There are several modes of treatment for sleep apnea. These include changes in lifestyle, various breathing devices or mouthpieces, and surgery. When determining how to treat sleep apnea, a doctor will consider the type of sleep apnea and the severity of symptoms. Here is an overview of each of the various types of treatments for obstructive sleep apnea.
Those who have mild sleep apnea may be able to reduce or eliminate their symptoms by making some changes in their daily lives.
Alcohol and sedative medications suppress breathing and make the airway more likely to close during sleep. Avoiding these can help a sleep apnea patient to breathe freely all night long.
The heavier a person is, the more weight they carry in the neck and chest area. This excess weight can cause the airway to close during sleep. Losing weight can help to relieve symptoms of sleep apnea.
Changing sleep position can sometimes be enough to improve breathing during sleep. Simply sleeping on the side instead of on the back can help to keep the airway open and reduce sleep apnea symptoms.
For many sleep apnea patients, simple lifestyle changes are not enough to reduce sleep apnea symptoms. Especially if they have moderate or severe sleep apnea, they are going to need extra help to keep their airways open at night. This is where various positive airway pressure machines come into play.
A positive airway device blows a steady stream of air through the patient’s throat as they sleep. This acts as a sort of stent that prevents the airway from collapsing as the patient’s muscles relax overnight. There are a few different types of positive airway pressure machines.
The most common device is a continuous positive airway pressure machine, usually referred to as a CPAP. The CPAP consists of a small box with the blower that sits on the nightstand. Then the patient wears a small mask over the nose, and the air flows through tubing that runs from the machine to the mask. As the word “continuous” indicates, a CPAP delivers a stream of air at the same constant pressure the whole night.
There are other devices that vary the pressure of the air that blows through the mask. These are called AutoPAP or BiPAP machines. These operate on the same general principles as a CPAP, but they adjust the pressure up and down with each inhalation and exhalation. This makes it easier for some patients to tolerate, especially if they have severe sleep apnea and require a higher air pressure in order to keep their airways open.
Oral Appliances and Surgery
Some sleep apnea patients are treated with mouthpieces that they wear while they are sleeping or with surgery to correct defects in the airway. The oral devices are designed to reposition the jaw and help keep the throat open during sleep. The various surgeries aim to open up the nasal passages or airway of the throat in order to make it easier for air to flow through.
Sleep apnea affects millions of people, and there are many varieties of treatments available for doctors to choose from for each patient. There are many other treatments available in addition to the ones discussed here. Some treatments are more effective than others, so it is up to the physician to pick the one that is best when deciding how to treat sleep apnea for each individual patient.