Living Well with a CPAP

Mar 28, 2023
Sleepy woman trying to work. Is it sleep apnea? Points to CPAP machine, neti pot, Chinese herbs, acupuncture needles as sources for relief.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is an increasingly recognized condition that affects more than a quarter of adults in the United States (source). In people with OSA, the airway collapses or closes during sleep, and they briefly stop breathing. They may not wake or be aware of this happening, but get up in the morning feeling more exhausted than before they went to bed, with symptoms like morning headache, racing heart, severe brain fog and fatigue. Being repeatedly cut off from oxygen during the night increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and other serious health concerns.

The conventional medical treatment for OSA is a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine, worn while sleeping. The CPAP keeps the airway open so breathing doesn’t stop, and is a very effective treatment - even reversing the damage of oxygen deprivation - when used consistently and correctly. At Energy Matters, we’ve helped many folks with OSA sleep and feel better. Here’s three tips for successful sleep apnea treatment we’ve learned over the years.

  1. Don’t give up. Many people who try a CPAP find they can’t sleep with a mask on their face, the pressurized air blowing in the nose, or the general discomfort of adapting to sleeping with the machine. Unfortunately, many doctors will prescribe the CPAP and send you on your way with little guidance. It can take several months to adapt to sleeping with the machine and start to reverse the effects of sleep and oxygen deprivation. Different mask choices, including nasal pillows that don’t obstruct the face, as well as accessories like pads, hose covers and heated humidifiers, and personalized comfort settings on the newer high tech CPAP machines can all make a huge difference in getting the treatment to be comfortable and effective for you. Ask your Energy Matters practitioner for advice, contact your respiratory therapist or CPAP vendor for options, or check out the wisdom from folks with OSA on places like CPAPtalk.

  2. CPAP Maintenance.  Your CPAP needs regular care and cleaning! This is another area where guidance can be missing . Comment start A practitioner recently told me about a patient who was suffering from persistent cough and congestion, especially in the morning. After some trial and error, the patient stumbled on the solution - their CPAP needed a cleaning! The cough and congestion resolved immediately Comment end . Your machine can become dirty with dust, mineral scales and even mold and mildew. Replace filters regularly, and clean hoses and humidifier tanks weekly with a vinegar and water solution. Use a gentle unscented soap daily to clean silicone mask parts. Use distilled or boiled and cooled water to fill your humidifier tank to keep the air you’re breathing clean and reduce buildup. Check the documentation for your machine for specific instructions, and The American Sleep Apnea Association has a handy cleaning schedule chart.

  3. Use other treatments for support. Acupuncture and holistic medicine can reduce the severity of your apnea and help your CPAP work better. Acupuncture has been studied in the treatment of apnea for decades (source), and has been shown to strengthen the airway and reduce the number of times breathing stops during sleep. Acupuncture, herbal medicine and tools like sinus washing can also reduce nasal congestion and make your CPAP more comfortable and effective. At a deeper level, inflammation in the body appears to be both a cause and effect of sleep apnea. Holistic treatment and support to manage stress and reduce inflammation can have a dramatic impact on OSA and help you get better results from your CPAP, plus feel better overall!

Do you have wisdom from living with sleep apnea or using a CPAP? Please share! If you’d like more insight into acupuncture and holistic treatment for OSA, ask your Energy Matters practitioner or call 510-597-9923 ext. 101 / sign up online for a free 15 minute consultation.

In Good Health,
Kirsten Cowan
Clinic Manager

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Oakland, CA 94611

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