As anyone who either suffers from sleep apnea — or lives with someone who does — knows, its most recognizable symptom is snoring. While snoring may be fertile fodder for jokes, the underlying condition — the repeated stopping and starting of respiration during the sleep cycle — is nothing to laugh about. “Untreated sleep apnea has been linked to high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, liver problems, and possibly even dementia,” warns AARP.

Pembroke, North Carolina-based health care provider HealthKeeperz not only provides home care, it is a leading purveyor of home care medical equipment — one type of which is the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. Frighteningly, these medical necessities suffered under the supply chain issues that came in tandem with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Per an article by the Cleveland Clinic: “A CPAP… machine is one of the most common treatments for sleep apnea. It keeps your airways open while you sleep so you can receive the oxygen you need for optimal function. CPAP machines can significantly improve sleep quality and reduce your risk for a number of health issues, including heart disease and stroke.”

How the COVID-19 Pandemic Led to the Current CPAP Shortage

Sleep apnea sufferers looking to replace or upgrade the older CPAP machines they’ve come to depend on, as well as new patients who’ve been prescribed CPAP treatment by their physicians for the first time, have recently been faced with a real dilemma of rising demand outweighing an extremely limited supply. The unprecedented shortage of CPAP machines, like many other devices that rely on microchip and semiconductor technology, can be traced in large part to supply chain issues directly resulting from the global economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As cargo ships sat stranded for months at a time and a crippling downturn in COVID-related air freight capabilities only made the situation worse, American CPAP makers tried to persuade semiconductor manufacturers to prioritize medical devices over other less vital consumer goods. Mick Farrell, CEO for ResMed, a corporation that makes and distributes ventilators, CPAP machines, and other respiratory devices, told The San Diego Union-Tribune in 2021: “I am definitely working with some of the biggest names out there and really asking, begging, and pleading that we should prioritize medical devices over another cellphone, another electric car, another cloud-connected refrigerator.”

HealthKeeperz, in its capacity as an organization that supplies medical equipment to its client base, reports it hasn’t seen any measurable increase in CPAP device availability in the last few months, so whether or not pleas such as Farrell’s had any significant impact is uncertain. What was clear, however, was that with U.S. dependence on foreign-sourced chip technology in much sharper focus thanks to its uncomfortable place in the pandemic spotlight, some American manufacturers recognized the need to begin filling the crucial void.

In 2021, computer tech giant Intel pledged $20 billion to build two new chip plants in Chandler, Arizona. “We don’t want to create a situation where the United States, which created the semiconductor industry and Silicon Valley, would be completely dependent on other nations for that product,” Al Thompson, Intel’s head of U.S. government relations, told CNBC.

However, even with President Biden’s Feb. 24, 2021, Executive Order on America’s Supply Chains as impetus, U.S. microchip manufacturers are largely playing a game of catch-up. While the pattern of pandemic-related shortages is slowly beginning to see a reversal, experts predict the free flow of goods the world enjoyed prior to COVID-19 may yet be some time in coming. According to a report from zdnet/innovation, consumer consulting and advisory firm Deloitte predicts we can “expect the semiconductor shortage to last until early 2023 … By the end of 2022, customers will still be waiting 10 to 20 weeks for multiple kinds of chips.”

CPAP Savvy: Breathing Easier in the Post-Pandemic World

Even though CPAP machines can be hard to come by, the folks at HealthKeeperz say that consumers do have options. One course of action to consider is getting a smaller travel model rather than a traditional CPAP unit.

These travel units work on the same advanced breathing algorithm as standard models and also offer comfort features such as ramp, auto start/stop, and exhalation relief to encourage natural breathing. Though they may not support traditional humidifiers, they do feature viable waterless alternatives that absorb moisture from exhaled air and recycle it for use during inhalation.

Many consumers looking to replace an older CPAP machine or purchase a new one find themselves facing steep out-of-pocket costs, but the people at HealthKeeperz caution paying less up front can wind up being much more expensive in the long run — in terms of wellness and money. The HealthKeeperz staff believes CPAP users — as well as anyone who relies on home health care equipment — must always make health their first priority. When it comes to medical equipment, a so-called “bargain” often causes more harm than good.

Buying used medical gear, especially from unverified online sources, can lead to any number of detrimental consequences. There’s no telling if a used CPAP machine was properly cleaned and sanitized. And, since CPAP machines require a prescription, HealthKeeperz warns you’d likely have to reset the pressure settings to accommodate a different prescription.

Luckily, there are financial assistance programs for consumers who cannot afford the out-of-pocket costs for a new CPAP machine. HealthKeeperz, whose primary goal is to assist patients as they make choices to improve their overall health status, suggests consulting with a local expert to help navigate your options and find out which program best aligns with your needs.

The Healing Power of Sleep and Why Sleep Health Is So Important

Though many of us take sleeping for granted, getting the rest we require is crucial to our overall health and well-being. When we don’t get enough sleep, especially over extended periods of time, the impact can take a huge toll on our bodies — and our minds.

In fact, the Sleep Foundation says: “Sleep is an essential function that allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up. Healthy sleep also helps the body remain healthy and stave off diseases. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly. This can impair your abilities to concentrate, think clearly, and process memories.”

The Sleep Foundation recommends that to maintain proper cognitive and behavioral functions, adults get a minimum of seven hours sleep per night. “An insufficient amount of sleep,” they say, “can lead to serious repercussions. Some studies have shown sleep deprivation leaves people vulnerable to attention lapses, reduced cognition, delayed reactions, and mood shifts.”

The HealthKeeperz Mission

Family-run and faith-based, Pembroke, North Carolina’s HealthKeeperz believes the patients, families, and community it helps sustain are best served with a holistic approach that addresses mind, body, and soul. Whether supplying home medical equipment, assisting with case management, or administering palliative treatment for patients with ongoing chronic conditions, the company’s aim — much like getting a good night’s sleep — is to uplift those in their care with comfort, compassion, and God’s love.

Author's Bio: 

Alex is a professional writer and digital marketing expert.