SLEEP APNEA TREATMENT
These are machines that deliver high-pressure air to the back of the throat, to prevent collapse during sleep. This is commonly known as “CPAP” but more recently, machines with auto-titrating settings (autoPAP, or “APAP”) are being prescribed. Air is filtered through the machine at a high pressure, through the tubing, through the mask, and to the back of the throat. Most machines now gather data regarding average pressure settings and provide estimates as to how well the breathing is controlled. Masks are constantly redesigned for comfort to allow for nightly use.
There are various dental/oral appliance devices for sleep apnea. The basic premise of these devices is to hold the tongue and jaw in a forward position to keep your throat from collapsing while you sleep. This is NOT a mouth guard for teeth grinding and is NOT something you can buy off the internet.
This device has a pacemaker type of activity that stimulates a nerve that connects to the back of your throat and tongue during sleep. This acts to “stimulate” the throat region so that it is more open while you sleep.
Other types of surgery are usually reserved for specific instances. For example, for a child, your doctor may suggest removing the tonsils or adenoid tissues. For adults, removing tonsils or repairing deviated nasal septum rarely modifies sleep apnea severity but may help with tolerating the CPAP/APAP machine.
Among all the risk factors that contribute to sleep apnea, the single most modifiable risk factor is weight management! This is more than what you see on the scale – focus on muscle to fat ratio and waist size. In other words, decreasing a pant size will likely make more of a medical impact than changing the numbers on the scale.
Nicotine and particularly cigarette smoking negatively impacts multiple medical issues – sleep apnea is no exception. Talk to your doctor about quitting!
For the overwhelming majority of adults, sleep apnea is due to a blockage that occurs in the back of the throat. For some people (such as small children), blockage in the nasal area can cause sleep apnea symptoms. Talk to a doctor about whether a trial of a prescription nasal spray or even an over-the-counter preparation can help. Keep in mind that these methods are not to be used long-term unless your doctor advises it.
Things to try
If you think you have sleep apnea, here are some things that can help:
- If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about healthy lifestyle changes. A healthy muscle to fat ratio can improve sleep apnea symptoms.
- Stop smoking – this will help any medical disorder, including sleep apnea!
- Do not drink excess alcohol, especially in the evening or near bedtime. Alcohol worsens sleep apnea symptoms in many ways, including contributing to the “floppy” nature of the throat area as well as adding weight to the central core areas that worsen OSA.
- Use caution with sleep aids, as these may potentially worsen sleep apnea. This includes over-the-counter preparations.
- Be very careful with activities requiring alertness (including driving).
- See a sleep doctor to discuss diagnosis and treatment options – do NOT ignore it, as OSA has potentially serious health and medical consequences.