Sleep Apnea Treatments

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition in which a patient’s breathing repeatedly stops and stops during sleep.

The primary form of therapy for someone diagnosed with sleep apnea is using a PAP machine.

There are other forms of treatment such as:

  • Surgery
  • Oral/dental appliance
  • Life style changes

What is PAP? 

Positive airway pressure (PAP) machines are the primary therapy for moderate to severe sleep apnea. The most commonly used machine is CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure).

What is CPAP?

CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. A CPAP machine provides mild air pressure continuously to keep the airway open while a sleep apnea patient sleeps. 

What does CPAP therapy consists of?

  • A mask is worn over your nose and mouth or for some over your nose only.
  • A tube that connects the mask to a CPAP machine’s motor.
  • A motor that blows air into the tube and into the mask.

Although CPAP is the primary form of sleep apnea treatment for most patients there are others that need more than that.

Other PAP machines used are:

  • BiPAP: Bilevel positive airway pressure therapy is similar to CPAP in which pressurized air is delivered through a mask. However CPAP only has a single air pressure setting and this is a problem for patients that have a difficult time exhaling during treatment due to conditions such as cardiopulmonary disorders like congestive heart failure. BiPAP differs from CPAP due to two air pressure settings one for inhalation(iPAP) and for exhalation (ePAP). These settings can be automatically adjusted to meet a patient’s needs.
  • VPAP: Variable positive airway pressure therapy is similar to BiPAP. It offers two levels of pressure for inhalation and exhalation that automatically adjust as the patient breaths during sleep.
  • AutoPAP: Automatic positive airway pressure therapy. Bilevel or BiPAP has two distinct pressure settings for inhalation and exhalation. However AutoPAP takes this a step further when a prescribing physician sets a high or low pressure range that can automatically adjust to varying inhalation needs. A patient’s breathing can vary due to circumstances such as sleeping on their back or side. Seasonal allergies and a stuffy nose can require an increase in air pressure due to worsening apnea symptoms. The pressure can be automatically adjusted if breathing is slowed due to alcohol consumption before bed. An AutoPAP machine is equipped with high sensitive algorithms that can detect detect a patient’s breathing and automatically make adjustments.

Wear an oral/dental appliance: There are patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea who can’t tolerate CPAP therapy. An oral sleep apnea treatment device can be used instead to prevent the airway from collapsing by holding the tongue in position. It’s also used to slide a patient’s jaw into a position that allows a patient to breathe while they sleep.

Surgery: Sleep apnea has numerous physical causes such as extra tissue in your throat that can obstruct a patient’s airway while they sleep. Surgery can be an option to correct this condition.

Other forms of surgery include:

  • Soft palate and uvula: Sleep apnea can be caused by an enlarged and elongated soft palate. Sometimes the uvula can become swollen and cause snoring.
  • Tonsils and adenoids: Enlarged tonsils and adenoids can obstruct the airway.
  • Tongue: Increased fat can enlarge the tongue.
  • Upper and lower jaw: Having a severe over bite can obstruct the airway.

What questions should a patient ask?

Patients need to ask about the success rate of surgery in improving snoring or sleep apnea. Questions also need to be asked about why surgery is better than CPAP and ask about the risks and side effects.

What are the risks?

A patient is at risk of being in pain after surgery and the possibility of bleeding and throat swelling. An overnight hospital stay is required and their jaws will have to be wired shut for several days afterward.

It is not a guarantee that surgery will be a permanent correction for sleep apnea. There is a chance that the same problem may reoccur in the future.

Here are 7 tips for making lifestyle changes that improve sleep apnea.

Weight loss: Sleep apnea patients that are overweight may benefit from losing weight. Weight gain can result in a thick neck size that causes the formation of extra tissue in the throat that can block the airway. For many people weight loss can help alleviate sleep apnea symptoms. 

Yoga: Sleep apnea patients can benefit from the strengthening of upper airway muscles that come with yoga breathing exercises.

Changing sleep position: Sleeping on your side can improve symptoms.

Using a humidifier: Humidifiers help keep a patient’s airway open at night.

Avoid alcohol and smoking: Alcohol and smoking makes breathing harder.

Establish a sleep schedule: A sleep schedule can help a patient relax and sleep better.

Keep your nasal passages opened up: Opening up your nasal passages with a nasal spray can help you sleep better.

How do you treat sleep apnea?

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