Continuous positive airway pressure is better known as CPAP. This treatment is used for different respiratory conditions.

CPAP machines deliver air via a lightweight mask throughout the night. The air is gently pressurised and so keeps the airways open at all times. It can seem a little strange to be sleeping with a mask on at first. But you should get used to it quickly and find that the benefits are worth it.

Your partners will probably be very grateful as well. CPAP machines make sure that airways do not become obstructed, resulting in a stop to snoring! Milder cases respond to weight loss or a dental splint (mandibular advancement splint). This simply fits over the teeth at night.

These machines are useful for small children who suffer from respiratory conditions. These are normally the result of conditions such as craniofacial disorders, floppy muscles, obesity or Down’s syndrome.

A key new development is that sleep-disordered breathing is now implicated in the progression of heart failure.

Our sleep unit did a recent study alongside a team of cardiologists. It showed that sleep apnoea (predominantly central sleep apnoea) occurs in 40 per cent of individuals with mild heart failure. This opens up exciting new avenues of non-pharmacological (drug-based) therapy for patients.

Sleep apnoea is caused by upper airway collapse during sleep; patients literally stop breathing, although for such a short amount of time that they don’t usually wake up.

Useful information

Our centre for sleep is one of the largest in Europe. We have been diagnosing and caring for patients with sleep disorders for over 20 years at Royal Brompton Hospital. Find out more about the service

Featured in the press

Dr Alanna Hare, consultant in respiratory and sleep medicine, was interviewed by Delicious magazine about how certain food groups may help people to sleep. Dr Hare explained: “There is some literature that suggests consuming foodstuffs high in tryptophan or melatonin may increase sleep duration and quality.” However, she stressed that there’s limited clinical evidence, adding: “Overall, the extent to which diet and nutrients can boost sleep remains unclear.”

With thanks to Delicious magazine.