There is no cure for sleep apnea, but there are treatments available that reduce the occurrence of obstructive sleep apnea. If the obstruction is structural it is possible to have surgery to remove or reduce the obstruction. Sometimes a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy will open up the airway enough to prevent episodes of apnea.
If the sleep apnea is caused by the tongue falling into the throat due to an overbite, a custom-fitted dental device designed to hold the lower jaw forward can be quite effective. These dental devices can be quite expensive, but there are several less expensive stop snoring mouthpiece such as VitaSleep available on the market. These “boil-and-bite” mouthpieces are less expensive then custom made devices from a dentist it is best to get a properly fitted mouthpiece from your dentist for long-term use.
Probably the most recommended is the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) mask. By applying a continuous air pressure as you sleep, the CPAP keeps the airway open throughout the night, preventing episodes of sleep apnea. The only problem with CPAP systems is that they are large and noisy, and it can be quite uncomfortable to sleep with a mask.
In addition to treatment using one of the above methods, there are several things a person can do to reduce the risk of sleep apnea. Because excessive weight is one of the prime causes of sleep apnea, getting yourself fit and losing weight is key to reducing sleep apnea. Taking medications to help you sleep increases the risk of sleep apnea, as does drinking or taking drugs. Sleeping on your side or stomach helps to prevent the tongue from slipping back into the throat, reducing obstructive episodes. It is also helpful to make sure that your nasal passages are kept clear and open, perhaps by using a nasal strip or decongestant when you have a cold.
Having a diagnosis of sleep apnea is not reason to panic, but it is important to seek treatment. While central sleep apnea is more difficult to treat, there are additional therapies available that help keep the airway open and trigger the body to continue breathing without pause. If you have sleep apnea, or suspect that your partner may have sleep apnea, be sure to consult with your doctor and book a sleep test for evaluation. Thoroughly research all of the options and take the time to find out which treatment program best suits your needs and lifestyle. Sleep apnea need not control your life, but it must be taken seriously. With proper treatment you can sleep easy, and wake better rested.