Conservative Treatments for Sleep Apnea
Sleep Apnea occurs when there’s a decrease or complete halt in airflow, even as you attempt to breathe, during sleep.
This condition occurs when the muscles relax while asleep and cause the soft tissues located in the back of the throat to collapse and block the upper airway, causing complete pauses (apneas) and partial reductions (hypopneas) in breathing that typically last 10 to 30 seconds during sleep.
As a result, people with sleep apnea tend to snore loudly with periods of silence when airflow is blocked in alternation with snorting, choking, or gasping sounds when the airway reopens.
This pattern can occur dozens or even hundreds of times in a single night. The fragmented sleep quality can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, increased daytime blood pressure, mood changes, impaired concentration, and heart disease, among others.
If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, a sleep specialist may recommend an overnight sleep study at a sleep center or lab for proper diagnosis by charting vital signs such as breathing, heartbeat, and brain waves.
For patients suffering from mild cases of sleep apnea, the sleep specialist may recommend a number of conservative treatments, such as:
- Adjustments to your sleeping position to prevent you from sleeping on your back, which is believed to cause breathing pauses.
- The use of a pillow to raise your head and encourage sleeping in a side position.
- Diet and exercises for weight loss. Studies show that even a 10% weight loss can help to reduce the number of apneic episodes for most overweight patients.
- Avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills can also help to reduce nighttime awakenings
- Quitting smoking, as it may worsen the swelling in your upper airway that contributes to snoring and sleep apnea
Treating sleep apnea can improve your quality of life
For moderate to severe cases of sleep apnea, your sleep specialist may recommend continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or oral appliances.