Various treatment options are available for treating this sleep disorder. Sleep apnea causes chronic sleep deprivation resulting from periodic breathing pauses that can last more than 10 seconds and occur as many as 50 times per hour. These breathing pauses frequently jolt one from sleep, making sleeping shallow and foregoing the deep and restorative sleep the body needs to be active and alert the next day. If you believe or someone you know suffers from this sleep disorder, you need to know what treatment options are available.

Three classifications of sleep apnea: 

  • Obstructive sleep apnea or OSA – is the most common. When throat muscles relax during sleep, the air passages may become blocked because soft tissues around the throat and nasal passages also relax thus impeding the free flow of air
  • Central sleep apnea or CSA – during sleep, there is an imbalance in the brain’s respiratory control center disrupting the signals between the brain and the diaphragm muscles that control breathing
  • Mixed apnea or complex sleep apnea (CompSA) – patients show symptoms of OSA but when the cause of the airway blockage is cleared, the patient will then exhibit CSA symptoms as well

Some of the common symptoms are: 

  • Loud and incessant snoring
  • Choking or shortness of breath
  • Breathing pauses for more than 10 seconds
  • Drowsiness during daytime
  • Waking up thirsty
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Intermittent sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Waking up due to shortness of breath and/or choking
  • Difficulty concentrating when awake
  • Melancholy or depression

When symptoms become apparent, it is advisable to see a medical practitioner, specifically a sleep specialist, for an official diagnosis. They will administer a sleep study or Polysomnography test conducted in a sleep lab. Only a trained professional can prescribe the correct treatment. Once properly diagnosed, your doctor can recommend one of many available treatments that can effectively treat this condition.

Sleep Apnea Treatment for OSA: 

  • Therapy
    • There are several sleep apnea machines available to treat OSA. One of the treatment options is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Therapy or CPAP. A mask which is hooked to a machine that supplies air under constant pressure is worn over the mouth and nose while sleeping. Positive air pressure is utilized to keep the user’s airways open. This however may bring discomfort to some people because the user must exhale against the air pressure supplied by the sleep apnea CPAP machine.
    • Another treatment option is a BIPAP or bi-level adjustable airway pressure device. This device automatically adjusts the machine’s air pressure while exhaling. More air pressure is provided when inhaling and less when exhaling making it easier to exhale for many users.
    • Oral appliances can also be worn to treat OSA. They can also be utilized as stop snoring devices. These devices can keep the throat open by helping to keep the jaw and tongue in proper alignment when lying down. These are easier to use than the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure and BI-Level Positive Airway machines but the latter are often more effective.
  • Surgery 
    • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty is one type of surgical option where tissues around the back of the mouth and the top of the throat are removed to help open the air passages that can cause restriction.
    • Maxillomandibular Advancement (MMA) or orthognathic surgery is a procedure where the jaw is moved forward away from the other facial bones to also open the airways. MMA is sometimes performed in conjunction with Genioglossus advancement which pulls the base of the tongue forward. While these procedures have proven to be very effective in treating OSA, other treatment options are usually attempted first due to the pain and recovery periods associated with these surgeries.
    • Another effective sleep apnea treatment is the Pillar Procedure. It is a minor surgical procedure, often performed in a doctor’s office under local anesthetic. Small polyester rods are inserted into the soft palate. This helps to stiffen the palate thereby preventing the vibrations that contribute to sleep apnea and snoring. It does not require the removal of any soft palate tissue. Consequently, the recovery period is much faster with less negative side effects.
    • A tracheostomy is the last resort for treatment because this involves making an opening in the front of the throat and inserting a breathing tube, thereby bypassing the mouth and nasal passages to ease the disorder.

Sleep Apnea Treatment for CSA: 

  • Therapy

CSA can be caused by other medical problems such as congestive heart failure and stroke, thus it is necessary to treat them first to effectively treat the sleep disorder. As with all medical conditions, it’s important to first identify the cause. Once diagnosed, treatment for the associated medical problems is an important step in your treatment. Other treatment options include: 

  • Supplemental oxygen while sleeping can also be prescribed to treat CSA.
  • Continuous Positive Airway Passage which is prescribed for OSA can also be prescribed to treat CSA.
  • Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure which supplies greater air pressure when one inhales and less air pressure when exhaling can also be effective in treating CSA.
  • Adaptive Servo-Ventilation – this makes use of a computer to monitor breathing patterns and creates increased air pressure if breathing becomes abnormal. This is one of the latest and probably more successful sleep apnea treatment options for CSA.

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that causes millions of people to suffer. From the social consequences of snoring to the reduced work productivity caused by lack of sleep to the industrial and highway accidents caused by lack of concentration and drivers falling asleep at the wheel, the costs associated with sleep apnea are in the billions of dollars. Fortunately, people do not have to suffer in vain. There are many successful options available for sleep apnea treatment.

Is sleep apnea or snoring ruining your life or your relationship? Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that affects millions of people. You don’t have to feel guilty any longer but you do need to take action.