With a humidifier, the air coming through the tube into the CPAP mask is less drying for patients. Any time there is constant air flow, tissues will begin to dry out. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure, and the air from the machine is necessary to help keep users throats from closing while they sleep.
What can happen when patients use a CPAP machine without a humidifier? Several things.
- Over-production of mucus
- Swelling of nasal, mouth and throat tissues
- Scratchy voice
- Possible infections
Getting more moist airflow into a CPAP mask is accomplished by both built in humidifiers and stand alone models. A built in humidifier is part of the machine and is non-detachable, although users can take out the water reservoir to clean or replace it.
Machine models with these kinds of humidifiers are more compact and easier to transport because there's one less piece of equipment. Most patients who buy new CPAP machines choose ones with a built in humidifier.
Many older machine models and some newer ones don't have built in humidifiers, so users purchase a stand alone version. These humidifiers are designed to be compatible with the majority of CPAP masks and machines. A short hose attaches them to the machine, and there are a number of different model types available.
Another type of humidifier is called an integrated humidifier, which is designed to be used with a specific machine. It attaches to the machine and does not have a power cord or a second hose.
Regardless of the type of humidifier a sleep apnea patient uses, they will have far more comfortable therapy than were they not to use one. All the top manufactures offer both built in and stand alone units that are high quality and durable.
Humidifiers are very important to people in CPAP therapy, because these patients must continue therapy, and they want to do it as comfortably as possible. The condition sleep apnea causes patients to stop breathing periodically throughout the night. These breathing cessations are called "apneic events" and can happen as often as 30 times per hour. The result is the brain becomes oxygen deprived.
In summary, breathing dry air all night can cause dryness in the mouth, nose and throat along with other related symptoms. But when humid air is coming into the CPAP mask, the user has a much better experience. Humidifiers can be built in to the machine or attached to it, or they can be separate units.