So, you’ve just been diagnosed with sleep apnea.
The good news? With the right treatment plan, sleep apnea can be very manageable and have a minimal effect on your life. The better news? You can start to look forward to a good night’s sleep again!
We understand that a sleep apnea diagnosis can be overwhelming - but we’re here to help. We’ve put together a step-by-step guide that walks you through everything you need to do!
STEP 1: KEEP ALL YOUR RECORDS
After your sleep apnea diagnosis, you will meet with a sleep expert (or your family doctor), who will explain your sleep study results and answer any questions you might have. Your sleep expert will recommend and discuss treatment options.
Keep copies of all your medical records. This includes your sleep study results, and any other tests or documents. Remember that the information may be needed for insurance companies or healthcare providers.
Have a copy of your sleep study summary report and ask your sleep expert to explain your AHI (apnea hypopnea index) which indicates how severe your condition is.
Ask for a physical copy of your prescription for equipment, in case you change providers or need equipment while travelling.
STEP 2: BEGIN YOUR TREATMENT PLAN
The most common (and usually effective) way to treat sleep apnea is CPAP Therapy. CPAP therapy uses air pressure to keep your airway open and provide uninterrupted sleep. In order for your CPAP machine to best treat your sleep apnea, it’s integral that your mask fits properly. At Carecia Health, one of our sleep experts will walk you through the types of machines available, and guide you through finding the best equipment for your sleep apnea.
Types of CPAP masks
Covers your nose and your mouth
Fits over your nose only, offering a lighter fit than full face masks
Even more lightweight and minimal than nasal masks, offering a high level of openness and visibility
You may be looking at the three CPAP mask types and be thinking to yourself: "the choice is clear! Of course I prefer a lighter mask over a heavier one, and a smaller mask over a bigger one." But there are other factors to consider. For example, masks that cover more of your face can sometimes offer a better seal against leaking, leading to improved therapy. Additionally, if you have facial hair, you may find that you need a larger mask to get a better seal. Or, if you have claustrophobia, it’s likely that a smaller mask will feel more comfortable.
It will take time to get used to your CPAP machine - it’s normal to not feel completely comfortable until after a few months have passed. If you consistently remove your mask in the middle of the night, have skin irritation or a dry mouth - contact your supplier to find a better-fitting mask.
IMPORTANT: You must use your CPAP machine every night. As soon as you go without it, your symptoms will return. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and acid reflux.
STEP 3: MAINTAIN YOUR EQUIPMENT
Maintaining your equipment will ensure that your CPAP machine is working to the best of its ability.
Get specific instructions on how to maintain and clean your machine (page 16) and attachments.
Inspect your equipment regularly. Check for pinholes or leaks in the tubing and always be diligent about getting the prescribed pressure.
Refer to the information you have received from your insurance company so you are informed about when to replace your equipment, or what to do if it breaks.
Understand how to travel (page 17) with your CPAP machine.
STEP 4: LIFESTYLE CHANGES
There are simple lifestyle changes you can make that will help minimize the effect of your sleep apnea diagnosis on your life.
Try to get some form of physical activity 3-4 times a week. This could be walking, biking, or joining an exercise program.
If you are overweight, weight loss (monitored by a doctor) can lessen the effects of your sleep apnea
Quit smoking and limit alcohol and caffeine consumption
Consider your medications - medications such as muscle relaxants can make sleep apnea worse.
IMPORTANT: Listen to your body! If your sleep apnea symptoms seem to worsen during the course of your treatment, reach out to your doctor.
We hope this guide makes allows you to feel informed and in control of your sleep apnea diagnosis. If you have further questions or would like to know more, please reach out to your doctor or one of our sleep specialists.