Sleep and ventilation


The sleep and ventilation team at the Royal Free London see, diagnose and treat people who have problems with their sleep and in particular people who have trouble with their breathing when they are sleeping.

We look after patients with long term breathing problems who may need assistance with their breathing overnight, including: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chest wall diseases such as a scoliosis, neuromuscular disorders such as motor neurone disease, and respiratory failure due to obesity such as obesity hypoventilation syndrome.

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a machine used to treat obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). The treatment works by blowing air into the upper airways, providing a small amount of pressure during sleep, to keep the upper airways open and stop them from closing down.

Non-invasive ventilator (NIV)

When we breathe we take in oxygen from the air to run our body. We then produce waste gas (carbon dioxide), which we breathe out. If people have difficulty breathing, they are sometimes unable to get enough oxygen into their lungs and may have difficulty getting rid of the waste gas (carbon dioxide). These people may benefit from using a type of breathing machine called a non-invasive ventilator (NIV). People using NIV need to wear a cushioned mask that either fits over their nose alone, or over both their nose and mouth. A strap holds the mask firmly in place but it can easily be removed.

The aim of using NIV is to increase your oxygen level and particularly to help you get rid of the waste gas (carbon dioxide). It also takes some of the effort out of breathing because your chest muscles don’t have to work as hard, so it helps to ease the feeling of breathlessness. It supports each breath that you take by blowing pressurised air into the mask attached to your face or nose. Oxygen may be given if needed through tubing connected to the mask.

What happens if my machine breaks down?

If your NIV machine breaks down and will not work please contact Philips Respironics on 0800 652 0303 (9am-5pm Monday to Friday) and they will arrange a new machine to be sent to you. If it is a bank holiday or weekend and you urgently need a replacement machine please call the respiratory ward at the Royal Free Hospital on 020 7794 0500 ext 35540 or 35543 to arrange a replacement.

If there is an alarm or another technical issue please contact the sleep and ventilation team using the phone numbers and bleep numbers in your leaflet.