Experiencing chronic snoring or breathing interruptions while you sleep? You’re not alone. More than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea is a sleeping disorder characterized by repeated, brief interruptions in breathing during sleep. These pauses last at least 10 seconds and occur when the muscles in the back of the throat don’t keep the airway open.
Because oxygen flow is interrupted during breathing pauses, if you’re experiencing sleep apnea, you may be at risk for hypertension, heart disease, and cognitive issues.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
For the most common form of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, there are various risk factors, including:
- Being overweight
- Having a small upper airway
- Having a large tongue or tonsils
- Having a small jaw, overbite, large neck, or recessed chin
- Frequent smoking or drinking alcohol
- Having a family history of sleep apnea
Can Sleep Apnea Be Cured?
Generally speaking, sleep apnea is a chronic disorder and cannot be fully cured.
However, for children removing tonsils or using devices that expand the upper airway may be useful in curing mild sleep apnea. In adults, if sleep apnea is caused by face shape, jaw surgery may help to prevent it. Although, this is major reconstructive surgery that takes months to heal and will permanently change the shape of your face.
Other sleep apnea risk factors can be mediated without surgery through medical devices and lifestyle changes. There are several things you can do to reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea or prevent them completely.
Here are five solutions you can try if you are experiencing sleep apnea.
Continuous positive airway pressure therapy, or CPAP, is the most effective solution for sleep apnea. For this treatment, a machine is used to keep airways open and prevent breathing disruptions while you sleep.
When used correctly, it can prevent some of the long term effects associated with sleep apnea.
Using a CPAP machine can have some side effects. These include:
- Dry nose and throat
- Skin marks or rashes
- Discomfort exhaling
Sleep Apnea Mouth Guard
An alternative sleep apnea treatment without CPAP is using an oral appliance for sleep apnea. This is effective and can feel less invasive than a CPAP machine. Some benefits of using a mouth guard for sleep apnea include:
- Easy to travel with
- More comfortable than a CPAP machine
- Easy to clean and care for
- Easy to wear
- Quiet, unlike CPAP machines
There are many different types of sleep apnea oral appliances to choose from. Consult with your dentist to determine which sleep apnea mouthpiece is best for your mouth shape and to have it fitted correctly.
Adjusting Sleeping Positions
The way you are sleeping may be contributing to your sleep apnea. Sleeping on your back restricts airflow and can worsen sleep apnea symptoms.
So, what sleep position is best for sleep apnea? Research suggests sleeping on your side is the best solution. This position makes your airways more stable and less likely to be restricted than when sleeping on your back or stomach.
If you must sleep on your back, elevating your body from the waist up might help.
Obesity can lead to sleep apnea, as additional fatty tissue near your airways can restrict airflow. In some cases, altering your diet or lifestyle can improve or even eliminate sleep apnea symptoms.
This relatively new sleep apnea treatment is a solution for those who are unable to use CPAP machines. The therapy tones key tongue muscles to control airflow in the upper airways to reduce or eliminate sleep apnea symptoms.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea vs. Central Sleep Apnea
If you are experiencing sleep apnea, it is likely obstructive sleep apnea.
However, there is a unique form of sleep apnea called central sleep apnea. With this sleeping disorder, the brain fails to properly control breathing during sleep. Because it is caused by your brain instead of your throat muscles, central sleep apnea treatment differs from the solutions outlined above.
While sleep apnea is a chronic condition, there are many solutions to moderate, or even eliminate, the symptoms.
Consult with your doctor to see which of the above solutions might work for you, and be on your way to a better night’s sleep.