For milder cases of sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes such as losing weight or quitting smoking. If these measures don’t improve your signs and symptoms or if your apnea is moderate to severe, a number of other treatments are available. Certain devices can help open up a blocked airway. In other cases, surgery may be necessary.
The goals of treating sleep apnea are to restore regular breathing during sleep and to relieve symptoms such as loud snoring and daytime sleepiness.
Treatment may help other medical problems linked to sleep apnea, such as high blood pressure. It can also reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
If the doctor is under the impression that the patient might suffer from a sleeping disorder, he or she will recommend an overnight sleep study in a sleep lab under the observation of a trained health care provider. Here the patient will undergo a polysomnography. A polysomnograph shows a patient’s brain activity, heart rate, eye movement and respiratory activity during sleep. This test will help to determine if the patient does or does not suffer from sleep apnea and give hints as to the most effective of the sleep apnea treatment for that particular case.
After being properly diagnosed via sleep study, sufferers of sleep apnea are often prescribed a CPAP, also sometimes referred to as “the sleep apnea machine“. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. This machine overrides the apnea sufferer’s tendency to not breathe by forcing the issue a bit, like by constantly presenting a certain level of air pressure, breathing is reinforced and the airway is prevented from collapsing, resulting in a nice, continuous flow of oxygen to the lungs, and by extension, to the blood and brain.
Losing weight and exercising can also be effective in the battle against sleep apnea. Also, losing weight and getting in shape will give you more energy during the daytime. Often apnea is caused by a blockage of the airways. When you lose weight, you also lose the fatty cells in the throat, and the airways do not get blocked as much or the airways are opened completely.
Another option in curing or making sleep apnea more bearable is surgery. To reduce blockages, soft tissues or bone tissues are reconstructed during surgery.
The most common procedure for sleep apnea is UPP (uvulopalatopharyngoplasty). This procedure is used to enhance the airways by removing tonsils and adenoids. The surgeon may also choose to remove or shorten the uvula, which is the tissue at the back of the roof of the mouth. With a success rate of more than 40%, this is a highly effective procedure.
Somnoplasty is also a surgical procedure which may help prevent sleep apnea. The procedure shrinks the tongue or palate using radio frequencies. This is a repetitive treatment as multiple treatments are needed. Another option is the tongue suspension procedure. A small screw in the jaw helps prevent the tongue from blocking the airways. However, somnoplasty and the tongue suspension procedure are new treatments and the efficiency of the two treatments is yet to be published.
Another treatment which is widely discussed is tracheotomy. A hole in the trachea or windpipe allows air to travel through the airways. This is a treatment for patients who suffer from severe cases of sleep apnea and have tried other treatments without results.