Sleep apnea can put a huge burden on your quality-of-life. You wake up after a full night of sleep feeling like you did not sleep at all. You’re drowsy throughout the day. You startle yourself awake throughout the night. Your partner complains that you snore loudly. You may also experience the secondary symptoms related to sleep apnea: headaches, irritability, unexplained weight gain, and depression. Worst of all, sleep apnea can actually be life-threatening.
Finding the best treatment for your sleep apnea, so that you can sleep and live comfortably, is incredibly important. Some of the methods people used to treat their sleep apnea include:
- Lifestyle Changes.
Many times, your sleep apnea symptoms can improve without any medical intervention at all. In some cases, just making simple changes to lead a healthier life will also improve your symptoms of sleep apnea. Some of these changes include:
- Losing weight. Being overweight is one of the most common causes of sleep apnea. The added tissue puts pressure on your airways and obstructs your ability to breathe while you sleep. Committing to a healthy diet and losing weight is one way to minimize your sleep apnea.
- Avoiding alcohol. When you drink alcohol, it causes your central nervous system to relax, which prevents the muscles in the throat from remaining open. This obstructs your ability to breathe while you sleep.
- Giving up cigarettes. Yes, there is another reason to quit smoking. Smoking has numerous negative impacts on your lungs and blood vessels. Anything that prevents you from breathing is going to have a negative impact on your ability to breathe while you sleep.
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.
If the lifestyle changes mentioned above do not improve your sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend using a CPAP machine. The CPAP machine simply provides a constant supply of air pressure through a mask that you wear while you sleep. The steady supply of air helps keep your airways open, and provides good quality oxygen to you while you sleep. Using a CPAP mask has shown to improve your quality of sleep, reduce your fatigue, and even lower your blood pressure both while you sleep and during the day.
- Nasal Pillows or Other Breathing Devices.
If you are not ready to adopt a sleep apnea mask, you may find using nasal pillows while you sleep a more comfortable solution. Rather than being a full mask, nasal pillows just go right under your nose to keep your nostrils and nasal passages open while you sleep. The nasal pillows create a seal around your nostrils, which keep the flow of oxygen going through your air passages and allows you to sleep comfortably as well as delivering adequate oxygen to stay healthy, and minimizes the symptoms of sleep apnea.
Other sleeping devices include tools that reposition your tongue while you sleep, which prevents them from blocking your airway and preventing you from getting oxygen. These tools are good first steps for treating your sleep apnea, if you are not ready to adopt the mask.
In most cases, you would only consider surgery for sleep apnea if the above-mentioned treatments have not been successful. Most doctors recommend testing all therapy options for at least three months before undergoing surgery. There are several different types of surgery that can improve your sleep apnea:
- Tissue removal surgery. If the tissue at the rear of your throat is leading to the obstruction and oxygen while you sleep, your doctor may suggest having it removed. In most cases, he would also remove your tonsils and adenoids at the same time. By reducing the amount of tissue at the back of the mouth, your airway passages have less obstructions.
- Jaw re-positioning surgery. This type of surgery moves the jaw away from the esophagus, providing more space for the tongue and lower likelihood for obstruction.
- Tracheostomy. Tracheostomy is a surgical method of creating a new air passage. As you can imagine, it would only be used if every other form of treatment has failed and your sleep apnea is so severe that it’s life-threatening. This is a procedure in which the doctor installs a tube coming from your neck, bypassing your mouth all together.
Do you have any questions about sleep apnea treatment options? We would love to help you in the comment section below.