Tracy Nasca & Elizabeth Johns Develop The First CPAP Pillow
There is nothing more rewarding than helping a fellow sleep disorder patient find CPAP success and experience healthy restorative sleep. When CPAP works and you experience the miraculous feeling of renewed energy, you are hooked. A lot of people like me want to jump from the roof tops and tell everyone about sleep apnea and how to make CPAP work. Elizabeth “Liz” Johns and I had a revelation in 2001 to do just that but not before we both personally suffered the challenges of CPAP.
Since BiLevel has been a part of my life since 1989, I have tried nearly every nasal interface made. Some work better for me than others and I have my favorites. Still, there is no perfect mask, thus, making BiLevel work was no easy task. My challenges were living with mask leak, bruised cheek bones but the scary part was Co2 rebreathing from blocked exhalation ports.
Through my involvement in sleep education over the years, I have had the opportunity to correspond with thousands of sleep apnea patients. Chat rooms, email, snail mail and phone calls have focused on two common compliance issues… mask leak and pressure point soreness. Since most apnea patients are well advised to sleep on their side or stomach, many have mask leak problems due to their bed pillows despite having a nasal interface that is comfortable and well fitted.
Newly diagnosed patients are glad to finally learn the reason for their sleepiness and eager to get on with the business of treatment to regain energy. Frustration soon sets in when CPAP is delivered and the mask search begins. Next comes the process of feeling comfortable wearing a mask during sleep with hurricane force winds blowing up your nose. It’s not easy, many give up the fight. Sadly, the CPAP abandonment rate is still an alarming 50%-60%.
Even after all the trouble one goes through to find the right mask, CPAP success can be squashed when the head sinks down in to a standard bed pillow pushing the mask off center causing leak. Pressure point soreness often occurs when the mask frame or headgear are uncomfortably forced into the side of the face. Blocked exhalation ports can cause dangerous carbon dioxide levels within the mask. The end result is another night of poor sleep and unsuccessful CPAP therapy.
Most of us try scrunching up our pillows to create a void but even one change in sleeping position reverts a pillow back to its original shape. Fighting with our bed pillow all night, mask leak and then waking up with mask strap marks imbedded in our face does not make for a good morning.
Hearing this complaint continually in our TalkAboutSleep.com chat rooms, a fellow sleep apnea patient and friend, Liz Johns and I decided “enough is enough, let’s do something about it”. Over a period of time we carefully designed a specially shaped bed pillow that we felt would eliminate the very common mask issues. We named it PAPillow™ (pressure alleviating pillow). Not only does it alleviate mask leak for CPAP users, it is an incredibly comfortable bed pillow for any side or stomach sleeper.
To test our invention, we sent dozens of prototypes to sleep apnea patients. We trialed memory foam but patient feedback was negative due to the heat it produces and unpleasant odor it emits. We were concerned about cost and so trialed of variety of fiber fill materials, but feedback told they did not hold up. The fill shifted inside the pillow shell becoming clumpy and misshapen. Other fill felt spongy and springy and collapsed upon the weight of our heads. Liz and I were determined to create and provide a pillow that patients could count on working. We decided from the beginning that we would not compromise on quality even if it meant a pricey pillow. Sleep apnea is a life threatening sleep disorder that we take very seriously and we would not associate with a product we did not believe in 100%.
We went back to the drawing board many times, listening carefully to the valuable patient and physician feedback. After many months of trial, we refined our original design, found a fill that everyone loved and eventually patented our pillow, the first CPAP pillow. Since PAPillow was launched in 2002, tens of thousands of patients have successfully benefitted. Although other CPAP pillows are now available, we don’t think they compare in quality and most of all, performance. Don’t be fooled by imitations, if it doesn’t say PAPillow, it isn’t!
The CPAP adjustment period is hard enough in the best of circumstances. Making CPAP work is the goal for all apnea patients. PAPillow™ is a simple solution to mask leak and pressure point soreness. Sleep on the edge, what could be simpler than that?