs, without water or the need for disassembly.
Are you new to using a CPAP machine? Read our tips and tricks for adjusting to CPAP equipment.