Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
Sleep apnea is a medical condition that involves brief pauses in breathing while you are sleeping. Although the pauses usually only last a few seconds, the condition can have several adverse effects on the body.
There are a few different types of sleep apnea with obstructive sleep apnea being the most common. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway becomes blocked. The blockage can develop if the muscles in the back of the throat or the soft fatty tissues relax during sleep.
If you have sleep apnea, the pauses in breathing disrupt how deep you sleep. Your quality of sleep is diminished, which can often lead to daytime fatigue and sleepiness. But that’s not all. Sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of certain medical conditions. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, people with sleep apnea have an increased risk of a stroke, heart attack and diabetes.
It’s pretty clear, if you have sleep apnea, you should get treatment. The good news is in most cases, sleep apnea can be successfully treated so that you can be on your way to a better night’s rest. Consider some of the following treatment options:
One of the main treatment options for obstructive sleep apnea is CPAP, which stands for continuous positive airway pressure. Although that might sound confusing, it’s actually pretty simple. A small CPAP machine delivers a continuous stream of pressurized air to your airways as you inhale. The pressure helps keep your airway passages open while you sleep. Because your airway remains open, it prevents pauses in breathing.
A CPAP machine is small and can fit on a nightstand next to your bed. The machine connects to flexible tubing and a mask you’ll wear at bedtime. There are different types of masks including one that covers your nose and one that covers both your nose and mouth. You may also use a nasal pillow, which fits into your nose.
CPAP for home use is usually quiet and comfortable to use. CPAP often improves sleep quality and decreases snoring, which may also be appreciated by your bedmate.
In some cases, a dental appliance may be effective in treating mild to moderate sleep apnea. There are two main types of dental appliances for sleep apnea including a mandibular advancement device and a tongue retaining device.
A mandibular advancement device (MADs) is worn similar to a sports mouth guard. But it’s worn only while you sleep. The device works by pushing the jaw forward to keep the upper airway open. A tongue retaining device is also a mouthpiece, but it has a small piece that fits around the tongue. The device holds the tongue forward and prevents it from blocking the airway.
If your sleep specialist prescribes a dental device, your dentist will use physical or digital impressions of your mouth to custom fit the device. The impressions of your teeth are sent to a dental lab, and the appliance is made. Once your appliance is made, you’ll visit your dentist to make sure it fits properly and is comfortable to wear. A dental appliance is easy to use, and since there is less equipment involved than a CPAP, it’s easy to travel with.
In some instances, surgery may be a treatment option if CPAP or other treatments are ineffective or not tolerated. The type of surgical procedure may vary based on a person’s individual anatomy and problems contributing to sleep apnea.
Possible procedures include surgery on the nose to correct a deviated septum or remove polyps. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids can also lead to sleep apnea and may be treated through surgery. There are also surgical options that involve advancing the base of the tongue forward to prevent it from blocking the airway. If you’re considering surgery for sleep apnea, it’s important to discuss the risks versus the benefits with your doctor before making a decision.
Weight loss remains an effective treatment option for overweight patients with sleep apnea. For many, it will improve sleep breathing.
American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. Oral Appliance Therapy. http://www.aadsm.org/oralappliances.aspx Retrieved October 2016.
American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. http://www.entnet.org/content/continuous-positive-airway-pressure-cpap Retrieved October 2016
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. What is Sleep Apnea. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sleepapnea Retrieved October 2016.