The People's Perspective on Medicine

Can an Anti-Snoring Device Save Your Life?

Using a CPAP anti-snoring device helps people with sleep apnea feel more rested, but it does not protect them from heart attacks and strokes.

People with sleep apnea frequently stop breathing for several seconds at a time while they are asleep. This condition is often treated with an anti-snoring device, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. It forces air into the airways.

Anti-Snoring Device Doesn’t Prevent Heart Attacks:

Because untreated sleep apnea is associated with a greater risk of hypertension, heart disease and stroke, doctors have assumed that use of a CPAP would help people live longer, healthier lives. But the Sleep Apnea Cardiovascular Endpoints trial has just concluded. It showed that although people are breathing better at night and feel less sleepy during the day, they are no less prone to heart attacks or strokes.

The Study Results:

The study included 2,717 volunteers with cardiovascular disease and lasted almost four years. By that time, 15 percent of the people in the usual care group that served as a control had suffered a heart attack or stroke. In the group using a CPAP anti-snoring device, 17 percent had experienced such cardiovascular events. This difference is not significant.

The authors conclude that CPAP treatment improves mood and quality of life and reduces daytime sleepiness and snoring. It does not, however, appear to lower the likelihood of a serious cardiovascular event.

NEJM, Aug. 28, 2016 

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I just had trouble going to sleep or staying asleep. This has only happened after two years after I retired. Had a particular pill that I would use occasionally and it worked well so I asked the doctor for a prescription for a refill. He insisted I go to a sleep doctor who put me on a sleep study and got me into a CPAP machine. My hatred for this stupid machine is large. It does not help me sleep better and the only reason I ever use it is that insurance rule as stated above. Since I still wake up often I tell myself when I go to bed what hour on the clock I can rip the mask off, and get some good sleep. I agree with everything Mary from Winston-Salem said above. This is somebody’s money making fad.

I really appreciate everyone’s stories. I’ve been telling my husband for years he has sleep apnea and needs a sleep test and a CPAP machine, but he refuses……. I think I’ll stop nagging him now. I started sleeping in the guest room 2-3 yrs ago. I snore too, I may have it myself. I do wake up with a headache occasionally, and need a nap to make it through most days.

There’s a correlation between atrial fibrillation and apnea. But no one knows whether there’s causation, and if so, which one causes the other. I’ve heard emphatic arguments both ways from doctors, nurses, and, of course, from the people trying to sell you an expensive CPAP machine.

I can’t help wondering why no one has ever actually done some research on this.

My husband is a new bipap user. Only using it about four months now. He’s 76 yrs old and has been a heavy snorer all his adult life. A number of times throughout the last 20 yrs his primary physician recommended testing for sleep apnea but our various health insurance plans always denied it until this year. He has dementia symtoms with short term memory and cognitive deficit. He’s also a mouth breather. All this to say… adaptation to the bipap equipment has been a nightmare for both of us.

After 54 yrs of marrage I had long since gotten used to his snoring. Because of his dementia, we had a simple routine to get ready for bed, that’s all changed now. I have to help him with everything to prepare for bed including putting his mask on each night. He wakes up during the night confused amd disoriented with the mask and has fallen once trying to go to the bathroom. I’m continually wakened when the mask needs readjustment. We’ve been through 3 masks in this short time trying to find the best fit, starting with A full face, them a nasal and now a pillow mask. The pillow mask works best for the fit but my hubby has always been a mouth breather so I use a chin guard along with the mask but he still is able to open his mouth just enough to cause a problem.

All this to say, at this point in our life, use of the bipap equipment has made a major decrease in our quality of life. Now instead of my husband snoring, waking a number of times throughout the night because of apnea and daytime napping… both he & I have disruptive sleep and confusion at night and I’m just exausted day & night. It’s affecting my ability to care for him… yet I’m fearful of taking to his doctors about this and discontinuing the treatment because we’ve been through so much to maintain compliance with the bipap equip for insurance purposes. (ie) the machine has a SIM card in it so the pulmonologist can monitor the progress with his apnea and the health insurance provider can monitor compliance with equipment usage to continue to pay for the equipment. I feel like we’re stuck in a vicious circle and a decrease in our quality of life. I know this is lengthy but I’ve done my best to add an additional perspective.

Wondering? It was reported that Justice Scalia was found with his CBAP unplugged.

The study was done using an average of only three hours’ CPAP use per night. That means that, for the remaining several hours’ sleep, when CPAP was not in use, the subjects would have had many episodes of stopping breathing. Of course, that would mean CPAP had only a limited positive impact on their health. I don’t understand why this study wasn’t done with subjects using CPAP for their full night’s sleep.

I’ve been using a CPAP machine for several years now. I was waking up in the middle of the night with severe headaches. The doctor I was referred to did a take home sleep test and found that my oxygen level was dropping down into the 80s. With the CPAP machine, I no longer have headaches. I still am tired sometimes on waking and during the day, and if i don’t replace the mask regularly it will sometimes leak, but its more than worth it not to have those headaches. I found the times when I sleep without my machine for some reason, I still get those headaches. so, yes it helps.

Although the study may show that wearing CPAP nightly does not decrease the risk of heart attack or stroke, it certainly helps me, the spouse, get a more restful sleep as I am not being woken frequently by the snorts and gasps emitted by my husband as he struggles to catch his breath after being apneic. And of course he sleeps better too. It has not had a noticeable effect on his blood sugar levels.

My doctor says that Sleep Apnea causes an increase in CO2 and increases blood sugar. She believes an apnea device will help fasting glucose levels. Have you heard of this?

I had sleep apnea before I had a gastric by-pass surgery to lose weight. The sleep apnea was linked to me being overweight (morbid obesity). I had a CPAP machine to sleep and it never helped me at the time and, even worse, I wasn’t able to sleep with it because of the mask and the fact that it was annoying to wear and uncomfortable.

So, knowing now that a CPAP machine don’t prevent heart diseases is troublesome because when my doctor prescribed it to me after many sleep study, he told me it was to prevent the heart diseases at first and help to feel less tired at daytime. Those machines cost a lot and not everyone will be able to sleep with the mask on their face. So, now we learn that it only helps with the daytime sleepiness. Better just go to bed without using a CPAP and feel tired at daytime than spend money on the machines that don’t even help with your heart health.

Have been using CPAP for probably 8 yrs because I was frightened into compliance by being told I would surely have a heart attack or stroke if I was not compliant. I am a mouth breather, so have to use a full face mask — and NONE fit properly.

I awaken several times each night with air blowing in my eyes, noisy air leaks elsewhere, and I am constantly awakening to readjust mask. Several times, when I have had a cold and did not use the CPAP, I slept much better, even with a cold! Have often wondered if this is not yet another “medical money making fad”?

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