Diagnosis & treatment

Mild Sleep Apnea Treatment Options

Mild sleep apnea treatment options differ considerably from what doctors advise for severe or even moderate sleep apnea. In fact, one study (published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine) even suggested that the most common form of sleep apnea treatment – CPAP – should not be used for mild obstructive sleep apnea.1

And that makes sense. The definition of mild obstructive sleep apnea involves far less sleep interruptions (or “apneas”) per night than moderate or severe sleep apnea. It stands to reason, then, that many clinicians would consider mild obstructive sleep apnea to be of a lesser scope.

That being said, most clinicians don’t quite go that far, and are likely to recommend mild sleep apnea treatment options that are in line with traditional CPAP therapy. “CPAP is the first choice treatment for all mild and moderate sleep apnea,” the Canadian Lung Association reminds us.

Mild sleep apnea treatment options: Do-it-yourself therapy

However, CPAP will still probably be prescribed as a mild sleep apnea treatment option only after more traditional, do-it-yourself remedies have failed. And those remedies are the same, tried-and-true health sleep best practices which we’ve so often outlined – but which always bear to be repeated.

Lose weight. Obesity isn’t the only cause of sleep apnea, and not everyone who’s obese has sleep apnea. But the conventional wisdom that connects the two conditions is generally considered to be true. Losing weight means you may reduce the amount of tissue that’s blocking your airway, which causes sleep apnea in the first place.

Change your sleep position. If you find that you’re snoring a lot lately, try to sleep on your side, rather than on your back. Back sleeping can result in gravity pulling your throat and neck tissues back in a way that obstructs your breathing, resulting in snoring and potentially mild obstructive sleep apnea. It may not be easy to switch to side sleeping if you’re a lifelong back sleeper, but with a little practice, it can be done.

Exercise. In addition to helping with the weight loss issue, regular exercise improves your heart rate and increases your energy levels during the day. These are both helpful factors in getting a good night’s sleep. Do an aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, swimming or biking, for at least 30 minutes every day to improve the quality of your sleep. (Just don’t do it within two hours of bedtime!)

Avoid tobacco. If you smoke, try to stop. Interestingly, some studies have pointed to a circular relationship in which tobacco use may cause obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – and sleep apnea may cause tobacco use! “Smoking may act as a risk factor for OSA,” concludes a 2012 study published in the Chinese Medical Journal.2 “OSA, in turn, may be a predisposing factor for smoking.

“Thus, smoking cessation is recommended when considering treatment for OSA, and treating OSA may be a necessary precondition for successful smoking cessation.”

Mild sleep apnea treatment innovations

There’s another mild sleep apnea treatment that comes between the home remedies listed above and the more dramatic step of CPAP prescriptions: Oral appliances, such as ResMed’s Narval™ CC, are designed to treat moderate and mild obstructive sleep apnea in a comfortable and unobtrusive way.

Although oral appliances can be used in conjunction with CPAP therapy, they’re also frequently prescribed on their own. Because they’re light and non-invasive, people tend to prefer them as a mild sleep apnea treatment option that’s less of a commitment than CPAP. If you think you have mild obstructive sleep apnea, ask your doctor about oral appliances like the ResMed Narval™ CC today.



  1. Michael R. Littner, M.D. "Mild Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome Should Not Be Treated." J Clin Sleep Med. 2007 April 15; 3(3): 263–264. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2564770/ (accessed February 7, 2014).
  2. Lin YN, Li QY, Zhang XJ. "Interaction between smoking and obstructive sleep apnea: not just participants." Chin Med J (Engl). 2012 Sep;125(17):3150-6. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2564770/ (accessed February 7, 2014).


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