Positive Airway Pressure Therapy (PAP) is one of the most effective non-invasive and recommended treatment for patients diagnosed with sleep apnea.
It involves the patient wearing a fitted mask on the face, which is connected to a PAP device through a tubing. A flow of compressed air will then be delivered from the device to patient. This positive airflow keeps the airway open, preventing the collapse that usually occurs during apnea – thus breathing is back to normal in sleep.
PAP therapy works best when used regularly every time you sleep, including naps.
There are also many types of masks (i.e. nasal, pillow and full face mask) and brands of PAP device available in the market. The types of masks suitable for the patient will be advised by Respiratory Medical Technologists (RMT) from the Respiratory Care Service team.
PAP device is generally a portable medical device which can only be prescribed. The pressure required to stabilize airway, known as the therapeutic pressure, varies from individual to individual. This pressure setting is normally determined during a titration sleep study or based on physician’s recommendation after reviewing patient’s PAP data.
The device also captures data of usage, which is easily downloadable for follow-up/review purposes.
PAP therapy is very safe and effective for treating sleep apnea, however it is important that patients understand it may take some time to get used to the therapy – especially with having a mask on while sleeping and trying to sleep while breathing against the positive airway pressure. Gradual increase in the hours of nocturnal use may be needed, before completely acclimatizing to the therapy.
When adjusting to the PAP therapy, some may experience dryness of throat, nasal congestion, headaches, skin irritation. However most of these side effects are temporary and can be improved through a better mask fit or addition of a humidifier. Should other problems persist, patients can always check with the RMT/ physician on ways to troubleshoot.
Till this day, PAP therapy is still considered to be the most effective non-invasive intervention for treating sleep apnea. However, there are other options in the event that PAP therapy does not work for patient. Such options vary to each individuals’ condition, and are namely – oral appliances, surgery, weight loss, positional therapy and orofacial therapy.