The coronavirus pandemic has had some dramatic effects on the way we live our lives. Perhaps none of these effects were more severe than the various isolation orders, such as the “shelter-in-place” or “stay-at-home” orders issued by Governor Polis or Mayor Hancock. These orders changed the way people spent their time, making most of us work and play at home far more than usual. 

But did these orders impact people’s sleep apnea treatment? Possibly. There’s some preliminary evidence that, during the severe lockdowns in European countries, people used their CPAP more regularly. However, there’s no evidence yet whether this was a clinically significant improvement, and the study reminds us that there are many people who simply don’t use their CPAP enough. 

CPAP Use Went up Slightly

Man wearing a CPAP masks sleeps peacefully with his wife next to him.For this study, researchers looked at adherence data from the CPAP machines of nearly 7500 users in France. They compared the usage during the first month of the national lockdown (March 15 to April 15) to the prior month as well as to the same month from 2019. 

They found that there was a nearly 4% increase in the average amount of time that users spent on their CPAP machines each night, increasing from 386 minutes to 401 minutes per night. Comparing usage to the same period in 2019, researchers saw a nearly 4.5% increase in CPAP usage. 

The biggest increase was among those who used their CPAP rarely, if at all. The percentage of people who used their CPAP 10 minutes or less a night dropped by nearly 19%, almost one in five!

Why CPAP Use Increased

Researchers don’t know why CPAP use increased at this time, but they have many hypotheses. 

First, they suspect that when people heard that COVID-19 was a disease of the airways, it reminded them of the importance of taking care of their airway condition, sleep apnea. 

Second, they noted that many people might have been afraid of ending up in the hospital for sleep apnea-related complications. As we’ve said, there are many acute conditions under which sleep apnea can send a person to the hospital. This would be especially bad for people with sleep apnea, who often have overlapping conditions that put them in the highest-risk groups.

Finally, it could be as simple as the fact that people who were at home during lockdown might have gotten more sleep. Not only do they save time by not having to commute, but the Parisian nightlife was shut down even more thoroughly than in Colorado. Not going out to the cafe, they likely just went to bed. They didn’t even have the benefit of the Howl that we enjoyed through the first months of the pandemic. 

Still Many People Not Using Their CPAP

Researchers admitted that they didn’t know if this increase in usage was clinically significant. They said it would have to be looked at from the standpoint of health outcomes. We currently don’t have any information about how CPAP usage might impact COVID-19 outcomes. 

But we do know that most of the people who didn’t use their CPAP before the pandemic, still didn’t use their CPAP at this time. 

That’s because CPAP is just not the ideal sleep apnea treatment for everyone. Fortunately, there are alternatives that work better for many people. If you are looking for a CPAP alternative in Denver, please call (303) 691-0267 today for an appointment with a sleep dentist at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado.