"CPAP is the mainstay treatment for sleep apnea," says Paul Sweeney, President of Coastal Sleep, a sleep clinic offering help to sleep apnea sufferers at six locations on the Lower Mainland. "It's a mask that patients wear over their nose. It blows air pressure into the throat and keeps the tongue and airway from collapsing and blocking the airway."
While the idea of wearing a mask to bed every night may seem daunting, Paul says that the majority of patients adapt to it well and find that the results are worth any minor inconvenience.
"We spend a lot of time educating our patients—at least an hour or more—before we send them home with a mask,” Paul explains. “The reality is that CPAP helps patients feel better. They're less tired and more engaged with life. They usually see the benefits as outweighing any perceived inconvenience."
Sleep apnea is a long-term chronic condition, the results of which can vary from feeling overtired all the time to a range of medical issues if left untreated.
A second option for patients unwilling or unable to wear a CPAP mask is an oral appliance.
"A small number of patients have medical issues that prevent them from wearing the CPAP mask," Paul says, "and an even smaller number may not be responsive to the treatment. In those cases, if the patient has mild-to-moderate sleep apnea, a secondary treatment option is an oral appliance that pulls the jaw forward."
Coastal Sleep works with a dentist in a multi-disciplinary approach when fitting a patient for an oral appliance.
"The drawback of the oral appliance," Paul notes, "is that you're advancing the lower jaw for long periods of time, which can affect your bite."
A third option—surgery—is less common. Primarily available to a younger demographic, such as children or young adults, surgery involves removing large tonsils or redundant tissue in the throat.
"Surgery has less effect on an older population," Paul says.
For more information about the different CPAP masks available in the Richmond area call Coastal Sleep at 1.877.241.9066, visit their website or send them an email. There is a Coastal Sleep facility in Richmond located at 130-7360 Westminster Highway. Coastal Sleep can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.