Sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder in the United States, can be classified into two types:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and
- Central Sleep Apnea (CSA).
OSA occurs physiologically when the airway is blocked caused by a narrow throat, large tongue, smaller lower jaw or obesity. Meanwhile, CSA occurs when the brain stops sending signals to the muscles that control and regulate breathing. It can be caused by strokes, heart failure, medications or other medical conditions that affect the brain stem.
Sleep apnea must be managed as soon as possible as it can lead to serious health complications. The treatment for sleep apnea usually varies depending on its cause. If you have sleep apnea, here are some ways to manage this condition.
The first step to treating and/or managing sleep apnea is finding out the cause of your condition. This may also help you figure out and prevent potential health risks that you may encounter in the future. If it’s caused by a different medical condition like congestive heart failure or nasal obstruction, sleep apnea can be resolved when these conditions get treated as well. The key is to schedule an appointment with your doctor for proper diagnosis.
2. CPAP Therapy
Many doctors recommend Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy as a nonsurgical treatment for sleep apnea. This treatment method uses a CPAP machine which can be administered during sleep. CPAP therapy works well for sleep apnea patients because the CPAP machine generates pressurized air from an air filter into a flexible tube. The purified air is then delivered into a mask covering the nose or the mouth.
The airstream from the machine helps remove breathing blockages, helping you open the airways for the lungs to receive a good amount of oxygen. It may also help you avoid waking up in the middle of your sleep, and may even reduce blood glucose and cholesterol levels. CPAP machines require proper cleaning and maintenance to help ensure your safety.
Since this machine has direct access to your mouth, you have to sanitize it regularly to prevent the formation of molds, germs and bacteria, and to lower your risk for allergies and other diseases. One of the most efficient ways to clean a CPAP machine is using a CPAP cleaner, especially if it uses both ozone and UV light to kill bacteria.
3. Lifestyle Changes
Daily simple choices made with careful consideration may contribute to the treatment of sleep apnea. Here are some things that may help reduce sleep apnea symptoms:
If you are obese, losing weight can decrease the size of fat deposits, which may restrict airway, in your tongue and the back of the throat. It can also improve your cardiovascular health and overall quality of life. Developing a dietary plan like reducing sugar intake and adding more vegetables and fish into the diet makes weight loss more effective and sustainable as well.
Aside from helping you lose weight, exercising can also help reduce anxiety and improve your mood which may have a positive effect on your overall health.
Reducing tobacco and alcohol intake
Active smokers are at a higher risk for obstructive sleep apnea as compared to non-smokers. Alcohol usually has an effect on sleep cycles. It may also lead to slackening of the tissues near the airway which may heighten the risk of airway collapse and obstructive sleep apnea.
4. Correct sleeping position
Do you sleep on your back? It is advisable to sleep on your side instead. Sleeping on your back may cause breathing problems that may contribute to the severity of sleep apnea. It draws the tongue and other tissues down, as well as toward the airway.
5. Oral Appliance
- Mandibular Advancement Devices (MADs) – can help keep the lower jaw pulled forward to not constrict the airway. MADs may also reduce chronic snoring and teeth grinding.
- Tongue Retaining Devices (TRDs) – can help keep the tongue from sliding back in the mouth during the night.
6. Mouth and Throat Exercises
The muscles behind your tongue can become floppy during sleep. This may compress the airway and contribute to OSA. Exercises using the mouth and throat, also known as myofunctional therapy and oropharyngeal exercises, can help tone muscles in your mouth and throat and help reduce OSA by keeping the muscles tight while you sleep. These exercises can also help reduce snoring.
Taking medications, such as sleeping pills, or even natural products like melatonin are often not the first line of treatment for OSA. However, you may still ask your physician about them for short-term use or for instant relief in certain circumstances.
Surgical procedures can address anatomical features that cause airway obstruction. An example would be uvulopatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) which removes tissues at the back of the throat, part of the throat wall and the tonsils and adenoids. One more example is putting upper airway stimulation (UAS) implants which activates hypoglossal nerve that cause tightening of muscles near the airway. Surgical procedures are usually the last resort, when a patient does not show improvement from other treatments like CPAP therapy or oral appliances.
Managing sleep apnea should be directed by a medical professional and a healthcare team, including a respiratory therapist, sleep technician, dentist, dietician and/or a physical therapist. Doctors in the field of gastroenterology, pulmonology, cardiology, ENT (ears, nose and throat) and surgeons may also be consulted in planning and monitoring these treatment plans. It may seem like a handful of steps/options to treat this sleep disorder but sleep is one of the most vital things of our day-to-day lives and it is the opportunity for our bodies to rest and recuperate from our daily grind.
To cap things off, if you have sleep apnea and are advised by your doctor to undergo a CPAP therapy, please don’t just buy a CPAP machine. You also need a high-quality CPAP cleaner to protect yourself from being exposed to germs, virus and bacteria that could lead to more sickness. To learn more about our easy-to-use and affordable CPAP cleaner, please read our FAQ page.
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