Sleep apnea is a common disorder that causes a person to have pauses in their breathing or have shallow breaths during sleep. These breathing pauses can last up to a few minutes, and may occur several times in an hour. Normal breathing starts again afterwards, but usually comes with a choking sound or a loud snort. This chronic condition can disrupt your sleep, which means the quality of your sleep time becomes poor. Below are several treatments plans used on patients with sleep apnea.
Treatment plan when you have other health issues
You may need to be treated first for other health problems before proceeding to your sleep apnea therapy. For example:
- You have a nasal passage inflammation that may require the use of a nasal spray
- You have hypothyroidism that may require you to take thyroid medications
The doctor may also recommend treatment for issues that are triggered by sleep apnea, including high blood pressure.
Oral breathing devices
Oral breathing devices will reposition your jaw and tongue during sleep. They will open up your airways to normalize your breathing pattern. These devices may be used on people with mild to moderate sleep apnea, or those with severe condition but were not satisfied with the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. An oral breathing device will require a dentist to fit it in your mouth to make sure it works properly.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP
The CPAP machine is almost always the first device used to treat sleep apnea. It is a breathing device that helps prevent your airways from closing as you sleep. Studies show that this machine reduces daytime sleepiness, and lowers blood pressure (both daytime and nighttime). If you are still feeling sleepy during the day despite using a CPAP machine, make sure to tell your doctor.
It may take time for you to become comfortable with this device. There may be times when you want to take off the mask, or find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Your doctor might adjust the device or ask you to try another type of mask, in case you are having difficulty adjusting to it.
Some CPAP machines adjust air pressure automatically when you breathe in or out. These models are easier and more convenient for some patients. If you use this device for sleep apnea, then you will need to use it every night or the symptoms might return.
There are people who get sleep apnea only when they sleep on their back. These people can reduce or get rid of the airway blockage by learning to sleep on their side. One traditional method to encourage side-sleeping is placing a tennis ball in a sock, and pinning it to the back of your pajama top.
Many companies offer specially-designed products to prevent supine sleeping. This type of therapy works only in mild cases. In more severe conditions, the airway will collapse, regardless of the patient’s sleeping position.
Upper Airway Stimulation (UAS) treatment
Some patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) cannot use the CPAP machine for their treatment, despite the best efforts. There is, however, a new way for people with moderate to severe OSA who cannot use the CPAP device. The UAS therapy works inside the body, as well as your natural breathing, to treat the more severe cases of sleep apnea.
You might need this treatment if:
- You have been diagnosed with OSA
- You cannot find relief in CPAP therapy
This method consists of three components: a breathing sensor lead, a small generator, and a stimulation lead. All of these are controlled by the remote control. Your doctor, however, will still assess your overall health, and airway anatomy to see if this therapy is for you.
Your doctor may recommend a nasal dilator, which can come in the form of disks or strips, to help maintain open airways as you sleep. The nose strips will widen your nostrils, while the disks come with a valve that makes it difficult for you to breathe out. You can get one of these devices without prescription, but it is still recommended that you consult a pharmacist or your doctor about your options.
Majority of patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea are obese or overweight. There may be few studies on how weight loss improves snoring and sleep apnea, but practitioners report significant improvements in patients who lose weight.
Surgery is another way of treating snoring, but is less effective in treating OSA. The surgeon will determine which part of the upper airway is obstructing the airflow. If the surgeon is not able to treat the site, or if there are multiple obstruction sites, it is unlikely that the condition will be reduced to an extent where further treatments will no longer be necessary.
There are several procedures currently used to treat sleep apnea. The most common procedure is the uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), but the success rate is only 50 percent. There are surgeons who achieved high success rates through multiple-staged operations. However, most authorities still recommend post-surgery re-assessment.
Snoring can be an early warning that indicates the possible presence of sleep apnea. Treating snoring can eliminate this sign, but there may be unwanted consequences. When the symptom is removed, there is a possibility that sleep apnea will be discovered when it is already too late. This is why, when surgery or oral devices are used to remove snoring, it is crucial to regularly check for sleep apnea afterwards.