The word CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. This refers to therapy that allows a person to breathe consistently and comfortably throughout sleep, by providing mild air pressure to a person’s upper airway.
CPAP machines are most commonly used to treat sleep apnoea, a sleep disorder which occurs when your throat is partially or completely blocked while you sleep, resulting in pauses in breathing. CPAP machines work to help avoid these pauses and stops in breathing.
By improving your breathing while you sleep, CPAP machines help you get a longer, deeper sleep.
CPAP: A Short History
Apneic symptoms were first medically identified as ‘Pickwickian Syndrome’ in the late 19th century, with research focusing on obesity as a key cause. Continued research throughout the 20th century shifted sleep apnoea research towards disordered breathing.
Dr Colin Sullivan, an Australian physician, is credited with the invention of the CPAP machine. It was created as a more effective and less invasive solution than the previous go-to treatment, a surgical procedure called a tracheotomy.
Sullivan’s research eventually led to his initial creation in the 1980s. This consisted of a breathing masks, hoses and a type of vacuum cleaner engine. Since then, CPAP machines have evolved with improvements in technology and advances in research, resulting in the effective and versatile machines of today.
How it Works
The machine consists of two main components; a sleeping mask and a machine.
The machine pushes air through a tube, to the mask and into your lungs as you sleep. CPAP masks come in various forms, including nasal, pillow, and full face masks. The varied selection of mask types means that you are able to find a solution that is comfortable and effective.
When it comes to the machine itself, there are fixed pressure, auto variable pressure, and travel machines. As with the varying forms of CPAP masks, these machine options allow for sleep specialists to decide on the most effective method of CPAP therapy for a particular person.
To learn more about the CPAP machines available, check out our post outlining everything you need to know about buying a CPAP machine here. (Link)
Should You Look Into CPAP Therapy?
It is absolutely crucial to treat sleep apnoea effectively, as it can increase your risk of diabetes, stroke, memory lapses, and headaches.
CPAP is the most effective and most popular treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea. In some severe cases, sleep apnoea can briefly wake you up over a hundred times a night. Sleep apnoea generally affects people who are overweight, snore, are middle aged and/or have a genetic predisposition.
It is estimated that sleep apnoea affects approximately 5% of the Australian population, with an estimated one in four men over the age of 30 affected. The sleep disorder may be affecting your life if you feel any of the following:
- Constant tiredness
- Decreased cognitive function
- Snoring is impacting your relationships
- Health issues unexplained by physicians
- Negative or inconsistent mood
These are just a few of the many symptoms associated with sleep apnoea. If you think you might be at risk, take our free online sleep apnoea test to see whether you should consult a specialist.
The Sleep Health Foundation. (2019). CPAP – Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. [online] Available at: https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/cpap.html
Patel, R. (2014). A Quick and Easy Guide to the History of CPAP Therapy | CPAP.com Blog. [online] CPAP.com Blog. Available at: https://www.cpap.com/blog/the-history-of-cpap-therapy/
Sydney.edu.au. (2013). Professor Colin Sullivan – The University of Sydney. [online] Available at: http://sydney.edu.au/medicine/people/academics/profiles/colin.sullivan.php
Betterhealth.vic.gov.au. (2019). Sleep apnoea. [online] Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/sleep-apnoea
(This blog post is an extended version of the ‘What is CPAP?’ page, found on the Blooms Camden website.)