Sleep apnea can be hard to deal with, and often the treatment doesn’t really seem a solution so much as another set of problems. The most commonly prescribed form of treatment, CPAP, can be enough to drive anyone crazy, though it works well for people who adjust to it properly. But for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), CPAP has special challenges, and a new study shows that CPAP may not be the right treatment for them.
Challenges of CPAP Adherence
According to the study, patients with sleep apnea and PTSD experienced a lower quality of life than patients with either PTSD alone or sleep apnea alone. These patients had the highest levels of daytime sleepiness, indicating the greatest impact from their disrupted sleep. Patients with sleep apnea but without PTSD used their CPAP 78% of nights, but those with PTSD only used it an average of 53% of nights.
Why is this? CPAP users often report nightmares or feelings of being trapped or smothered when they use their CPAP. These feelings might be even stronger for combat veterans recovering from PTSD. This would make them less likely to use their CPAP, even though they are much more in need of the treatment than people without PTSD.
What are the Alternatives?
It is important to know that sleep apnea cannot go untreated. It is not a matter of simply sleeping comfortably, but rather ensuring that there is enough air flow while you are asleep. Sleep apnea has also been linked to depression, stroke, and other serious health conditions. One good alternative for those that are uncomfortable with the CPAP equipment would be oral appliance therapy. There are a multitude of different styles to choose from, so you can get a style that is both comfortable and effective for you. It is important to speak with a trained sleep dentist to help choose the right piece of equipment and ensure that the size is correct. Give us a call at (303) 691-0307 in the Denver area. Our own Dr. Berry can help you find the right treatment for your sleep apnea.