If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea or even suspect you may have it, you probably know that it’s important to have it treated before it leads to other, more serious health conditions. The good news is that most cases of sleep apnea can be easily treated. The even better news is that many cases of obstructive sleep apnea can be completely cured. If you aren’t sure how to get rid of sleep apnea, don’t stress because we have provided information on how to cure sleep apnea, as well as sleep apnea treatments without CPAP equipment.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
To treat sleep apnea, or to get rid of it for good, you’ll need to get down to the root cause. Some causes of sleep apnea include:
- Weight – Being overweight or obese is a common cause. The extra tissue in the upper airway and around the neck can obstruct your airway, keeping you from breathing during sleep.
- Sleep Position – Some people only have periods of apnea while sleeping on their backs (known as positional obstructive sleep apnea).
- Anatomy – Sometimes your anatomy can be the cause of your sleep apnea. This could be from large tonsils that narrow the upper airway or a deviated septum, for example.
- Alcohol – Alcohol can relax muscles and tissues that can block the airway.
- Smoking – Smoking can cause inflammation in the airway, contributing to sleep apnea.
- Medication – Certain medications (such as opioids) may also play a role in causing sleep apnea.
CPAP for Treatment of Sleep Apnea
A CPAP machine is typically the go-to treatment for how to get rid of sleep apnea. CPAP, which stands for continuous positive airway pressure, is a machine that hooks to a hose and mask and is worn over the nose (and sometimes the mouth) during sleep. The continuous pressure from the machine works to hold open your airway during sleep, allowing air to flow freely to prevent periods of apnea. In other words, it holds your airway open while you sleep so you can keep breathing.
The reason CPAP machines work so well is that generally, it is soft tissues in the neck, throat, and upper airway, along with the tongue, that relax during sleep and obstruct the airway. This obstruction is what causes you to stop breathing for several seconds or minutes while you’re asleep. This type of sleep apnea is known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and is the most common.
CPAP will not cure sleep apnea but can be an effective treatment if used properly.
Sleep Apnea Treatments Without CPAP
While CPAP is a helpful method that can aid in reducing sleep apnea symptoms, there are other sleep apnea treatments without CPAP therapy. Here are a few suggestions on how to get rid of sleep apnea with other treatments.
Obesity is one of the largest risk factors of obstructive sleep apnea. Extra fatty tissue in the neck and upper airway can cause obstructions of the airway during sleep. If you have sleep apnea and are overweight or obese, losing weight can help improve and even reverse your sleep apnea if you can achieve and maintain a healthy weight. In the meantime, since weight loss isn’t immediate, you may need other treatment for sleep apnea such as a CPAP machine.
If you are using a CPAP machine and are losing weight, it’s possible that you need a different size mask or CPAP pressure, so talk with your healthcare provider about this.
Stop Taking Certain Medications
Talk to your doctor about which medications you’re taking. Some medications (like opioids) can cause your breathing to slow down or stop during sleep. If you’re on one of these medications, see if you can stop taking it or get another medication to replace it.
Alcohol can make apneic episodes worse and also increase your risk of sleep apnea by 25 percent. It’s best to avoid alcohol altogether if you have sleep apnea, but if you would like to enjoy an occasional beverage, try consuming it several hours before bedtime and don’t skip out on any other treatments you’re using, like your CPAP.
Change Your Sleep Position
Many people only experience periods of apnea while lying on their backs. Training yourself to sleep on your side or stomach is a helpful solution for how to get rid of sleep apnea. There are devices on the market, such as bumpers and chest straps that can be worn to help with staying off your back.
Having surgery is often a last resort for how to cure sleep apnea. However, if the cause of your sleep apnea is related to your anatomy, surgery may be an option you want to consider. Examples of this include enlarged tonsils and adenoids, a long palate, and narrow jawbones, all of which can be altered surgically.
Smoking increases inflammation and swelling in the upper airway, making symptoms of sleep apnea worse. Putting an end to cigarettes can relieve sleep apnea symptoms and also help you to stop snoring if you don’t have sleep apnea.
Wear a Mouthpiece
Another treatment possible is a mouthpiece you can wear while you sleep. A mouthpiece will not cure sleep apnea but can offer some relief for those with mild to moderate sleep apnea. They are not to be used for severe sleep apnea.
There two different types of mouthpieces:
- Tongue stabilizing devices (TSD) are mouthpieces that stabilize the tongue, keeping it from falling back into the airway during sleep. These are generally made of plastic and sit at the lips, with a whole that fits your tongue to hold it in place.
- Mandibular advancement devices (MAD) are the most common type of mouthguard for treating snoring and sleep apnea. They work by moving the lower jaw forward to hold the airway open while you sleep. Many of these devices can be custom-fitted to your mouth for ultimate comfort and effectiveness.
Now that you’re aware of the treatment options for how to get rid of sleep apnea, talk with your doctor so they can work with you to choose the one that is best for you. As mentioned, discovering the root cause of your sleep apnea is the first step in being able to get rid of it for good.
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