Neglected by Doctors, Some CPAP Users Hack Their Machines

Sleep apnea is not an easy condition to diagnose and treat. If it were, we wouldn’t have an epidemic of undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea in this country.

Unfortunately, the challenge of treating sleep apnea can be made even harder by the indifference or ignorance of doctors. Many people with clear symptoms of sleep apnea find that they have to be the ones to bring up the condition with their doctors. And some even find that after they’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea and prescribed CPAP, they aren’t getting benefit of their treatment. To make things worse, their doctors don’t offer help and support in improving the results of CPAP treatment. This has driven people to hack their CPAP machines so they can read its data to improve results.

We can’t speak to how widespread this phenomenon is, but it’s been well-documented. We can also say that we always provide full support to people who use our oral appliances. We work with you to get it right. You’ll never have to improvise a solution to get the best possible results with your oral appliance.

Why Some Patients Hack Their CPAP

Why People Need to Hack Their CPAP

Some people find that although they use their CPAP machine, they don’t see the level of benefits they would like. But when they try to talk to their doctors about their problem, they get no help. There are two basic problems that leave patients stranded without help.

First, many doctors are pressed for time and don’t feel they can spend the time problem-solving to make CPAP work better. Doctors have tight schedules these days, so they often only check the CPAP data to ensure compliance, as required by insurance companies.

Second, many doctors don’t know enough to help patients with their CPAP problems. There is a shortage of qualified sleep doctors in many areas of the country. The ones available are even more overworked and also often can’t take the time to help people tweak their CPAP.

Data from the CPAP machine is set up so that only the doctor can see it, using special software from the manufacturer. Patients need that data in order to be able to tweak their treatment. So they turn to software designed to crack the data out of their machines so they can figure out how to improve their treatment results.

Hacking Made Legal (Sort of)

The biggest CPAP hack software is called “SleepyHead.” It is open source, but largely the product of an Australian developer who initially hacked his own CPAP machine, then realized how valuable that data would be to other patients trying to improve their sleep apnea. Because he felt the CPAP industry was putting its data rights over patients’ lives, he made the software available free to anyone who wants it (though he does accept donations).

Needless to say, this hacking of proprietary software on CPAP machines rankled the manufacturers, who have tried to protect their right to control the data. They say that access to the data could be dangerous: patients who see it and misinterpret it. This would cause them to adjust their CPAP machine in dangerous ways. In the words of one sleep doctor, “If things go wrong, they may end up dead in their bed. This is their own risk. CPAP is not a toy but a medical treatment.”

However, the US Librarian of Congress granted a special exemption that makes this type of hack legal (although it doesn’t reduce the potential risks).

Support for Oral Appliance Therapy in New Jersey

We know that difficulty getting support for adjusting CPAP is one of many frustrations people encounter when using it, more serious than gassiness or traveling nuisance. Many people seek to avoid the difficulties of CPAP altogether and, when appropriate, get oral appliance therapy to improve their sleep apnea without the hassles related to CPAP.

We can’t speak to what other doctors do, but we do know that we provide full support for our patients using an oral appliance to treat sleep apnea. If you are having difficulty getting your appliance adjusted, we will spend time with you to make sure it’s set up properly. You won’t have to go to a third party to try to hack an improvised solution for your oral appliance therapy.

If you have sleep apnea and are looking to an alternative to CPAP, we can help. Please call 201-546-8512 today for an appointment with River Edge, NJ sleep dentist Dr. Marlen Martirossian at the River Edge Dental Center for TMJ, Sleep Apnea, & Reconstructive Dentistry.