Many people with sleep apnea experience rapid symptom relief once they begin using CPAP machines or other sleep apnea treatments. Sleep apnea treatments don’t involve medication, but CPAP masks and machines, dental mouthpieces and surgical solutions can help patients manage the condition and its symptoms.
Sleep Apnea Machines and CPAP Masks
Continuous positive airway pressure machines, or CPAP machines, are among the most common sleep apnea treatments. CPAP machines provide a steady flow of air to the throat, which prevents throat tissue from collapsing the airway. Users breathe through CPAP masks attached to the CPAP machines by a flexible tube.
CPAP machines are effective, but not everyone adjusts well to sleeping with a CPAP mask. Individuals may have to try several CPAP masks before finding one they can wear while sleeping.
The CPAP is not the only sleep apnea machine. Unlike CPAP machines that provide steady air flow, the BiPAP sleep apnea machine increases air pressure during inhalation and decreases pressure during exhalation. Some BiPAP sleep apnea machines also increase airflow when users stop breathing altogether.
A newer form of sleep apnea treatment is the adaptive servo-ventilation machine, or ASV. By using pressure, the ASV is able to prevent pauses in a person’s breathing. For some people with central sleep apnea, ASV is a more effective treatment than CPAP machines.
Mouthpieces and Sleep Apnea Treatments
Mild sleep apnea treatments include dental mouthpieces that change the position of the jaw and tongue to help keep the airway open. A dentist can custom-fit a sleep apnea mouthpiece to fit the individual’s mouth.
Surgical Sleep Apnea Treatments
If other treatments fail, surgery may provide relief from sleep apnea. Surgery for sleep apnea removes or shrinks tissue at the back of the throat or in the mouth to prevent apnea.
Lifestyle Changes and Sleep Apnea
Lifestyle changes help reduce symptoms and make sleep apnea treatments more effective. Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all, as alcohol relaxes the throat muscles. Try to avoid sedating medication for similar reasons.
Losing excess weight often relieves sleep apnea symptoms. Smoking is linked to aggravated sleep apnea, and smokers who require sleep apnea treatments are strongly urged to quit.
People who sleep on their sides are less likely to have their airways collapse than people who sleep on their backs. Sleep apnea shirts and pillows are designed to prevent people from rolling over and sleeping on their backs.
Nasal sprays and antihistamines help keep nasal passages open at night, but should be used only as sleep apnea treatments under a doctor’s supervision.
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Mayo Clinic. (2010). Sleep apnea. Retrieved August 17, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sleep-apnea/DS00148.
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. (2009). What is sleep apnea? Retrieved August 17, 2010, from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/SleepApnea/
University of Maryland Medical Center. (2009). Central sleep apnea. Retrieved August 17, 2010, from http://www.umm.edu/ency/article/003997.htm.