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How Is Sleep Apnea Treated?

a woman experiencing mental discomfort as a result of her sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition that occurs during sleep, where your breathing is frequently disrupted. These disruptions can last about ten to twenty seconds and can recur a hundred times in an hour. They also deprive you of oxygen and usually cause you to wake, but you may not even notice it due to its brevity. The continuous disruptions to your sleep's natural sequence mean that most of your sleep hours are spent more in the light sleep phase than in the deep sleep phase. This may rob you of quality sleep that will have you rejuvenated and energetic for the next day's activities.

Central sleep apnea

This type of sleep apnea is less common and revolves around the function of the central nervous system. It happens when the signals sent by the brain to the muscles that regulate breathing are momentarily stopped. Often this is due to an underlying health condition. Loud snoring noises are generally not associated with this kind of sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea

This is by far the most widespread type of apnea. It is characterized by the relaxation of the upper airway's soft tissues when you are asleep, obstructing the regular airflow through the mouth and nose. This leads to loud snoring sounds and irregular breathing.

Complex or mixed sleep apnea

As the name suggests, it is a combination of the earlier mentioned two types of sleep apnea, and it is pretty rare. The doctor will evaluate your various symptoms and medical background to determine what type of sleep apnea you're experiencing. 

Treatment

There are three basic ways of treating sleep apnea. The first involves using devices that encourage proper breathing during sleep. You can also make conscious lifestyle changes that can improve your breathing during sleep. The final treatment procedure is via surgery. In this part of the article, we shall take a lot at all three types of treatment.

Devices

Depending on the severity of your sleep apnea, mostly breathing devices can make it easier to sleep. One of such devices is the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask. While you sleep, the machine pumps air pressure via a mask fitted to your face. Due to the air pressure delivered, which is higher than that of the surrounding air, your upper airway passages will remain open, which in turn prevents snoring and apnea.

CPAP is the go-to for sleep apnea treatment, but some people find it quite uncomfortable to sleep with a mask over their face. While some people get used to it with time and practice, others cannot accommodate it. It is best to discuss with your ENT doctor so that you can get the right fit.

Another device that works on the CPAP principles is the bilevel positive airway pressure (BPAP). It also involves wearing a mask but differs in tiny detail. It regulates the air pressure such that it builds up when you breathe in and reduces when you breathe out.

Adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV) is a relatively new treatment that has been approved. It works by tracking and learning your breathing pattern and then keeps the record in an inbuilt computer. With this information, the device employs pressure to control your breathing and prevents apnea, causing you to sleep better.

Your ENT doctor, together with your dentist, can come up with several oral devices that can help you treat sleep apnea. Although CPAP and BPAP are more practical to treat sleep apnea, oral appliances may be more comfortable for some people. These oral devices work by moving your throat forward, thereby opening your throat. Oral devices are best suited for people with mild obstructive sleep apnea.

Lifestyle changes

There are some instances in which making some lifestyle changes can improve your sleep quality and handle sleep apnea. For example, weight loss has proven to help with sleep apnea as it reduces the stress on your throat. Having a healthy weight or losing a few extra pounds can help in this regard. Exercising is also a great way to keep in shape and ward off a host of potential health issues, and one of such happens to be sleep apnea. Make it a point to exercise for at least thirty minutes every day.

For some people, their sleeping position contributes to sleep apnea, and once they change it, things get better. It is best to sleep on your side or abdomen to reduce the chances of your tongue and soft palate resting on the back of your throat and blocking your upper airway.

Surgery

In some instances, one might need surgery as a last resort. The types of surgery include tissue removal, tissue shrinkage, jaw repositioning, implants, nerve stimulation, and tracheostomy. Each of these surgical procedures will be carried out based on the type of sleep apnea you have.

Should you seek relief from sleep apnea and other nasal disorders, please visit ENT Specialists PC, or call 402-397-0670 for more details.