10 Best Methods to (Pleasantly) Treat Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is not a new condition, in fact it has been around humankind for ages, but the scientific and medical communities only started making their first attempts to treat this condition in the 1950s and 1960s, picking up speed in the 1970s. Since then, significant progress has been made when the first CPAP Device (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) was invented in the 1980’s. Today there are several clinically proven sleep apnea treatments to help this troublesome sleep disorder. Below is a look at the best treatment methods science and nature have to offer: 

Positional Therapy

A great treatment for mild sleep apnea is simply to stop sleeping on your back, i.e., in a supine position. Sleeping on your side helps your breathing return to normal.

Mouth and Throat Exercises

Certain mouth and throat exercises, technically referred to as myofunctional therapy or oropharyngeal exercises, can help by toning the muscles behind the tongue, which can become floppy overtime causing a constricted airway. Regular myofunctional therapy can help control sleep apnea.

Humidifiers

Humidifiers can help open airways and decrease congestion by adding moisture to the air. Dry air irritates the respiratory system, so adding moisture promotes clearer breathing.

Treatment for Associated Medical Problems

Some medical conditions such as heart or neuromuscular disorders can cause sleep apnea, so treating associated medical conditions can help treat sleep apnea too.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) or Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure (BPAP)

CPAP therapy uses a machine to deliver a constant and steady flow of air, often passed through a heated humidifier. This creates a cushion along the upper airway so that the throat does not collapse and obstruct the breathing process. BPAP differs slightly in that there are different pressure settings for inhaling and exhaling.

Oral Appliances

People who have trouble with CPAP machines, whether due to noise or comfort issues, can try using oral appliances. Oral appliances are small devices similar to mouth guards that reposition the lower jaw in such a way to reduce airway obstructions. 

Adaptive Servo-ventilation (ASV)

Similar to CPAP therapy, ASV is also used for delivering positive airway pressure. However, ASV treatment differs from CPAP therapy in that it doesn’t deliver a fixed air pressure like the CPAP. Rather, the pressure continuously adjusts according to the breathing and feedback of the patient. 

Lifestyle Changes

If you smoke, take sleeping pills, or regularly use alcohol, your doctor will recommend that you stop these behaviors since they interfere with your body’s ability to breath.  More frequent exercise can also help; in some cases it’s been shown to cut the severity of sleep apnea disorders by 25%.

Weight Loss

Weight loss as a treatment for sleep apnea has actually been around for a long time, long before the disorder was properly named.  Studies show that weight loss significantly treats sleep apnea in obese people sometimes to the point of remission.

Surgery

Surgery is a last resort treatment. The type of surgery performed will depend on the patient’s age and the cause of the sleep apnea. Surgery options include tissue shrinkage or tissue removal, nasal surgery to fix a deviated septum, jaw repositioning, surgically implanted rods, nerve stimulation, and in severe cases, the creation of a new air passageway.

Primary sources

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  2. https://www.sleepapnea.org/treat/sleep-apnea-treatment-options/
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sleep-apnea/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20377636
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sleep-apnea/in-depth/cpap/art-20044164#:~:text=Continuous%20positive%20airway%20pressure%20(CPAP,nose%20and%20a%20dry%20mouth.
  5. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-apnea/obstructive-sleep-apnea/treatments
  6. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-apnea/sleep-apnea-treatments
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