Learn About Sleep Apnea and Treatments

Snoring is one of the key markers of sleep apnea, a condition in which the breathing repeatedly stops and restarts. Millions of people suffer from sleep apnea, which can be mild to serious. A CPAP machine, which stands for continuous positive airway pressure, is one of the most common solutions.

A sleep apnea machine can improve a person’s sleep tremendously. Those with sleep apnea often wake up tired and lethargic, despite having had a full night’s rest. This is due to the constant muscle contraction and relaxation.

The machine can help individuals stop snoring altogether, which allows the body to remain asleep and at rest for longer periods of time. It is the most common sleep apnea treatment prescribed by doctors, but it is not the only solution.

There are a few CPAP alternatives for those who do not want to use (or cannot use) a machine. For some, using a mouthguard to reposition the jaw can help reduce snoring. For others, more invasive solutions like oral surgery are recommended to reduce the likelihood of breathing obstruction. Continue reading to learn more about sleep apnea and how to solve it.

What is sleep apnea?

Snoring can be harmless, but it is one of the underlying signs of a more serious condition known as sleep apnea. The three main types of sleep apnea are obstructive (the most common form), central and complex sleep apnea syndrome. Each type of condition has slightly different features and solutions.

Sleep apnea treatment requires individuals to first understand the root causes. With obstructive sleep apnea, the muscles in the back of the throat relax, causing the airway to become narrower and more constricted. As such, the body does not get enough air, which causes the brain to wake the body so the airway can reopen.

Obstructive sleep apnea is worsened by obesity, smoking, drinking alcohol, taking sedatives and nasal congestion. Some individuals with a family history of apnea may have a higher risk of developing the disorder.

Treating sleep apnea is more than just wanting to stop snoring; it is about allowing the body to intake the proper amount of oxygen to give the body a full night of rest. Those with sleep apnea often feel tired in the morning and have decreased energy, which can affect other aspects of their life.

Learn About Sleep Apnea Treatments

A CPAP machine is the most common treatment for sleep apnea. This device uses a hose and a mask to deliver oxygen while an individual sleeps. The continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) helps keep the throat and airway open, reducing the likelihood of the throat closing and reducing snoring.

More commonly referred to as a sleep apnea machine, the CPAP device comes in a few different forms. Most common is the sleep apnea mask that covers both the mouth and the nose. Some masks may only cover the nose, while others have prongs that sit in the nasal passages.

CPAP masks can take some time to get used to, which is why many individuals may be hesitant to use one at first. However, the mask is made from comfortable silicone, so it does not irritate the skin. They typically feature a strap or Velcro that secures the mask to the face.

Using a nasal CPAP machine is not as effective as a full-face mask. Most people sleep with their mouths open, whether they realize it or not. The nasal mask will not help reduce snoring for those who breathe through their mouths.

Many individuals who snore also have narrow nasal passages or nasal obstructions. Using a full-face sleep apnea machine helps battle the narrow nasal passages by delivering oxygen through the mouth. These masks tend to be larger but more effective.

CPAP is considered to be a piece of durable medical equipment and, therefore, is typically covered by most insurance policies. Those who are on Medicaid can also have the cost of the machine covered by insurance but may need a signature of authorization by a doctor. The total amount of coverage varies by state.

Learn About CPAP Alternatives

Sleep apnea treatment does not always include the use of CPAP. In fact, there are several CPAP alternatives out there that can be just as effective. It is always best to visit a doctor before trying any treatment plan.

One common alternative to a machine is a type of mouthguard designed to reposition the jaw. This anti-snoring device is known as a mandibular advancement appliance. It works by increasing the size of the upper airway, reducing snoring and keeping air flowing.

Another simple snoring cure is repositioning the body during sleep. Some individuals snore more loudly while resting on their backs, as the back of the throat becomes relaxed due to gravity. By repositioning themselves on their side, some people may stop snoring altogether. Repositioning therapy is aided by body pillows and other devices that help individuals stay propped on their sides during the night.

Lifestyle changes may lessen the effects of sleep apnea or resolve the issue altogether. Obesity and weight gain can dramatically increase snoring and lead to narrower airways. Exercising, dieting and being more active throughout the day can cure some individuals of sleep apnea.

Some sleep apnea treatment options for individuals with severe symptoms include surgery. Those with enlarged adenoids or tonsils can experience better sleep and less snoring by having them removed during surgery.

Other types of oral surgery include procedures to remove excessive tissue in the soft palate, which widens the airway for better oxygen flow. Some individuals may undergo procedures to move the chin bone slightly forward, which pulls the tongue muscles forward to increase the size of the airway.

The Pillar Procedure is another common form of oral surgery that helps reduce the effects of sleep apnea. Doctors insert small implants into the roof of the mouth to stiffen the area, which reduces tissue vibration that causes snoring. It is performed in an office under local anesthetic and requires no pain medication or days off from work.