Treating Sleep Apnea

It is widely known that a heart-healthy diet and regular exercise are essential for overall health. Quality sleep is also a major contributor to good health and should not be overlooked. Sleep deficiency can lead to numerous illnesses such as stroke, kidney disease, high blood pressure, depression, and diabetes. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a sleeping disorder that is often undiagnosed yet can be very dangerous to one’s health. 

Obstructive sleep apnea

OSA occurs when the upper airway muscles relax during sleep, preventing adequate airflow. Common symptoms include loud snoring and gasping. People with OSA are usually unaware they are suffering from the disorder and may feel they are sleeping 8 hours through the night, yet still wake up feeling fatigued and exhausted. To diagnose and treat OSA, one may need to visit a sleep specialist and undergo a sleep study. Treatments may include Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines, Sleep Apnea Australia, lifestyle changes, and in severe cases, surgery. Although there are various types of sleep apnea, like Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) or mild sleep apnea, OSA is the most common and is characterized by daytime sleepiness.


To diagnose sleep apnea, your doctor evaluates your symptoms and sleep history. Your sleep history can be provided with the help of your partner or someone you share your bed with. 

You may be directed to a sleep disorder center where a specialist can run an evaluation by monitoring your breathing and other body functions while you sleep.

Some tests that are carried out to detect sleep apnea are-

Home sleep tests

Your doctor may be able to help you with tests to diagnose sleep apnea from the comfort of your home. These tests measure your breathing patterns, heart rate, airflow, and blood oxygen levels. If you are suspected to have central sleep apnea, your provider may recommend a sleep study in a sleep testing facility. If the results show that your condition is not severe, your doctor may prescribe therapy and no further tests will be needed. 

However, portable monitoring devices may not be able to detect sleep apnea, so it is possible you will be asked to run a sleep study again to confirm. If results show that you have obstructive sleep apnea, you will be referred to an ear, throat, and nose specialist to determine if any blockage in your nose or throat needs to be removed. 

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy is a common treatment for sleep apnea and may be recommended by a sleep specialist. This therapy is used to treat mild, moderate, and severe sleep apnea, as well as obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. People with sleep apnea may also experience daytime sleepiness and should visit a sleep specialist if they suspect they have a sleep disorder.

Nocturnal polysomnography

This test involves you being hooked to equipment that monitors your lung, brain, blood oxygen levels, heart, breathing patterns, and leg and arm movements while you’re asleep.


For less serious cases of sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend that you-

Stay away from sleeping pills and alcohol

This is advised because alcohol and sleeping pills decrease the muscle tones at the back of your throat. When this happens, easy passage of air becomes difficult which could lead to sleep-disordered breathing.

Change your sleeping positions

It is highly recommended for people with sleep apnea to sleep on their side and not their back. You breathe better when you lay on your side. To make this easier, put two tennis balls in a sock and pin it to the back of your nightwear. This will keep you from rolling over.

Lose weight

A lot of people suffer from sleep apnea because they are overweight. When you add extra weight, you’ll develop extra tissues in your throat which can make it quite difficult to breathe. Losing weight would significantly improve your symptoms.

Treat allergies

Suffering from nasal allergies can mean having swollen and narrower tissues in your airways. This can make breathing a daunting task. So, when you suffer from allergies like this, ensure you see your doctor for treatment.

Do not smoke

Smoking is very harmful to your overall health and causes swelling of your upper airways. This can worsen both snoring and apnea. 

If the above treatments do not work for you, there are some devices you can try to improve the symptoms. They are divided into the categories below-

  • Oral devices
  • Breathing devices

Oral devices

These devices are also known as oral appliances. They are usually worn in your mouth to induce breathing while you sleep by opening the upper airway. Two common types are-

Tongue retaining devices

These mouthpieces hold the tongue forward to ensure it doesn’t block the upper airway.

Mandibular repositioning

These devices cover the upper and lower teeth and hold the jaw in a bid to prevent it from blocking the airway.

Breathing devices


Breathing devices like (CPAP), and continuous positive airway pressure is one of the most common treatments for sleep apnea. This device constantly provides air pressure in your throat to ensure the airway stays open while you breathe. 

For breathing devices to work well, you have to make healthy lifestyle changes. Some side effects of the CPAP treatment are-

  • Nosebleeds
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Dry eyes
  • Dry mouth

If you begin to experience stomach pain or bloating while using your CPAP machine, stop immediately and contact your healthcare provider.


Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs when a person repeatedly stops breathing while they are asleep. It is often undiagnosed and untreated and can lead to further health issues. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea and is caused by a blockage of the upper airway, usually due to a collapse of the throat muscles. Risk factors for this disorder include loud snoring, being overweight, having a family history of sleep apnea, having high blood pressure, and developing older age. 

Positive airway pressure (PAP) is the most common form of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. It uses a machine that delivers air pressure to keep the airways open while sleeping. BiPAP, also known as bilevel positive airway pressure, is very similar to CPAP. The major difference is how the airflow changes when you breathe in and out. The BiPAP machine is usually worn with a mask and it helps you fall asleep and stay asleep while also reducing the risk factors associated with untreated sleep apnea. Although it is safe, it is not right for everyone, and if you experience difficulty in swallowing, breathing or staying asleep when you use it, contact your doctor immediately.


Most doctors recommend the automatic airway pressure machine if you have difficulties using the BiPAP. It ensures that your airways remain open while you sleep. The major difference between this machine and the BiPAP is how it adjusts how much air pressure it gives you based on your needs.

Surgical procedures

If other treatments do not work, you may require surgery. The most common ones to do are-

Jaw advancement surgery

This surgery is done to reposition your upper and lower jaw. Basically, it moves them forward to further enlarge your upper airway


This procedure removes your adenoids and tonsils. This also aids in proper breathing.

Removal of soft tissue

Surgery can also be done to remove the soft tissue from your mouth and throat. This ensures there’s more room in your upper airway to encourage easy airflow.

Living with sleep apnea can be stressful and tiring. This article will serve as a guide to help you improve the symptoms of sleep apnea and live a quality life.


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