Guest Post: Three Ways I Use White Noise in My Sleep Apnea Clinic

Joseph Krainin, M.D., FAASM is board-certified in sleep medicine and neurology and is the founder of Singular Sleep, a sleep telemedicine practice. Singular Sleep is an authorized reseller of ASTI products.

One of the great things about CPAP is that it eliminates all the terrible sleep breathing noises that sleep apnea sufferers emit: snoring, gasping, choking, coughing, etc. One would think that everything in the bedroom would be sonically hunky-dory after the sleep apnea is treated, right? Well, there are several situations in which white noise machines, such as the Lectrofan, can be invaluable aids in the course of sleep apnea treatment.

Belligerent Bedpartners

After the sleep apnea test, I consult with the patient to review the results of the home sleep study and formulate a treatment plan, which usually involves CPAP. Sometimes patients tell me that they are open to CPAP, but their bedpartners are resistant to the idea because they are light sleepers and worried about the noise of the CPAP machine. I explain that CPAP machines, when working properly, produce sound in the same decibel range as a typical mechanical fan. Logic would suggest that obliterating loud snoring and death-like apneas with a CPAP machine should be expected to improve the quality of sleep of a concerned, light-sleeping bedpartner. But there still can be major resistance! In these cases, I recommend deploying  a quality sound conditioner in the bedroom and positioning it closer to the bedpartner.

Masking the Mask

Occasionally patients report that they find the noise from their CPAP mask’s exhalation port  to be so irritating that it makes it hard for them to fall asleep. The exhalation port is an absolutely necessary component of the mask – it prevents the re-breathing of the higher carbon dioxide-containing exhaled air that is toxic to the body. Therefore,  there’s really no getting around this noise, which sounds like a steady hiss. A white noise machine placed near the head of the bed can mask this noise and really help these patients  tolerate CPAP.

Fellow Travelers: Sleep Apnea with Co-morbid Insomnia

Sometimes patients are unlucky enough to have two separate sleep disorders: OSA and primary insomnia. Often, insomnia will improve with CPAP treatment of the underlying sleep apnea. But if people continue to struggle to fall asleep despite good CPAP use, I dig deeper into factors that could be contributing to this problem. Commonly, patients have suboptimal bedroom environments that aggravate their insomnia. Our brains are hardwired to wake up to new noises in our sleep environment, but most of the time these awakenings are momentary and too brief to remember. But people predisposed to insomnia may be extra-sensitive to changes in the bedroom soundscape and, for them, fluctuating noises can be a big problem. By drowning out intermittent noises, white noise generators can be very helpful in achieving better sleep quality in these patients.

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