Sleep apnea is a disorder that interferes with your ability to get a restful night of sleep. It is a serious condition that affects about 1 in 20 adults and has been linked to an increase in hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. Sleep apnea symptoms include stops in breathing during sleep and loud snoring. The effects of untreated sleep apnea can be serious, including increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, memory problems, stress, and depression. Fortunately there are many treatments available for sleep apnea that can help you get the rest you need to feel good again. Here’s an overview of the most effective treatment options for sleep apnea:
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. It is the most common treatment for sleep apnea. A CPAP machine blows air into your nose through a mask that covers your nose and mouth. The constant flow of air helps keep your airways open, which reduces the number of times you stop breathing. CPAP is prescribed to treat the following sleep apnea syndromes: Central sleep apnea, Obstructive sleep apnea, Cheyne-Stokes breathing, and Upper airway resistance syndrome. CPAP has largely been proven effective in treating sleep apnea; studies show that it improves quality of sleep, mood, and symptoms of depression.
However, if you’re using Philips Respironics CPAP machines, please be aware that they have recently been recalled due to adverse health risks.
Surgery can treat all but the mildest forms of sleep apnea. It is particularly helpful for those whose condition is caused by the relaxed muscles in the back of the throat or tongue. Throat surgery is called a tonsillectomy or a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP). Some doctors recommend using a laser to prevent bleeding during surgery. UPPP surgery is more effective than a tonsillectomy, and the choice between the two depends on your condition. An oral surgeon will remove any excess tissue in the roof of the mouth and back of the throat. This may be enough to treat mild sleep apnea. A surgeon can also reposition the tongue to make sure that it is out of the throat. If your sleep apnea is severe, a surgeon can clip the tissue connecting the back of the tongue to the wall of the throat. This is called a soft palate or palatopharyngeal flap.
Nasal Continuous Breathing and Adenoidectomy
Nasal Continuous Breathing (NCB) is a simple treatment that uses a special device that keeps the person’s nose open during sleep. It has also been used for children with enlarged adenoids in order to reduce snoring and improve sleep. It has been suggested that NCB will reduce the presence of sleep disordered breathing, but its effectiveness is still being debated. NCB is used when mouth breathing is the primary cause of sleep disordered breathing, and it can improve the quality of sleep. It can be used as a primary treatment for mild or moderate sleep disordered breathing, but it is not advised as a treatment for severe sleep disordered breathing due to the high risk of developing upper airway obstruction.
Dental Appliances and Mandibular Advancement Devices (MAD)
Dental appliances, also known as mandibular advancement devices (MADs), are designed to move your lower jaw forward. They can be used to treat mild or moderate sleep apnea. Mild sleep apnea can be treated with a type of dental appliance called a fixed appliance. This is designed to keep your lower jaw in a more forward position all the time. Fixed appliances are rarely removable and are designed to be worn throughout the day and night. Moderate sleep apnea can be treated with a removable appliance that is only worn during sleep. The appliance pushes the lower jaw forward when you sleep to keep your airway open. The downside to dental appliances is that they need to be fabricated by a dentist, which means that they are not a quick fix. Dentists will take x-rays and moulds of your teeth in order to make a custom device that is the right size for you. This process can take a few weeks. Although dental appliances may not be the most convenient solution, they are considered to be long-term solutions for sleep apnea. They are effective and can last for years when cared for properly.
If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, you should consult with a doctor. Sleep apnea can have serious health consequences if it goes untreated, and there are several effective treatments available. These include CPAP, surgery, nasal continuous breathing, dental appliances, and mandibular advancement devices. If you suffer from sleep apnea, take the steps necessary to get your symptoms under control as soon as possible.