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A CPAP chin strap is designed to be used with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to treat sleep apnea and other respiratory problems. A CPAP machine uses air pressure to splint the nasal passages open, preventing obstructions to breathing. It helps the patient breathe more easily and regularly when asleep. The main function of the CPAP chin strap is to keep the mouth closed, preventing airflow through the mouth and contributing to a closed pressure system.
While CPAP machines can be used in a few different contexts, and are increasingly being used to ventilate patients in the intensive care units of hospitals, they were designed to treat sleep apnea at home. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which the upper airway narrows or closes during sleep as the muscles relax. The restriction in the airway causes the patient to have insufficient oxygen in the blood, resulting in poor sleep and frequent awakening during the night. Fatigue and loud snoring are other common symptoms of sleep apnea.
CPAP machines used to treat sleep apnea can be made more effective with the addition of a CPAP chin strap. Many sleep apnea sufferers find that their mouths tend to drop open during sleep, interfering with the effectiveness of the CPAP machine. The CPAP machine relies on a closed system to create positive air pressure in the windpipe, keeping the airway open. Airflow through the mouth can prevent the machine from functioning properly, because the air pressure entering the nose leaves through the mouth before it can reach the windpipe.
Many CPAP users are unaware that they have a problem with their mouth opening during sleep. Common symptoms of so-called "mouth-breathing" include continued daytime symptoms of sleep apnea, dry throat, and the water level of the CPAP humidifier going down significantly during sleep.
CPAP chin straps are inexpensive and readily available at medical supply stores. There are a few different designs, but basically, a CPAP chin strap consists of a padded chin cup and a strap that goes around the back of the head to hold it on. Different people may find different CPAP chin strap models to be more or less comfortable. It is important to try the chin strap on with the CPAP machine, if possible, to determine whether the fit is comfortable. Some CPAP chin strap models feature adjustable straps to fit any user, while others are available in different sizes.