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Sleep apnea treatment may save you money

A woman wears a CPAP mask while sleeping.

Nov. 6, 2019—Nearly 30 million people in the U.S. have obstructive sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea stop breathing for up to 30 seconds at a time while asleep. These brief pauses in breathing can happen up to 400 times every night.

Obstructive sleep apnea happens when the throat muscles relax and block the airway during sleep. One effective treatment involves using a special breathing device called a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. It pumps air through a mask to help keep airways open while you sleep. A CPAP machine can help prevent life-threatening complications, including high blood pressure and stroke.

A new study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine says this therapy not only helps keep people with sleep apnea healthy—it may save them money too.

The key: Fewer hospitalizations

The study followed nearly 1,100 people for at least 18 months after starting CPAP therapy. It found that for every additional hour they used a CPAP machine at night, they saw:

  • An 8% decrease in hospitalizations.
  • A 4% drop in urgent medical visits.

Using a CPAP machine at night regularly was also associated with reduced trips to the emergency room. And the cost of those visits was lower. (Regular use was defined as more than 4 hours a night, 70% of the time.)

Stick with it

Getting in the habit of using a CPAP machine can take some time, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute advises. But the results are worth the effort.

If you're having trouble adjusting, ask your doctor for help. They may be able to adjust your pressure settings for more comfort—or suggest a different mask type.

Learn more about sleep apnea and how to treat it effectively.

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