5 Treatments For Sleep Apnea Sufferers
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that causes you to stop breathing multiple times during the night. Every time you stop breathing, you wake up briefly, which destroys your quality of sleep and makes you feel exhausted the next day. Fortunately, there are many treatments available for this serious problem. Here are five treatments to discuss with your doctor.
There are some lifestyle changes that you can make that may reduce the severity of your sleep apnea symptoms. These changes can be as simple as changing your sleeping position. Lying flat on your back makes your throat narrower (due to gravity) and can increase your symptoms, so try sleeping on your side instead. For some people, this change will completely eliminate their symptoms.
Some lifestyle changes are a little harder to make, but they're still helpful. If you are overweight, losing weight can also be helpful. This is because excess fatty tissue in your neck can contribute to the compression of your airway while you're sleeping. This step will reduce sleep apnea symptoms in many people and will completely stop other people's symptoms.
Smoking makes sleep apnea worse, so if you're a smoker, try to quit. Drinking alcohol can have the same effect, but you don't need to stop drinking completely, just don't drink right before bed.
If lifestyle changes aren't enough, your doctor may recommend continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines. CPAP machines are the most effective treatment for sleep apnea, other than surgery. These machines are attached to a face mask that you wear every night, and they increase the air pressure inside your throat to hold it open. This keeps your tissues from blocking your airway while you sleep, which will reduce sleep apnea symptoms like daytime sleepiness and high blood pressure. These machines take some getting used to and can be uncomfortable to wear.
Expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP) devices are an option for people who find CPAP machines uncomfortable. These devices are small valves that you glue to your nostrils each night before you go to bed. As you breathe, the valves open and close. The valves create pressure when you breathe out which holds your airway open. Studies have shown that these devices work for about 50.7% of patients.
Dentists can create dental appliances to treat mild or moderate cases of sleep apnea. They don't work very well for people with severe sleep apnea unless they're used in conjunction with another treatment. These appliances look similar to sports mouth guards and are worn on both the top and bottom teeth. They work by gently pulling your lower jaw forward to open up your airway, which may sound painful, but these appliances are actually comfortable to wear. If you find CPAP machines or EPAP devices too uncomfortable to sleep in, ask your doctor to refer you to a dentist that specializes in sleep medicine.
Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty is quite the mouthful, but the procedure itself is quite simple. During this surgery, excess tissue from the back of your throat will be surgically removed. This excess tissue can include your uvula, parts of your soft palate, your tonsils and adenoids, and your pharynx, depending on your individual circumstances. These excess tissues are what block your airway and cause sleep apnea.
This surgery is a last resort treatment that is used when non-invasive treatment methods don't work. It isn't a cure, and some people will still suffer from sleep apnea symptoms after these excess tissues have been removed.
There are many treatments available for sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea, or suspect any other sleep disorders, talk to your doctor as soon as possible to find out which treatments may be right for you.