Using a CPAP Machine to Help Manage Your Sleep Apnea
Medicare Benefits Solutions
Sep 15, 2022
Everyone has a tough time sleeping occasionally, but when you often wake up feeling fatigued, you may be facing a condition called sleep apnea. If you are experiencing sleep issues regularly, you should discuss your concerns with your physician. You might have a form of sleep apnea that can be treated with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.
TIP: Discover all you need to know about Medicare coverage for sleep apnea.
Different Types of Sleep Apnea
If you’re wondering how a CPAP machine works, or how it can help you get the sleep you need, let’s first talk about the types of sleep apnea.
There are three main types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea. It can happen when throat muscles relax too much and obstruct your airway.
- Central sleep apnea happens if the brain isn’t sending the appropriate signals to those muscles that are controlling your breathing.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome or treatment-emergent central sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea.
It is more common for the elderly to experience obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) than it is for younger adults. In fact, 13 to 32 percent of those over the age of 65 are estimated to have OSA in this country. This is most likely because of obesity and physiological changes to the airway’s soft tissue structure in the older age group.
Getting enough sleep can have a direct impact on your overall health. Because OSA has been associated with cardiovascular disease, it’s important to recognize the symptoms so you can get medical treatment if you have it. The symptoms of OSA include:
- Loud snoring
- Repetitive interruptions in breathing and/or gasping for air while you’re sleeping
- Waking up with a dry mouth or scratchy throat
- Headaches, typically in the morning
- Feeling sleepy during the day
- Problems paying attention during waking hours
- Feeling irritable and moody
If you suspect that you have a form of sleep apnea, you should make an appointment with your physician. If you’re diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor may suggest treatment with continuous positive airway pressure therapy. CPAP is the first line of therapy recommended by physicians to treat sleep apnea and one that is covered by Medicare.
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What is CPAP Therapy?
Continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, is a type of therapy that helps prevent the symptoms of OSA that we’ve listed above. It provides a constant level of air pressure that helps open your airways, eliminates snoring, and improves your sleep cycle so you wake up feeling refreshed rather than exhausted.
A CPAP machine sends pressurized air to your airways through the nose and throat. A long tube runs from the CPAP machine to your face mask which you wear while you’re sleeping. There are different types of face masks, but it must cover both the nose and mouth together to be effective.
Your health care provider will help you find the right level of air pressure for your condition, so you can set your CPAP machine correctly. This set level of air pressure keeps your airways open all through the night and prevents the throat muscles from relaxing and obstructing your breathing while you sleep.
Benefits of Using CPAP Therapy for Sleep Apnea
CPAP therapy is the most used treatment for OSA today, providing the following health benefits that are backed up by scientific studies:
- Better quality sleep – helps you feel more refreshed, have clearer focus, and have more energy during the day. It can also lower your risk for depression.
- Reduced risk of car accidents because you don’t get drowsy while driving
- More effective regulation of hypertension
- Reduced risk for stroke
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular issues such as irregular heartbeat, bradycardia, coronary heart disease, and heart failure
- Delay in cognitive decline and onset of cognitive impairment
- Possible reversal of erectile dysfunction
Are There Risks or Dangers Using CPAP Therapy?
CPAP therapy is a safe and efficient treatment for OSA, but as with any medical treatment, it can have some side effects. Some of the more common side effects of using a CPAP machine include the following:
- Swallowing air which can cause gas, bloating, burping, or abdominal discomfort
- Sinus congestion, nose bleeds, runny nose caused by a lack of humidification
- Pressure in the ears that can lead to some degree of hearing loss, tinnitus, vertigo, and migraines
- Eye irritation if any air is escaping from the mask
- Skin irritation or rashes caused by the mask or other parts that come in contact with your skin
- A feeling of claustrophobia because the mask covers your nose and mouth
- Increased risk for pneumonia possibly due to bacteria in the CPAP machine making it extremely important to keep the CPAP tubing, humidifier, and mask immaculately clean
- Chest pain
- Cardiac arrhythmia
If you experience any side effects while using a CPAP machine, you should discuss them with your health care provider.
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Keeping CPAP Equipment and Supplies Clean
To get the best results from your CPAP therapy and to avoid possible side effects, you should keep all your equipment and accessories clean and working well.
There are certain cleaning tasks to be done on a daily basis. Unplug your CPAP machine and disconnect your mask. Break down the individual parts (headgear, cushion, and frame) and place them in a sink or tub full of warm water. Clean all the parts using mild soap and rub them gently. After you rinse all the parts thoroughly, place them on a clean, dry towel and let them air dry away from direct sunlight and heating or cooling vents. You should also clean your humidifier tub by washing it in warm water with mild soap and letting it dry as above.
Every week, you’ll want to unplug your CPAP machine and remove the tubing. Clean it inside and out with warm water and mild soap. Rinse several times and place it on a clean towel to dry away from direct sunlight and heating or AC vents. Once a week you should also soak your humidifier tub in a one-to-one solution of vinegar and water for around 20 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and set out to dry.
Medicare Coverage of CPAP Machines and Supplies
If your physician diagnoses obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and prescribes therapy, Original Medicare Part B may cover a CPAP machine and CPAP supplies for a three-month trial period. After the trial period ends, you may be eligible for extended Medicare coverage for CPAP therapy if you meet with your physician in person, she certifies that you meet certain conditions and that CPAP therapy is helping you.
CPAP machines and accessories are categorized as durable medical equipment (DME) and are covered by Original Medicare Part B. Medicare pays for 80 percent of the final approved cost for the equipment and supplies if they are prescribed by a Medicare-affiliated health care provider, and purchased or rented from a DME supplier who accepts Medicare assignment. You are responsible for the remaining 20 percent after meeting your annual Part B deductible.
TIP: Try our Medicare plan finder and find out if your existing plan covers CPAP machines and other respiratory equipment.
Other Treatments for Sleep Apnea and Snoring
Everyone knows that getting a good night’s sleep is essential for a healthy life. So what if your snoring or sleep apnea is not only destroying your quality sleep, but it’s keeping your spouse awake too?
If you’ve visited your health care provider for solutions, she may have suggested trying some lifestyle changes together with CPAP therapy. Some of these tips may sound like simple ideas, but they may make a difference in how rested you feel. Give some of the following tips we’ve listed below a try to see if they help you sleep more soundly and quietly through the night.
- Lose weight. Obesity is at the top of the list of causes of OSA.
- Change your sleeping position, and try sleeping on your side propped with a pillow.
- Stop smoking
- Get more physical activity during the day to release stress and tire yourself out.
- Try yoga for relaxation and flexibility.
- Strengthen your airway by chewing gum (not at bedtime!), singing out loud, blowing up balloons, or holding a pen between your teeth for 10 minutes.
- Follow these great tips to help you get a better night’s sleep. Like turning off your electronic devices a couple of hours before bedtime, for example.
These suggestions are easy to do and don’t cost anything. They can help you sleep better and even give your overall health a boost. Just make sure you consult your physician before trying something new if you have any concerns.
Don’t let sleep apnea or snoring ruin a good night’s sleep or harm your health. There are therapy options like CPAP and other lifestyle changes you can make to ensure that you (and your partner) sleep well every night.
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