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People with sleep apnea need not suffer anymore. Long gone are the days of only one or two mask options, and loud, noisy and bulky CPAP machines. You can find relief if you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, or think you may have sleep apnea, but do not want to be strapped to a mask that reminds you of Darth Vader.
I have been helping patients with sleep apnea for 20 years and have seen many changes in the equipment. Older devices would take up most of your nightstand, and the machine would keep both you and your significant other awake at night. Or, if you were able to adjust to the noise coming from the machine, you were waking up every hour to readjust your mask because the fit just wasn’t made for the curves and uniqueness of your face.
The machines now are small enough that they can be held in one hand and, when coupled with a good mask seal, are whisper-quiet when in use. There also are many mask options, styles and sizes to choose from. Manufacturers have heard the consumer and agree that one or two sizes do not fit everyone. There are nasal-style masks that are small, lightweight and fit over your nose. There are pillow-style masks that fit just under your nostrils. These are quite small and feel like hardly anything is on your face. There still are the full face-style masks that fit over your mouth and nose, but they now are much more lightweight and look and feel very different than the big bulky masks from years ago.
I understand that the thought of going to bed at night with something attached to your face and blowing air may seem undesirable. Overwhelmingly, I hear from patients they never knew how much they were missing out on. They knew they were tired, and they knew that untreated sleep apnea had many health consequences, but they didn’t know how good they could feel.
Using a CPAP machine can be frustrating at first, but it is important you stick with it. With time and patience, CPAP can positively affect your quality of life and health.
Kara Grottke, R.T., is a respiratory therapist and the director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Mayo Clinic Health System — Red Cedar in Menomonie.