Sleep Apnea Treatment
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects more than 18 million Americans. Officials estimate that over 10 million other people have this disorder but haven’t yet been diagnosed. This disorder is characterized by periods of time where the patient stops breathing during the night. The pauses can last a few seconds up to minutes and can happen many times per hour. Depending on the type of apnea present, various treatments options are available.
The CPAP machine, or continuous positive airway pressure device, is certainly most popular and effective treatment for sleep apnea. The machine houses an air pump that pushes air through a tube up to a facemask that is fixed to the patient’s head. The air pressure helps him breathe freely throughout the night. This machine can easily be carried around if nights must be spent away from home.
CPAP machines can be used to treat all types of sleep apnea, but they are most effective with obstructive sleep apnea. People using the device immediately feel their quality of life increasing due to better sleep at night. The machine also helps decrease snoring by helping open up the airways that would otherwise become obstructed.
The difficulty with this treatment for sleep apnea is non-compliance. Putting on and sleeping with this device every night requires discipline. Additionally, it takes some time to get used to the mask. They come in various sizes and shapes, and it can be hard for someone to find a mask that is comfortable enough to wear many nights in a row. Many people will only use the CPAP for a fraction of the nights in a week. Others will discontinue using it altogether.
Oral appliance therapy
In case of mild obstructive sleep apnea, oral appliance therapy can be used to treat the symptoms. A mouthpiece designed specifically for treating this disorder is placed into the patient’s mouth at night. It works by helping keep the airways open while the patient is sleeping.
These sleep apnea mouthpieces can be either bought in a generic format or moulded specifically for a person’s mouth, leading to much more comfort over their generic counterpart. Even if a custom oral appliance is used, some visits to the orthodontist might be needed from time to time to adjust the mouthpiece.
The biggest drawback of oral appliance therapy is comfort. An oral appliance, especially generic ones, will usually prove to be very uncomfortable over time.
In some cases, surgery can help relieve obstructive sleep apnea. This surgery works by removing excessive soft tissues from the back of the throat to facilitate breathing at night. The recovery time from this type of surgery is usually good (1-2 weeks), but some patients report their symptoms resurfacing some time after the surgery. In any case, surgery for sleep apnea must be carefully considered between the patient and his doctor.
Obstructive sleep apnea is usually more acute when sleeping on the back. The optimal sleeping position for someone who has this disorder is usually on the side. Some pillows are designed specifically to help prevent apnea by keeping a person sleeping on his side. These pillows are also compatible with masks used by CPAP machines and will not hinder their function.
When deciding on a sleep apnea treatment, it is always necessary to consult a healthcare professional. Only he will be able to diagnose your exact condition and present you with the treatment that will be the most effective for your particular situation.