Sleep Apnea Sufferers Benefit from a Sleep Apnea Partner

2011-12-15 14:35
Sleep Apnea Mask CPAP

A major difficulty of treating sufferers of sleep apnea is that a large percentage of them are inconsistent in using their continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy devices. Recent research at identifying potential interventions to promote active CPAP use has determined that sleep apnea sufferers can benefit with social support where a parent or partner can act as a type of motivational sleep apnea partner in helping the sleep apnea patient use their CPAP devices on a consistent basis.

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition where the upper airway collapses during sleep and is among the most common type of sleep disorders. Sleep apnea is especially prevalent among obese individuals and therefore is a growing problem. Upper airway collapse leads to decreased blood oxygen levels that results in a sufferer awakening with a gasp multiple times throughout the night and thereby sleeping poorly. Poor sleep contributes toward many medical conditions, including cardiovascular disease.

Sleep apnea is typically treated at home with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device that consists of an air pump bringing positive air pressure via a nasal or face mask to keep the upper airway open. While effective in treating sleep apnea, the problem with CPAP therapy is that many patients do not use the equipment properly or discontinue use. Many patients find the CPAP treatment to be claustrophobic-feeling and therefore undesirable.

"There is inconsistency in how people use and adhere to CPAP," says Amy M. Sawyer, assistant professor of nursing at Penn State. "Patients are expected to use CPAP for the eight hours or so that they are asleep. Unfortunately, most patients do not use CPAP for the duration of their sleep time."

To combat the problem of inconsistent CPAP use, Sawyer and colleagues sought potential interventions to encourage sleep apnea sufferers to use their CPAP equipment on a regular basis. After digging through numerous studies on sleep apnea, they found that patients who took a proactive role in their sleep apnea problems were more likely to be consistent in their use of their CPAP devices. The researchers believe that social support—such as with a type of sleep apnea partner—would help CPAP users identify their own improvements with treatment and thereby make them more proactive toward their own healthcare using CPAP.
"This study highlights the need for individualized considerations for initiating and managing CPAP treatment with diverse patient groups," says Ms. Sawyer.

Ms. Sawyer is currently putting her and her colleagues’ ideas to practice through a clinical trial at the Penn State College of Medicine to test an individualized approach toward helping sleep apnea patients begin and maintain their CPAP treatments.

Do you share a bed with someone? How do you think it affects your sleep quality?

Study: Penn State

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