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This article has been reviewed by licensed medical personnel - sleep apnea, CPAP, sleep disordersCPAP and Sleep Disorders

CPAP, a relatively unknown term for lay people, is defined as "continuous positive airway pressure" and refers to a method that is being used to treat a condition known as "obstructive sleep apnea."  The CPAP treatment does not breathe for you like a ventilator does, but assists your body in getting the air that already exists in your bedroom to you.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a Serious Medical Condition

OSA, or obstructive sleep apnea, is one of the most undiagnosed yet deadly diseases today. This is due to the fact that many people have no idea that they have it, compounded by the fact that many doctors have little to no training in treating sleep disorders. OSA involves two forms:  hyopnea (shallow breathing) and apnea (lack of breathing).

fight the fluAre you getting enough sleep?

SleepCheck is a safe, easy-to-use, and reliable screen that uses a saliva sample to measure the level of melatonin in your body. Although melatonin plays a role in many other areas of your body, such as cardiovascular function, female reproductive hormones, and as an antioxidant, melatonin's primary contribution is to your body's ability for quality sleep and the regulation of your circadian rhythm, which is the 24-hour cycle of sleeping and waking our body experiences based on the patterns of light and dark. Without proper melatonin secretion, your circadian rhythm is off-balance, affecting your night's sleep.

When a person snores loudly, often his or her tongue is obstructing the airway and creating hyopnea. While this might be irritating to partners, this could be a symptom of OSA and worthy of a visit to a doctor who is trained in sleep disorders.

Some people actually stop breathing altogether. This condition is known as apnea. Apnea literally means "the absence of breathing." This can happen several hundred times in a night to an OSA sufferer. Symptoms such as fatigue, day time sleepiness and headaches may be indicative of apnea. 

This disorder, if left undetected, can lead to stroke, heart attack and death.

How does CPAP work?

CPAPs allow an OSA sufferer to have his airway maintained in an open versus closed manner. This continuous positive pressure keeps the airway open and allows the patient to receive the room air. The device keeps the tongue from falling back and restricting the flow of oxygen into the trachea. With CPAP, a mask is worn over the nose and mouth; air is forced through the mask to keep the airways open while the individual is sleeping.

Steps to Take If You Have a Sleep Disorder

If you believe that you suffer from OSA, then the first step is to contact your doctor. Your doctor will determine if you need a sleep study, which will test you to see if you have all of the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. If you do test positive for this disorder, then your MD will prescribe a CPAP device that will aid you in treating sleep disorder breathing.