SLEEP APNEA TREATMENTS
Sleep apnea treatments have come a long way especially in the last 10 years. When people think of sleep apnia they immediately think that it only has to do with snoring. Although succeeding in eliminating snoring will make others in your environment more content and definitely help with their issues of deprivation of sleep, sleep apnia treatments have many more important goals.
With continued research we are finding out that people with sleep apnea are subject to more serious medical conditions than simply snoring the siding off their houses. These medical conditions include:
- Gasping for breath
- Choking noises
- Loud pauses in breathing
- Excessive sleepiness during daytime hours
- Morning headaches
- Lack of concentration
- Feeling restless
- Morning heartburn
- Excessive night time perspiration
- Increase in blood pressure
- Lack of mental acuity
With all this said, how do we treat sleep apnea? Before we list the types of sleep apnea treatments, it is important that we understand that there are two main goals for sleep apnea treatments:
- Restore regular breathing during sleep.
- Relieve symptoms such as loud snoring and daytime sleepiness.
As far as types of sleep apnea treatments, we have separated sleep apnea treatments into two categories to make it simple:
1. Surgical Treatment
2. Non Surgical Treatments
Surgical Sleep Apnea Treatments
Although surgery is becoming less and less common for treating sleep apnea, there are still some people that could benefit from it. Like in all types of conditions requiring surgery, how well the surgery works and the type of surgery will always be based on what has caused sleep apnea in the patient.
Because obstructive sleep apnea is a condition where airways are blocked, when surgery is performed it is done to widen breathing passages. During this surgery the doctor will remove excess tissue in the mouth and throat. Sometimes the surgery also involves resetting the lower jaw.
Depending on the surgery, the patient might simply go to a doctor’s office. However, most surgeries are performed in a hospital. You will be given anesthetic and will have pain in your throat that will last up to two weeks.
In children with sleep apnea, a tonsillectomy is performed as the treatment for sleep apnea, because they are usually blocking the airway. Tonsillectomies are becoming rare now because medicine has realized that more often then not; the tonsils will shrink on their own.
More common in young girls than boys, a surgery to remove the adenoids is performed. Again adenoids will shrink and basically disappear as the child gets older.
Non Surgical Sleep Apnea Treatments
The non-surgical treatments for obstructive sleep apnea are similar to the non-surgical treatments for snoring with a few differences. Treatments for sleep apnea include:
- behavioral changes
- dental appliances
- CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure)
In cases of mild sleep apnea, one needs only to make a few changes to his/her daily habits in order to alleviate the symptoms. If you have severe sleep apnea, it is a must that one changes his/her lifestyle on top of following whatever sleep apnea treatments are prescribed. Here are some of these activities/changes one could look at:
- 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 are overweight or obese. Even a little weight loss can improve your symptoms.
- Sleep on your side instead of your back to help keep your throat open. You can sleep with special pillows or shirts that prevent you from sleeping on your back.
- Keep your nasal passages open at night with nose sprays or allergy medicines, if needed. Talk to your doctor about whether these apnea treatments might help you.
- Stop smoking.
Like for many other illnesses or disorders, avoiding alcohol and even medicines that could make you sleepy are always a good idea. The main reason for this is that these types of products make it much more difficult for your throat to remain open during sleep.
Again, obesity is something that is basically always present when you see someone with sleep apnea. It is imperative that people with sleep apnea try to lose some weight. Even a few pounds will help improve the effectiveness of their sleep apnea treatment
Something simple like sleeping on ones side instead of the back will help keep the throat open. Of course when I told this to my Chiropractor he did not agree, as a lot of Chiropractors prefer that we sleep on our back. There are now available for sale special pillows or different shirts that help prevent the patient from turning onto the back during sleep.
It is also very important for sleep apnea patients to keep their nasal passages opened as much as possible. I personally make sure that my nose is cleaned every night. I am also prescribed nose sprays and allergy medicines. If you have sleep apnea, please talk to your doctor often about different things to try in order to keep your nasal passage nice and clear.
Although this should be done by everyone everywhere in this world, if you have sleep apnea, please, please stop smoking.
Dental appliances are a common treatment for sleep apnea. The more common term for these is mouthpieces and they are used mostly to treat mild cases of sleep apnea. You do not necessarily need to have sleep apnea to be prescribed a mouthpiece. Your doctor may have one fitted for you simply to stop your loud snoring.
As mentioned above, these mouthpieces are usually custom-fitted by either an orthodontist or dentist. These specialists will adjust your lower jaw and tongue. What this does is help keep the airway of the sleep apnea patient open while he or she sleeps.
Again we must emphasize that if using a mouthpiece as a sleep apnea treatment, it is important that one keeps the line of communication open with your physician, especially if you feel discomfort or pain when the appliance is in use. The device might need periodic adjustments in order to adjust the mouthpiece for a better fit.
When it comes to medication for obstructive sleep apnea, doctors are generally reluctant to suggest medication as the form of treatment. I have to say that I agree with this reluctance, as medicines are rarely needed given that CPAP machines are the key to reducing the number of apneas that his or her patient suffers during the night. However, prescription medication can be administered to help reduce daytime sleepiness that can often persist even if the continuous positive airway pressure is reducing the apneas.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved wakefulness-promoting medicines for people who are using CPAP but still have excessive daytime sleepiness.
IMPORTANT NOTE: People with sleep apnea who take wakefulness-promoting medicines should continue using CPAP to treat sleep apnea.
Topical nasal decongestants, like oxymetalizone and neosynephrine, also can temporarily improve nasal swelling. The problem is that they cannot be used for more than 3-5 days without decreased effectiveness and withdrawal symptoms.
People who have obstructive sleep apnea due to obesity may improve with diet medications, if they are effective in helping them lose weight.
CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure)
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most common treatment for moderate to severe sleep apnea in adults. A CPAP machine uses a mask that fits over your mouth and nose, or just over your nose. The machine gently blows air into your throat.
With CPAP it is important to use the lowest possible pressure that will keep the airway open during sleep. This pressure is determined by "titration." Titration frequently is performed with the help of polysomnography.
What does CPAP do to help? CPAP has been shown to be effective in improving obstructive sleep apnea. The CPAP machine provides the following benefits:
- It decreases apneas and hypopneas.
- It decreases sleepiness as measured by surveys and objective tests.
- It improves cognitive functioning on tests.
- It improves driving on driving simulation tests and decreases the number of accidents in the real world.
Because of the importance of CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) in the fight against sleep apnea, we at www.deprivationofsleep.com have dedicated a lot of space on site to this incredible medical breakthrough of the early 1980’s. Please follow this link for the best information online on CPAP.
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