Sleep Apnea Treatments

Sleep Apnea Treatments-

Last week we looked at sleep apnea and some of the troubles it can cause.  Now we take a look at some of the treatments available to minimize or alleviate sleep apnea.  These treatments range from modifying behaviors to surgery.  The goal of treatments for sleep apnea is to keep your airway passage open so you can breath easier and not suffer a breathing stoppage.

Behavioral Modifications for Sleep Apnea:

Mild cases of sleep apnea can sometimes be treated by such conservative approaches as:

  • Losing Weight
  • Avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills
  • Changing sleep positions to help ease breathing
  • Stop smoking- Smoking can increase swelling in the upper airway, which may make snoring, and apnea worse.
  • Don’t sleep on your back

Therapies and Surgical Treatments:

Therapies and Surgical treatments are often suggested for moderate to sever cases of sleep apnea.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP):

sleep apnea CPAP mask example

sleep apnea CPAP mask example

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a treatment in which a mask is worn over your nose and/or mouth while you sleep.  The mask is hooked up to a machine that delivers a continuous flow of air in to the nostrils.  The positive pressure from air flowing into the nostrils helps keep the airways open so that breathing is not impaired.  CPAP is considered by many experts to be the most effective treatment for sleep apnea.  The downside of CPAP is that some people find the mask uncomfortable and/or cumbersome.

Dental (Oral) Devices:

Another option is to wear a dental device to keep your throat open.  Dental devices can be made that help keep the airway open during sleep.  Dentists with background in sleep apnea can design and make these devices for you.  You may need to try a few different devices to find the one that works best for you.

Surgery for Sleep Apnea:

The goal of surgery in the treatment of sleep apnea is to remove excess tissue you’re your nose or throat that is causing you to snore or is blocking your upper air passage.  Surgery may be an option for sleep apnea if you suffer from a deviated nasal septum, enlarged nostrils, or a small lower jaw with an overbite that causes an abnormally narrow throat.  The most common surgeries performed for sleep apnea include:

  • Nasal Surgery: Correction of nasal obstructions such as a deviated septum.
  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP): A procedure to remove soft tissue on the back of the throat and palate, to increase the width of the airway at the opening of the throat.
  • Mandibular maxillar advancement surgery: A more invasive surgery performed to correct certain facial abnormalities or throat obstructions that contribute to sleep apnea.  Your jaw is moved forward, enlarging the space behind the tongue and soft palate, helping make obstructions less likely.
  • Tracheotomy: This may be needed if other treatments have failed and you have severe or even life-threatening sleep apnea.  An opening is made in your neck and a tube is inserted through which you breath.  This bypasses the blocked air passage in your throat.

 Other Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea:

While the following procedures have been effective in treating snoring, the long term effectiveness in treating sleep apnea has yet to be determined.  These minimally invasive procedures that are designed to reduce and stiffen the soft tissue of the soft palate include:

  • Pillar palatal implants- polyester braids are embedded in the back of your throat to stiffen the soft palate and reduce the vibration that causes snoring.
  • Somnoplasty- a procedure to reduce areas of the soft palate and open the throat.
  • Injection snoreplasty- a non surgical treatment that involves injecting a hardening agent into the upper palate.

Sources of information included WebMD and Mayo