History of CPAP

Can you believe that the CPAP machine is 34 years old? When you look at the original, it’s probably hard to believe that technology has come such a long way.

Let’s go all the way back to 1970. Around that time, sleep was not as commonly studied medically as it is today, despite being one of the most important human functions. What we know today as sleep apnea, was known at the time as Pickwickian syndrome (named after a character from Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers who is obese and tends to fall asleep standing up). The only known symptoms for that condition at that time was snoring, and chocking and gasping in your sleep. This was all a big mystery in the medical profession, and not much was known about it.  

If you had sleep apnea at this period of time, your only hope was for a tracheotomy. In other words, doctors would cut a hole in your trachea and insert a breathing tube to help you sleep better at night. Sounds painful, right?

This would all soon change, thanks to an Australian doctor named Colin Sullivan. He had spent many years studying sleep medicine in depth and essentially, changing the way that we look at sleep problems. In 1980, he invented a machine that would end up saving many lives from sleep apnea.

This was called the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine (or CPAP for short). It is a machine and mask that is worn by people with sleep apnea to help them breathe at night. He invented it by connecting a number of different hoses to a vacuum cleaner and glued it to the snout of a dog. When he saw his first human patient, a construction worker with severe OSA, the results of the mask spoke for itself as the man said he hadn’t felt so well rested in ages.

Although it took some time to be accepted in the medical market, the CPAP machine has come a long way, and still continues to save the lives of many people who suffer from sleep apnea. If you are a proud user of this device, you have an Aussie doctor and a vacuum cleaner to thank.

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Image source: http://www.wikihow.com/Perform-a-Tracheotomy