Category Archives: Sleep Apnea Treatments

Around 18 million people are suffering with diagnosed Sleep Apnea in the United States; it is one of the most common sleep disorders around. Unfortunately, there is no concrete cure for Sleep Apnea. There are, however, numerous forms of treatment and therapy that apnea sufferers can rely on to help treat their symptoms.

Diagnosing Your Sleep Apnea

Before you can begin to treat your Sleep Apnea, you must first understand the unique needs of your specific case. Everyone’s Sleep Apnea disorder has a different severity, different characteristics, and different needs. You can seek out medical professionals that will help you identify and understand your apnea case. Most sleep specialists will suggest a sleep study to accurately analyze and diagnose your apnea and what causes it.

  • Take a Polysomnography Test: A polysomnogram is the most commonly used test to diagnose apnea cases. The sleeper is attached to a monitor that recognizes and records many different functions in the body while the patient is asleep. The test records carbon dioxide levels, oxygen levels, blood levels, brain activity, heart rate, heart rhythm, rate of breath, rhythm of breath, and eye movement. It also monitors airflow entering and leaving the body, chest and belly movement, and snoring. By compiling the information from this test, a medical professional can not only diagnose you with Sleep Apnea, they can tell you whether you have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), Central Sleep Apnea (CSA), and Complex Sleep Apnea (CompSA). The test classifies your type of apnea by categorizing apneas and hypopneas by the number of occurrences and the pattern of occurrences throughout the night; each type of apnea has a specific pattern. Sleep studies are usually performed in a sleep lab, but for more money you can complete your test in the comfort of your own home.

Treating Your Sleep Apnea

As medical professionals become better able to understand and diagnose Sleep Apnea causes and risk factors, they are developing more effective treatment options. It is important to remember that there is no cure for Sleep Apnea. Fortunately, the disorder is manageable through treatment. No single treatment option, however, can be used alone; successfully managing apnea means incorporating many treatments to help the disorder. 

  • Breathing Machines: Breathing assistance machines are the most popular non-invasive treatment choices for people with respiratory sleeping disorders like Sleep Apnea. CPAP, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, is a powerful treatment and the most popular choice of breathing therapy for people with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. OSA patients use CPAP therapy to keep their airways open during sleep. The machine produces pressurized air, pushes the air stream through a tube, and into a mask that the patient wears on the face. The level of the air pressure being produced is high enough that it keeps the airway free from obstruction and prevents collapse.

For Central Sleep Apnea and Complex Sleep Apnea, CPAP is not an effective breathing treatment. For patient’s with CSA or CompSA, there are other types of airway pressure therapies that may treat the signs and symptoms of Sleep Apnea better: Variable Positive Airway Pressure (VPAP), Automatic Positive Airway Pressure APAP, Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure (Bi-PAP), and Assisted Ventilation Devices are other possible breathing treatments that apnea victims can discuss with their doctor. 

  • Dental Devices/Mouthpieces: Mouthpieces or dental devices are other common options for Obstructive Sleep Apnea patients. In OSA patients, breathing stops because there is a physical obstruction preventing proper airflow in the upper airway. Airway obstruction is often caused by loose muscles in the upper throat and in the tongue. A mouthpiece can be work during sleep to prevent the muscles of the tongue from relaxing too much and sliding back into the throat. A Tongue Retaining Device (TRD) may be worn to keep the tongue in place while the patient is sleeping. Mandibular Repositioning Devices can also be used to keep the tongue from falling into the throat. They look slightly like mouth guards used in sporting events. They keep the tongue forward in the mouth by slightly pulling forward and pushing down the lower jaw. 
  • Positional Therapy: Sleeping on the back is a huge contributor to apnea. Sleep-Position Training can help train Sleep Apnea patients not to roll over on their backs while they are sleeping. Some apnea patients put a ball of tennis balls on their backs; when they roll over on the tennis balls during sleep, the discomfort causes them to move into another position. 
  • Strengthening Exercises: To prevent airway obstruction and collapse in OSA patients, the muscles that support the upper respiratory system must be strengthened. Breathing exercises can help maintain proper muscle tone and support in the upper airway; practicing Yoga will help incorporate such exercises. Singing exercises have also been developed to help target the muscles in the throat that create airway obstruction. The laryngeal muscles are strengthened by repeating different patterns and series of tonal sounds. Playing wind instruments like the didgeridoo can help strengthen the muscles that support respiratory function. 
  • Pillows: The best position for apnea sufferers to sleep in is on their side. There are pillows designed specifically to keep the user sleeping on their side. These pillows are compatible and can be used in accordance with CPAP therapy. 
  • Surgery: Surgery can be an effective treatment option for some apnea patients, especially children. If over-sized tonsils, adenoids, or a large uvula are causing airway obstruction, surgically moving the excess tissue may be beneficial. Surgery can be also be used to reposition the tongue, straighten the septum, remove inflamed or infected sinus tissue, removal or enlargement of the bony tissue found in the upper sinuses, and to reduce the size of turbinates. Implants can also be placed in the upper throat to stiffen the muscles of the throat. Surgery is not a sure-fire fix, and sometimes makes apnea cases worse. 
  • Lifestyle Changes: Mild cases of Sleep Apnea can see significant improvement in their symptoms and warning signs by making a few changes in their lifestyle habits. Losing weight may help remove extra pressure on the neck and throat preventing collapse and help prevent diabetes linked to apnea. Stop drinking alcohol or taking sedative medications during the day to prevent sleepiness during the day and trouble breathing at night. Proper exercise can help you sleep better and support respiratory function. The most important part of Sleep Apnea therapy is consistency; treatment should be regular, and sleeping schedules should be healthy and ritualistic.
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