A diagnosis of sleep apnea may be a little scary, but the good news is that it’s a treatable condition. If you have a mild to moderate case, lifestyle modifications may resolve your problem. If your sleep apnea is more severe, then other treatments should be considered. The following are some treatment options for sleep apnea.
- Lose weight: Being overweight produces extra tissue in the back of the throat, which can block your airway while you sleep. Even a small amount of weight loss can open up your airway.
- Stop smoking: Smoking increases fluid retention and inflammation in the throat and airway.
- Avoid alcohol, sedatives, and sleeping pills, especially before bedtime: They cause all muscles to relax including throat muscles.
- Exercise your throat and tongue: Exercises can strengthen the muscles in the airway.
- Sleep on your side: Sleeping on your back works with gravity to make your soft tissues and tongue drop and obstruct your airway.
- Keep your head up: Raise the head of your bed by four to six inches, or use a foam wedge to elevate your body from the waist up.
- CPAP (Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure) Machine: If lifestyle changes don’t help, this is the usual treatment for moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea. The CPAP device involves a facial mask attached to a machine that provides a constant stream of air to your breathing passages. The disadvantage is that some people find this uncomfortable.
- CPAP minus the mask: An alternative, more expensive form of CPAP called Provent involves a device that fits over the nostrils and is smaller and less intrusive than the traditional CPAP machine.
- Other breathing devices: These include BPAP (Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure) and ASV (Adaptive Servo-Ventilation). BPAP automatically provides more air when you inhale and less when you exhale. Some BPAPs are programmed to automatically deliver a breath if one hasn’t been detected for a certain number of seconds. The ASV device stores information about the patient’s normal breathing pattern and automatically uses airflow pressure to prevent pauses in breathing.
Surgery should only be resorted to in the most severe cases and when nothing else has worked. Surgery may involve the removal of tonsils, adenoids, or excess tissue at the back of the throat or inside the nose, or even restructuring of the jaw.
A dentist can make an acrylic device to fit inside your mouth, similar to an athletic mouth guard. Another type fits around your head and chin to adjust the position of the lower jaw. Two common ones are MAD (Mandibular Advancement Device) and TRD (Tongue Retaining Device). These devices open the airway by bringing the lower jaw or tongue forward during sleep. We are a dental practice with a specialty in sleep apnea, so please contact us for more information.