So, you’ve had your sleep test. The doctor has told you that you have sleep apnoea and recommends you start CPAP therapy. What now?
No, panic is not an option! Although it might not be the news you were hoping to hear, sleep apnoea is very treatable.
When you have sleep apnoea, there is no magic pill that will see you sleeping like a baby in just one night. Treating sleep apneoa is similar to regaining fitness after a break. It can take a little time to find the right solution for you.
No-one wants to devote hours to finding the perfect solution. So here are some tips to help you navigate your way through the world of sleep apnoea, and find that perfect night’s sleep.
1. First step: find a specialist CPAP clinic that offers a trial of CPAP masks and machines
Getting used to CPAP can take a little while. Ideally, you should look for a clinic that offers you an extended trial of a CPAP machine and mask beforee you start CPAP therapy. A treatment trial of one month’s duration will give you a good chance to get comfortable with the therapy.
On your first visit, you should expect that a clinician will take the time to explain the therapy to you. They should also fit you with a mask and set up a CPAP machine for you.
On following visits, the clinician will ask you how you are feeling. They will check your sleep data by downloading the CPAP machine, and give you feedback on that data. They will offer different masks if you are uncomfortable, as well as helpful advice.
By the end of the month you should feel confident that CPAP treatment is something that you can live with. If not, your clinic should offer an extension or some other solution.
It is amazing how often we hear people say ‘I bought a CPAP machine’ or ‘I got one from my friend/neighbour/relative’. This is usually code for ‘I got online, got a cheap deal, and hoped for the best’.
There are many reasons why this is a bad idea. For one thing, your CPAP mask and machine have to be tailored to you. Just as clothes in your size may not always actually fit your body, the same applies to CPAP equipment.
But while you can get away with a loose-fitting shirt, a loose-fitting CPAP mask will mean the mask may leak. A too tight mask will cause skin irritations. Either way, your treatment is compromised.
Remember, being on CPAP is a medical therapy, not the latest online fashion buy. You need to find the right equipment to treat your condition. A poor-fitting mask, or a faulty CPAP machine can mean you are not getting the treatment you need.
2. Make sure your clinic offers a range of different brands and good after-sales service
Some clinics will only offer you one brand of machine. Sometimes that can work, as long as you have no budget concerns and the suggested brand works for you. Warranties and trade-up deals might also be an advantage of the single-brand clinic.
But a clinic which offers a wide range of brands will enable you to mix and match products. For example, you might be most comfortable with a mask from one brand and a machine from another. Specialist clinics can usually offer full warranties and after-sales service for all products.
It’s worth searching for a clinic that stocks parts too. If you end up investing in a quality machine, you can extend its life by replacing parts when needed. Maintaining your machine, and replacing parts can save you a lot of money in the long term. Bargain-basement online sites focus on high-value sales. But they are not so interested in selling the relatively inexpensive replacement parts.
3. Ensure that your clinic has easy access to specialist sleep doctors
Check that your provider specialises in sleep. This might seem obvious, but there are more and more outlets to buy CPAP from. Sometimes it might be a corner in a pharmacy or a side-business to another medical service.
But the world of sleep is constantly changing. New technologies are coming online all the time. If you want the best treatment, you deserve specialist attention. This means your clinic should have sleep and respiratory specialist doctors available. Your ideal sleep clinic should offer consultations and reviews with sleep physicians. Your sleep test should be reviewed and reported on by doctors, to ensure that no health issues are missed.
4. Look for a clinic that offers ongoing care, including downloads, oximetry and more
Make sure you find a clinic that offers you ongoing care. In a perfect world, you should be booked in for a couple of visits during the first year of being on CPAP. Then you should be sure to have an annual check-up, to ensure your machine is functioning well and you are receiving the treatment you need.
If you purchase a quality machine, and you maintain it well, you expect it to last for years. However, machines can sometimes develop faults, if exposed to dust or damp, or if dropped.
Make sure your CPAP clinic is easy to contact. They should be able to loan or hire you a replacement machine while your machine is being repaired.
Once CPAP treatment is established, it can be very hard to sleep without your machine. So having to send your machine away to an online supplier and wait weeks for repairs can make life very uncomfortable!
5. Seek out a clinic staffed by expert clinicians who actually care
In your search for a better night’s sleep, expert sleep clinicians are worth their weight in gold. Sleep apnoea technology changes regularly. Am experienced clinician can save you time and money with their knowledge.
A good clinician will be up-to-date with all major brands, and some of the minor ones too. They can tell you honestly before you start CPAP therapy whether that hot internet deal you saw is good value or a waste of money.
A specialist CPAP clinic will take the time to fit the mask to your face, and offer alternatives to trial. They can advise whether to buy a fixed pressure or an automatic CPAP machine, according to your budget and needs. They can also download your CPAP machine at regular intervals, to check that you are getting the best support possible.
A sleep clinician can become a trusted health partner. They can offer personalised support to start CPAP therapy, which doctors usually do not have the time for. Sleep clinicians are usually passionate about sleep health. They spend their days talking to people about sleep, and they are often a wealth of information about sleep hygiene.
Discovering you have sleep apnoea may not be the best news you’ve ever had. But it can be a new start to improving your overall health. Why not give yourself the best start by finding the best support for your return to health?
Your sleep is so important. It’s essential to take some time to find the perfect treatment for you. A trusted sleep clinic can make your journey to great health a successful – and even pleasant – process.