Sleep Apnea Treatments
Some of the treatments for sleep apnea include behavioral changes, nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), and oral or dental devices (such as a mouthpiece). Although there is no cure for sleep apnea, recent studies show that successful treatment of this condition can reduce the risk of heart and blood pressure problems.
The specific treatments recommended for a patient with sleep apnea are based on the patient's medical history, physical exam, and the results of polysomnography or other tests.
Possible sleep apnea treatments include:
- Behavioral changes such as weight loss, learning to sleep on one's side instead of one's back, and avoiding alcohol, sleeping pills, and smoking. In milder cases of sleep apnea, behavioral changes may be enough to stop the sleep apnea.
- Nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. CPAP is generally required for successful sleep apnea treatment. In CPAP therapy, a mask is worn over the nose while sleeping, and a machine supplies pressurized room air to the mask through a flexible tube. The pressurized air keeps the airway open. There are various types of CPAP machines.
- An oral or dental device (mouthpiece) that holds the tongue or jaw forward.
- Surgery. Some of the more common procedures include removal of adenoids and tonsils, especially in children; removal of nasal polyps or other growths; and correction of structural deformities.
- Medications are generally not effective at treating sleep apnea. However, if nasal congestion is contributing to breathing problems, decongestants may help.
Although there is no cure for sleep apnea, recent studies show that successful treatment can reduce the risk of heart and blood pressure problems.
Left untreated, sleep apnea can be life threatening. Excessive daytime sleepiness can cause people to fall asleep at inappropriate times, such as while driving. Sleep apnea also appears to put individuals at risk for stroke and transient ischemic attacks (TIAs, also known as "mini-strokes"), and is associated with coronary heart disease, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, and high blood pressure.