CPAP machines are usually given to patients once they have been formally diagnosed with sleep apnea after a sleep study and after a titration study to determine the settings that the CPAP machine needs to be at. Although CPAP machines are available without prescription from a number of websites, your best bet will always be to go to a doctor and get a medical opinion.
Some individuals across CPAP forums and websites have said that they cannot afford the insurance to get a diagnosis and a sleep study. That is a perfectly valid point. However, without that sleep study, you cannot have a diagnosis. Therefore, if you don’t have a diagnosis, you cannot say that you actually have sleep apnea. Treating yourself with a CPAP machine, without knowing what setting it should be at and without knowing if you actually have sleep apnea could be a dangerous route to go down. What I would suggest is that you try an alternative treatment – perhaps a stop snoring chin strap, a mandibular advancement device or a stop-snoring pillow. All of those things are designed to align your head in such a way that your jaw stays open, so that your airways are open. These are all cheaper options than CPAP and the bonus is, you don’t need a prescription for any of them.
Another anti-snoring device is the stop-snoring mouth guard, available from http://www.sleepguard.co.uk/. It has an 85% success rate and is designed to keep the jaw open, enabling you to breathe clearly. One snoring pillow is the ‘Be Snore Free’ pillow, available from www.besnorefree.co.uk. It has a 94% success rate and works on the basis of magnetic therapy, which is thought to help with blood flow. One of the best wedge snoring pillows is the Snore Wedge, which positions your upper body in such a way that your airways remain clear and free of obstruction. You can buy it from www.stop-snore.co.uk.
If you think that you definitely have sleep apnea and you want to be treated with a CPAP device, buy one that is a variable pressure device rather than a fixed pressure device. This means that the machine will automatically adjust the pressure throughout the night, which will give you the support you need. However, these machines are difficult to get hold of as most reputable companies will require a prescription. Ask around at your local hospital and at your doctor’s surgery to see if there are any second hand ones available, or ask in the CPAP forums. Quite often, users sell their old CPAP machine if they buy the newest machine or if they find it wasn’t working for them. One website actually sells nothing but second hand CPAPs – go to www.secondwindcpap.com. They sell machines starting from $65.00 for a standard machine, but the cost does go up to over $900 for a high-end, barely used machine.
If you don’t want to spend $600+ on a CPAP machine, but you do have a prescription, contact the CPAP company and ask if they are willing to rent the machine to you. Some companies rent machines at very affordable prices, and some companies are also willing to let you trial the machine for a number of weeks or months before committing to buying.
Where possible, always seek medical attention before using a CPAP machine. Some users have said that they don’t want to get a prescription for CPAP as it could mean their driving license could be taken away from them – but would you rather drive, or would you rather your life was saved by a decent, high-quality CPAP machine?