Sleep Apnea Treatment Options

by Denise Wagner on June 3, 2013

While sleep apnea can be treated, it often goes unrecognized. Hence, prior to detailing the various treatment options, it’s best to understand what sleep apnea is in the first place and what its symptoms are so you could later find the type of treatment that is best suited to your condition.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by one or more pauses in breathing or very low breathing while you sleep. The breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and may occur up to hundreds of times a night. As airflow stops during an apnea episode, the oxygen level in your blood declines. Often you will make snorting, choking, or gasping sounds when the air passages reopen.

A lot of people mistake sleep apnea and snoring as the same thing since one of the common symptoms of the disorder is loud and chronic snoring. However, snoring does not necessarily equal sleep apnea and is not at all times a symptom of the disorder.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Loud and chronic snoring, long pauses in breathing, choking, snorting, or gasping are the prominent symptoms of sleep apnea during sleep. Other signs and symptoms include restless sleep, waking up feeling out of breath, morning headaches, moodiness, depression, poor concentration, and chronic daytime sleepiness. It is how you feel during the day that would usually indicate you have more than just a snoring problem since normal snoring would not disturb the quality of your sleep as much as sleep apnea would. If you have sleep apnea, you are prone to suffer from extreme fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Treatments for Sleep Apnea

Self-help Treatments

Sleep apnea worsens with age and weight gain. Hence some lifestyle modifications are highly essential. Your doctor may recommend non-medical treatments to remedy your condition such as losing weight, quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol, sleeping pills, and sedatives, avoiding caffeine and heavy meals before bedtime, and change of sleeping positions. These practical lifestyle changes are known to help reduce apnea symptoms. Weight loss in particular, has helped many overweight people in completely correcting the disorder.

CPAP Machines

Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure or CPAP machine is the most common treatment for moderate to severe sleep apnea. It is a mask-like machine placed over your nose which provides a constant stream of air that keeps your airway passages open during sleep. While it can provide immediate symptom relief, many people find it uncomfortable and awkward that they give up on using it.

Oral Appliances

Like CPAP machines, oral appliances are intended to keep your air passages open. However, they are designed to be easier to use. They are much like athletic mouth guards that fit inside your mouth. Some oral appliances require prescription and are available from your dentist while others can be purchased over the counter. Oral devices are usually effective for mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea.

(Continued on Next Page…Types of Oral Appliances + Surgery)

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