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What To Expect Before Using CPAP

Before your sleep specialist prescribes CPAP, you'll likely have a sleep study called a polysomnogram (PSG).

You’ll probably stay overnight at a sleep center for a PSG. The study records brain activity, eye movements, heart rate, blood pressure, and other data while you sleep.

What To Expect During a Polysomnogram

Your sleep specialist may suggest a split-night sleep study. During the first half of the night, a technician will check how you sleep without a CPAP machine. This will show whether you have sleep apnea and how severe it is.

If the PSG shows that you have sleep apnea, you might use a CPAP machine during the second half of the split-night study. The technician will help you select a CPAP mask that fits and is comfortable.

While you sleep, the technician will check the amount of oxygen in your blood and whether your airway stays open. He or she will adjust the flow of air through the mask to find the setting that works best for you. This process is called CPAP titration.

Sometimes the CPAP titration study is done on a different night. Your sleep specialist will decide which type of study is best for you and leave instructions with the technician.

What To Expect After a Polysomnogram

Your sleep specialist will review the results from your sleep study. If CPAP will benefit you, he or she will prescribe the type of CPAP machine and the correct settings for you.

Most health insurance companies cover CPAP treatment. You might want to contact your health insurance provider to learn more about your coverage.

Your sleep specialist can refer you to a local home equipment provider. The home equipment provider will use your prescription to set up your CPAP machine. Ask your sleep specialist to recommend a home equipment provider that has a lot of experience with CPAP.

As you adjust to CPAP treatment, continue to work with your sleep specialist. Talk with him or her about how to handle followup questions. Your sleep specialist can answer some questions, but your home equipment provider may need to address others.

Selecting a CPAP Machine and Mask

CPAP units come with many features designed to improve fit and comfort. Your home equipment provider will help you select a machine based on your prescription and the features that meet your needs.

You might be able to use the CPAP unit for a trial period to make sure you're happy with your choice.

There are many types of CPAP masks. The fit of your mask is important, not only for comfort, but also to keep air from leaking out. A mask that fits will help maintain proper air pressure and keep your airway open.

CPAP masks come in many shapes, sizes, and materials. Some fit over your nose and mouth; others cover only your nose. Some masks can be worn with eyeglasses. If you need oxygen, masks are available that have room for an oxygen tube.

You may want to try nasal pillows instead of a mask. Nasal pillows are small, flexible, mushroom-shaped cones that fit into each nostril.

Let your home equipment provider know whether you sleep on your back, side, or stomach. Different types of plastic tubing connect the mask to the CPAP machine. Some types may make it easier for you to sleep on your side or stomach.

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Updated: December 13, 2011