Loss of breath, snoring, daytime sleepiness and lack of focus and energy – these are just some of the most common problems people affected by sleep apnea struggle with on a daily basis. Although these symptoms are what bothers sufferers the most, this condition can also have some less obvious but much more serious effects such as asthma, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, and diabetes. So, if you were diagnosed with sleep apnea, no matter how severe, it’s important that you start treating it before it affects your health.
Sleep apnea treatments can range from making simple lifestyle changes to using medical devices and undergoing surgery. What solution is best for you depends on the cause of your sleep apnea and your overall health. If you want to know your available options, here’s a detailed explanation of the most effective solutions for this condition.
Mild cases of sleep apnea are generally caused by an unhealthy lifestyle. As such, the condition can often be easily treated simply by starting to live more healthily. For instance, a leading cause of mild sleep apnea is being overweight. The accumulated fat in the neck and upper belly narrows down the airways when lying down, which leads to breathing problems while sleeping. In this case, the best solution to get rid of sleep apnea is to lose weight. Another effective lifestyle change is to stop smoking as it causes inflammation and swelling in the upper airways which in turn can result in breathing problems. Cutting alcohol is also found to help in mild cases of sleep apnea, considering how it is known to depress breathing. However, you can still take a drink or two on special occasions, as long as that’s four to five hours before you go to bed. Additionally, you may also want to avoid sleeping on your back and try sleeping on your sides to improve breathing.
However, if you experience moderate to severe sleep apnea, you’ll find that the aforementioned tips aren’t enough to provide relief from the symptoms. In that case, doctors advise trying CPAP therapy. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy is currently the leading solution for sleep apnea. The majority of people who undergo CPAP experience immediate relief and increased energy and mental focus throughout the day. Many have even reported that it changed their life.
This therapy involves specialized CPAP supplies (a machine and a mask) which deliver air pressure while you sleep. Because the air the machine generates has greater pressure than that of the surrounding air, it helps to keep the upper airways open so that the breathing can go on uninterrupted. As a result, this effectively helps prevent sleep apnea and snoring. Although this method is the most successful way to treat sleep apnea, some may find it uncomfortable. However, if you take the time to purchase CPAP supplies with helpful features and a secure and comfortable grip, you’ll hardly experience any inconvenience.
With that being said, one of the best features to help you adjust to CPAP is Flex technology. CPAP machines with Flex technology automatically assess your breathing pattern and ease pressure transition from inhalation to exhalation while mirroring your natural breathing. This can make it much easier to stick to CPAP therapy. If you travel frequently, you’d want to pick a machine that’s small, lightweight and compact. And if you travel abroad, also make sure that the machine includes multiple plug-in adapters for international DC power supply.
If certain oral irregularities are what’s causing your sleep apnea, then oral appliances can also be a great treatment option. Oral appliances are mostly used in treating mild sleep apnea that is caused by a badly positioned jaw or tongue. A dentist or orthodontist can prescribe an oral appliance that’s suitable for your problem. The appliance should be made precisely for you and be based on a plaster mold of your teeth. While oral appliances can be slightly uncomfortable, they should never cause pain or damage to your oral cavity. If you experience any adverse effects of the device you use, consult your dentist or orthodontist to have the device adjusted or replaced with a new one.
While CPAP and oral devices can be effective in opening up the airways temporarily, to permanently allow for unobstructed breathing during sleeping you will need surgery. Depending on the cause for obstruction, the following surgical procedures are recommended:
- Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) – A procedure that removes the excess of soft tissue on the back of the throat and palate, which results in a wider opening of the throat.
- Septoplasty – Nasal surgery that corrects deviated septums, a common cause of sleep apnea.
- Tonsillectomy – Removal of enlarged tonsils that cause airway obstruction.
- Adenoidectomy – Removal of enlarged adenoids.
- Maxilla-mandibular advancement – Correction of jaw abnormalities that contribute to sleep apnea.
Some sufferers often resort to sleeping medications to prevent waking up during the night which is a common symptom of sleep apnea. However, sleeping pills can make sleep apnea worse. The vast majority of sleeping medications contain a muscle relaxant which can further block the airways. However, instead of sleeping pills, a better alternative is to use a medication that helps prevent excess daytime sleepiness. Soloriamfetol is one such medication that is proven effective in helping patients stay alert.