Behind the Mask on Roseanne: CPAP for Healthy Sleep

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When Dan Conner is startled awake by wife Roseanne in the opening scene of the rebooted TV show “Roseanne,” he sits up and pulls a mask off his face.

“I thought you were dead!” Roseanne says.

In reality, that mask — part of a CPAP machine — helps save lives. 

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are used to treat obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes your breathing to repeatedly stop and start when you are sleeping. Most people with sleep apnea snore and snort loudly, often keeping their partners — and even the entire household — awake, says Elaine Walker, RRT, Sleep Disorders Center at Upper Valley Medical Center.

These frequent, brief episodes of no oxygen intake can lead to serious health issues, including high blood pressure and increased risk for heart attack and stroke, says the National Institutes of Health, not to mention the symptoms of sleep apnea, including:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Snoring
  • Lack of focus
  • Memory problems

“When we fall asleep the throat muscles relax and that can block the airway,” says Brian Schulze, director, Cardiopulmonary/Sleep Disorders Center at Upper Valley Medical Center.

When sleep apnea is untreated, your brain wakes you up often to make you breathe. This means your body and your brain do not get the deep sleep they need to recharge.

If you or a loved one shows signs of sleep apnea, call a sleep center or talk with your doctor. 

A sleep specialist may prescribe a sleep study at a sleep center or using a home test device. The sleep study records and tracks your breathing patterns, motion and quality of sleep. 

If you have sleep apnea, a CPAP machine can improve your sleep and your overall health. A CPAP mask uses air pressure to keep the airways open.

Walker describes it this way: “Think of a balloon that isn’t blown up yet. When you put the air in, it holds that shape. Your airway is floppy when you sleep. As we put the positive air pressure in, it acts like the air in the balloon to keep it open.”

How patients feel after using a CPAP machine varies, but “when you are well rested you feel better, have more energy, are more active and you can build better relationships,” says Schulze, a CPAP user himself.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.