Sleep apnea disorder appliance The Case of CPAP vs. the Sleep Appliance Flickr cc credit Thomas BartheroteAs many of you dear readers already know, I wear a sleep appliance at nighttime because I have sleep apnea. A few years back, I used to snort, gasp, stop breathing, and snore every night. It drove my wife crazy! Then I had a sleep test – after falling down and crying when I read the report, I knew I could not wear a CPAP since so many of my own patients tell me they cannot either, so I had a sleep appliance made. It’s great, I wear it every night, and feel 120% better with it than without it.

The interesting thing about CPAP is that it truly can save your life if you can handle wearing it every night. Did you know that our own government has dictated that a successful use of the CPAP is defined as the patient wearing it 4 hours per night, 5 days per week. That’s right folks- it’s considered successful by our government if you wear it 20 hours per week. So during the work week you are doing fine if you can breathe about half the night and on weekends you take a break from breathing basically. I am not sure what the logic is in that, but when it comes to the government there might be no logic involved. The reality is that you are supposed to get 8-9 hours sleep per night, which tallies up to 56-63 hours per week. So according to government standards, you are doing fine if you get around 1/3 of that amount when using the CPAP.

I have a problem with government statistics in this case. I believe that sleep is very important to people at all ages. Without good sleep, your body does not recharge the hormones needed to be healthy. Without good sleep, you are more likely to develop diabetes and heart disease. So why would anyone cut corners on good sleep? When I wear my appliance at night, and I wear it EACH AND EVERY night, I feel well rested the next day and can handle being in my office for my normal 10 hour days (that’s right folks, I don’t have a life). Would any of you like to go to a TMJ doctor who uses a CPAP and only gets about half the normal sleep they are supposed to get?

The message here is that if you think you have sleep apnea, or your bed partner, or your Mom or Dad have concerns that you might – get a sleep study done!  You just might save a life. And if the CPAP keeps you alive enough, go for it, but keep in mind that compliance is not all that great whereas a properly fitted sleep appliance might provide for some better relief. Sleep well!