Do You Have Sleep Apnea? Everything to Know About How to Get Screened and Treated
CPAP and Other Treatments for Sleep Apnea
In some cases, sleep apnea can be managed with lifestyle changes. (4) To manage the sleep disorder, your doctor may recommend that you:
- Eat right, exercise, and lose weight. Fill your plate with heart-healthy options like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and get plenty of exercise. Adopting these healthy habits can help you maintain a healthy weight, which is one reason people develop the condition in the first place.
- Stop smoking. Smoking may increase upper airway inflammation and reduce function.
- Avoid alcohol and certain medications. Don’t take sedatives, opioids, or benzodiazepine, and try not to drink, especially close to bedtime, as these substances relax the muscles in the back of your throat more, potentially interfering with breathing.
- Do not sleep on your back. Sleeping on your back can increase the likelihood that your tongue and soft palate will fall back into your airway, which causes airway obstruction, snoring, and sleep apnea.
Many cases of sleep apnea require treatment beyond lifestyle modifications. Typical sleep apnea treatments your doctor may suggest are:
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) The most common treatment is a CPAP machine, which is a device you can use at home that gently forces pressurized air through a mask you wear over your nose and mouth (or just your nose) into your airway to keep it open while you sleep at night. CPAP has been shown to be effective in treating sleep apnea. But while many people find CPAP tolerable (and even essential for a good night’s sleep), others have experienced difficulties using the devices, citing problems like feeling claustrophobic while using the machines or finding the masks uncomfortable.
- Oral devices Before you try CPAP, or if breathing machines are not working for you, your doctor may suggest an oral device. These mouthpieces, which typically need to be custom-fit by your dentist, can be particularly helpful for individuals who have obstructive sleep apnea. An oral apparatus can help keep your throat open by bringing your jaw forward and preventing the tongue from falling back into your airway when you lie down on your back, and is a more portable and simple option than a CPAP machine.
- Surgery When lifestyle changes, CPAP, and other sleep apnea treatments are not working for you, your doctor may advise surgery, which is typically performed to either make more room in the throat by removing the tonsils, adenoids, or other tissue in the back of the throat — or to reposition your jaw to open up the airway. In rare and life-threatening cases of sleep apnea, doctors may perform a tracheostomy to insert a breathing tube directly into the trachea. Doctors may also perform weight loss surgery to reduce obesity or nasal surgery to remove polyps or fix a deviated septum to clear any airway obstruction.
- Implants One of the latest sleep apnea treatments that’s showing promise is a device that gets surgically implanted underneath the skin of the neck and chest. (7) This pacemaker-like device continuously monitors your breathing patterns while you sleep and delivers mild stimulation to muscles in the respiratory tract to help keep the airway open while you sleep.
Video: Understanding Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
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