For most people, going to sleep at night isn’t an issue. They turn off the lights, close their eyes, and peacefully drift to sleep. Some people, however, don’t peacefully drift off. Their bodies struggle to breathe properly while they sleep. One reason they may struggle to breathe in slumber is that they have sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a common but potentially serious sleep disorder that causes interruptions to someone’s breathing while they sleep. Over 200,000 people receive a sleep apnea diagnosis every year in the US. Thankfully, it’s treatable. While your doctor will decide what you need to treat your sleep apnea, many people want to go into these appointments with a few options in mind. Some of the potential treatment options are oxygen therapy, CPAP, or both. Read on to learn about each solution and which might be best for you.

Oxygen Therapy for Sleep Apnea

Oxygen therapy uses an oxygen concentrator to take in normal air, which has lots of nitrogen and other gases, and filter these other gases out. This way, the user can breathe in a higher concentration of oxygen. This higher oxygen concentration is only necessary when a person can’t get the oxygen they need through unassisted breathing.

There are various reasons a person may need oxygen therapy to assist their breathing, such as problems with their bronchial tubes absorbing oxygen or issues with their airways. However, a person might also need oxygen therapy if they have sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea, as we described above, is a sleep disorder that causes someone to stop and start breathing in their sleep. A blockage in or partial collapse of the upper airway is often the cause. Oxygen therapy cannot remove the blockage or fix the partial collapse, but it can ensure the user is getting enough oxygen when they breathe successfully. If your doctor notices your blood oxygen is low, especially when you sleep and experience apneic events, then they may prescribe oxygen therapy.

CPAP for Sleep Apnea

CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure and is similar—though not identical to—an oxygen machine. Like an oxygen machine, CPAP machines deliver air. However, they do not filter the air or concentrate its oxygen. They simply provide pressurized air that helps keep the user’s upper airway open so that they breathe continuously throughout the night. These machines do ventilate the air to keep the user safe while they sleep, but a CPAP machine delivers essentially the same air everyone else in the room is breathing.

CPAP machines came about to treat sleep apnea, especially severe cases of it. So while there are other treatment options besides using a CPAP machine, many doctors will prescribe CPAP. This is because CPAP can immediately fix the issue, while other treatment options—such as losing weight—can take time.

Furthermore, you can expect a CPAP prescription for sleep apnea but not for other health issues. While oxygen therapy can provide breathing assistance for various health issues, CPAP is only helpful if you have sleep apnea. Doctors will use sleep studies and other tests to diagnose your sleep apnea, so you don’t need to worry about receiving a bogus diagnosis. They will ensure you receive the care and prescription you need.

Using Oxygen Therapy and CPAP Together

Although oxygen therapy doesn’t provide the pressure that people with sleep apnea need, it can work with CPAP to create ideal sleeping circumstances. If someone has low blood oxygen and needs the pressure of a CPAP machine for their upper airway, oxygen concentrators and CPAP can work together to provide both.

Oxygen concentrators can connect to CPAP machines so that someone can use both when necessary. Also, many CPAP masks have a port that the user can connect directly to a home or portable oxygen concentrator. If a CPAP mask does not have this port, then the user can add a bleed adaptor to their CPAP machine.

Bleed Adaptor Tutorial

It’s easy to attach a bleed adaptor to your CPAP machine. Turn off your CPAP machine and your oxygen source. Keep your CPAP tubing connected to your mask but disconnect the tubing from the machine itself. Place a clean oxygen bleed adaptor on the nozzle of the machine where your tubing normally connects. Connect your CPAP tubing to the large open end of the adaptor.

Now, there is a smaller branch that is open on the side of the bleed adaptor. This is for your oxygen source, such as your home concentrator or an oxygen tank. Connect the tube from your oxygen source to this L-shaped branch while the oxygen machine is still off. Once you’ve connected the adaptor, the CPAP machine, and your oxygen source, you can turn the CPAP machine and oxygen on. Place the mask over your face and breathe easily while you sleep.

The only time you won’t breathe seamlessly is if you use pulse oxygen. Pulse oxygen delivers oxygen whenever you inhale, unlike continuous flow oxygen, which always supplies it. CPAP machines can’t work with pulse oxygen since they pressurize the air as it enters your body. They do so continually, not just when you inhale. If your doctor prescribes pulse oxygen and CPAP, ask them whether you need to use continuous flow oxygen with your machine or if you don’t need oxygen while using CPAP.

Any condition that makes it hard to breathe is scary for the person with that condition and for the people they love. However, there are solutions that can make breathing easier. If you have sleep apnea, you may need oxygen therapy, CPAP, or both to help you breathe easier while you sleep. Using these devices while you sleep can improve the quality and length of your sleep, so you wake up well rested.

To wake up refreshed from oxygen therapy, you can use a pre-owned oxygen concentrator from Bridge To Care. We provide these concentrators and make sure that they’re rigorously tested and reconditioned for safe use. Saving money by buying a pre-owned machine is a great way to sleep better on a budget.

Sleep Apnea: Do You Need Oxygen Therapy, CPAP, or Both?