It's important to get treatment for sleep apnea. Treatment can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Having a sleep study conducted at one of our sleep centers will help us diagnose the severity of your condition. Only then can we determine what treatment is right for you.
The goal of treatment is to restore air flow to your throat while you sleep. This will help reduce daytime sleepiness. Currently there are no medications to treat sleep apnea but there are several types of treatment that are effective.
If you have mild sleep apnea, some changes in your daily activities may help lessen the symptoms.
- Avoid alcohol and medicines that make you sleepy. They make it harder for your throat to stay open while you sleep.
- Lose weight if you're overweight. Even a little weight loss can lessen symptoms.
- To help keep your throat open, sleep on your side instead of your back. You can purchase special pillows or shirts that help prevent you from sleeping on your back.
- Stop smoking.
Mouthpiece (Oral appliance)
If you have mild or moderate sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend a mouth guard, sometimes called an oral appliance. The mouthpiece will help adjust your lower jaw and tongue position to assist in keeping your airways open while you sleep. A dentist or orthodontist can make a custom-fitted plastic mouth guard.
Breathing devices (CPAP)
In adults, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most common treatment for moderate to severe sleep apnea. Most patients feel much better once CPAP treatment is underway. A CPAP machine is one where a mask that fits over your mouth and nose or over just your nose is connected through a tube to a quiet machine that gently blows air into your throat. This stops your airways from becoming narrowed or blocked.
Before CPAP treatment is rendered, a sleep study will be conducted to determine the appropriate air flow settings required to open your airways. The CPAP equipment will be set up in your home and after the initial setup, you will occasionally have the CPAP and sleep mask adjusted to make sure air flow is sufficient. Side effects to CPAP treatment include a dry or stuffy nose, irritated skin or sore eyes, or stomach bloating. If you have these symptoms, please contact your sleep specialist who will make adjustments to the CPAP machine and mask.
In some cases, your physician may recommend surgery. Surgery is performed to widen breathing passages. It usually involves removing, shrinking, or stiffening excess tissue in the mouth and throat or resetting the lower jaw. The type of surgery recommended and how well it works, depend on the cause of the sleep apnea.