In recent weeks, we’ve explored the many potential health risks of untreated sleep apnea, as well as how it can affect other aspects of life such as pregnancy and physical health. In other words, we’ve looked at how sleep apnea can negatively impact your life and health if not properly treated – which leads us to the question: What sleep apnea solutions are available to help you stay in control of your sleep health?
Sleep apnea solutions: Pre-diagnosis
If you’re experiencing sleep apnea symptoms like snoring, insomnia or daytime sleepiness, your best course of action is to consult your physician to see if a sleep apnea diagnosis and therapy are in order.
In the meantime, if your symptoms aren’t yet causing too much discomfort or lost sleep, you may want to look into simpler preventive sleep apnea solutions to help you sleep better. Whether or not you’re diagnosed with sleep apnea, living by these guidelines can help you achieve healthy sleep and potentially stave off more serious sleep-disordered breathing:
- Weight loss and exercise: Sleep apnea is commonly associated with obesity, so a good way to avoid it is to exercise regularly and work to maintain a healthy weight.
- Regular, comfortable sleep: Try to sleep according to a regular schedule, and keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature.
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco before bed: Tobacco and alcohol introduce chemicals into your system that can disrupt steady sleep.
Sleep apnea solutions: Post-diagnosis
As we discussed in our post What is sleep apnea?, those diagnosed with sleep apnea have a number of treatment options. After your sleep test and diagnosis, your doctor will talk you through the following sleep apnea solutions and treatment options:
- CPAP therapy: The most frequently prescribed sleep apnea solution, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy involves a mask that’s fitted over your nose and/or mouth and worn during sleep. A machine delivers air through the mask to keep your airway open and assist breathing. Many types of CPAP masks are available to accommodate the wide range of facial structures and the varying levels of comfort among patients. They include:
- Full face masks, designed to cover the nose and mouth
- Nasal pillows masks, which cover the nose and are smaller and more lightweight
- Nasal pillows, the smallest and lightest CPAP mask, which fit at the base of the nose
- Oral appliances (OA): Gaining in popularity are dental or oral appliances (OA), typically a piece of hard plastic that fits over your teeth and holds your jaw in place to create a larger breathing airway. Oral appliances are typically prescribed to patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea or who, for various reasons, resist CPAP therapy.
- Surgery: The most extreme – and least frequent – sleep apnea solution, surgery for sleep apnea involves physically widening the throat’s airway to eliminate obstruction. But, as The New York Times Health Guide points out, very few clinical trials exist to verify the effectiveness of this solution.1 “Success rates for sleep apnea surgery are rarely higher than 65% and often deteriorate with time, averaging about 50% or less over the long term.”
- Weight loss: Weight gain has been frequently linked to the development and severity of sleep apnea; at times, losing weight is the most effective means of fighting back against sleep apnea.
In upcoming blog posts, we’ll go into more detail on the CPAP mask designs, exploring the advantages of each to help you better understand which is best for you. Of course, that’s ultimately a conversation you’ll have with your physician – but in the meantime, if you’re seeking sleep apnea solutions, it’s best to learn as much as you can about the types of therapy available to you.
This blog post contains general information about medical conditions and potential treatments. It is not medical advice. If you have any medical questions, please consult your doctor.