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Understanding the Basics of CPAP & BiLevel Sleep Therapy
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The primary component of any CPAP or BiLevel solution is the sleep therapy device or machine. The machine delivers a steady, gentle flow of air throughout the night to provide you with Postive Airway Pressure (PAP) therapy. Historically PAP therapy devices were large, cumbersome, medical machines that could be disconcerting and loud to live with. In recent years though manufacturer's have revolutionized PAP therapy with smaller, quieter, less medical looking machines. Modern comfort and lifestyle features like heated humidifiers, battery packs, DC power options, heated tubing, pressure relief, clocks and even built in music players have made PAP machines much easier to live with at home and on the road.
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A long tube -- usually 6, 8 or 10 feet -- carries air from your PAP device to a mask that delivers the air to you. Most PAP machines use Standard 22MM Tubing that has universal connectors so any tubing will work with any mask and device. In recent years manufacturer's have begun to add heated and slim 15MM tubing options to their devices. Heated and slim 15MM tubing generally has a universal connector at the mask end and a proprietary, brand specific, connection at the device end. PAP Therapy tubing is semi-disposable. You should clean and inspect your tubing at least once a week to make sure it is clean, pliable, and free of tears. If the tubing begins to look worn it should be replaced to ensure proper therapy is being received.
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Many PAP Therapy users add soft flee wraps, tubing clips, and other accessories to their tubing to create a more personal, comfortable and welcoming sleep therapy experience. Click here to learn more about the latest CPAP & BiLevel Tubing and Comfort Accessories.
Masks are used to deliver the air from the therapy device to you. A comfortable mask is a key factor in being able to use your treatment daily. Therefore, finding a mask that fits your and your lifestyle is important. Most masks have built-in exhalation ports that vent your exhaled air. There are six primary types of PAP masks -- Nasal Cushion, Nasal Pillow/Prong, Full Face, Total Face, Oral, and Hybrid -- with many designs from different manufacturers for each type. Most people describe these masks as "CPAP Masks" however they are all universally compatible with both CPAP and BiLevel Machines.
As with any personal product your own wants and needs will dictate which mask style and design works best for you. Once you have found your "perfect mask," it is important to maintain it properly. Consult your mask manual for proper maintenance and cleaning instructions. Inspect your mask often for wear and tear. If you think it is ready for replacement, contact your homecare provider. If replacement is needed, most health plans provide coverage for a new mask every three to six months.
Nasal Cushion Masks: The most common type of CPAP Mask is the nasal cushion mask which covers the nose and area of the face just surrounding it. Nasal masks are ideal for patients who are comfortable breathing through the nose. If you find you breath through your mouth then consider adding a chinstrap to your nasal mask or switching to an alternative design that allows breathing through both the nose and mouth. Shop for Nasal Cushion Masks.
Full Face Masks: For people who prefer to breathe through both the mouth and nose Full Face Masks are usually the best option. Full face masks deliver therapy air to both the nose and mouth and by necessity they are generally more bulky than nasal masks. Shop for Full Face Masks.
Nasal Pillow Masks: In recent years nasal pillow masks have become increasingly popular due to the minimal contact they require on the face, nose, and nasal bridge. Nasal pillow masks use small cushions, pillows or prongs that are inserted into the nostrils to deliver therapy air directly into the nose. Most nasal pillow mask packages come with multiple pillow sizes so that you can try several at home to find your best fit. Shop for Nasal Pillow Masks.
Hybrid Masks: Another subsection of full face masks is Hybrid Masks. Hybrid masks combine a mouth cushion with nasal pillows to create a full face mask that requires less facial contact and coverage than traditional full face cushion masks. Hybrid masks are a good option for people who experience pain at the nasal bridge or excessive leaking when using a traditional full face mask. Shop for Hybrid Full Face Masks.
Total Face Masks: Total Face Masks are a special type of full face mask that covers the entire face -- including the nose, mouth and eyes -- with a clear shell. The unique design of Total Face masks mean that there is very little facial contact at all from the mask or cushion. Total Face Masks are a good option patients with facial irregularities, nasal bridge breakdown, or claustrophobia. Shop for Total Face Masks.
Oral Masks: For patients who have problems breathing through their nose, or simply prefer to breathe through their mouth, Oral masks provide a good alternative to nasal or full face cushion masks. Oral masks require very little headgear or facial contact and work like a snorkel used in SCUBA diving. Oral masks may lead to excessive throat dryness so a heated humidifier should always be used when sleeping with an Oral mask. Shop for Oral Masks.
ALTERNATIVES TO CPAP & BIPAP THERAPY
While CPAP & BiPAP are the most commonly prescribed options for sleep therapy, they certainly aren't the only ones. If you're unable to get used to traditional PAP Masks and machines, you might want to talk to your doctor about an alternative like Provent Sleep Apnea Therapy. Provent is an FDA cleared treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) -- that DOES NOT require a machine, mask or medications. It is clinically proven to be effective for the treatment of mild, moderate, and severe OSA and it can be a great option for people who just don't like CPAP or who want a more convenient alternative for travel. Shop for Provent Sleep Apnea Therapy.