Do Sleep Apnea Cures Exist?
If you suffer from sleep apnea, you can at least take comfort in the fact that there are sleep apnea cures and sleep apnea treatments available. First, make sure you know what is sleep apnea and make sure that it is indeed sleep apnea that you are suffering from before going out and finding a cure for sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Cures
Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder characterized by shallow breathing or pauses in breathing during sleep. These breathing pauses (called apneas) are caused by a blockage in the airways. This blockage may come in the form of excess tissue or it may be caused by the tongue or soft palate. Sleep apnea is a very serious condition and should be taken as such. If you feel that you suffer from sleep apnea, make sure that you consult your doctor or take a sleep test (polysomnography).
Of all the sleeping disorders, sleep apnea is one of the most difficult to detect. This is due to the fact that it occurs momentarily and a patient will then resume normal breathing. In addition, even if the patient gasps or chokes, this is often not enough to wake him / her up. Therefore, it is oftentimes their sleeping partner who initially notices the problem.
Once it has been established that it is indeed sleep apnea that you are suffering from, then the good news is that there are many sleep apnea cures available to you. Some of these sleep apnea cures may seem a little extreme and others require little more than a change in diet or sleeping position.
Sleep Apnea Cures
- Weight Loss - about 70% of people suffering from sleep apnea are obese. Obesity causes excess fatty tissue to form in the airways, thus restricting breathing. In addition, cholesterol tends to line airways making them narrower, hindering airflow. If you are overweight, this should be one of the first things that you remedy before considering other sleep apnea cures.
- Quitting Smoking - smoking causes a build-up of phlegm and mucous in the airways as well as irritating the throat. If you smoke, no one has to tell you how bad it is for you. But be aware that it can also be the culprit for your snoring and apneas.
- Avoiding Alcohol & Drugs - alcohol and some drugs work to relax the throat muscles. This relaxed state causes the airway to get smaller, leading to an increase in snoring and apneas. It has also been shown that any amount of alcohol consumed at any time during the day, specifically in men, will lead to increased apneas throughout the night.
- Exercise - everyone knows that daily exercise is important to overall health and well-being. More important to sleep apnea sufferers though, is its ability to tighten muscles and strengthen the respiratory system, which can work wonders in alleviating both snoring and sleep apnea. Of course, daily exercise also works towards decreasing body weight - one of the contributing factors to sleep apnea and snoring.
- Nasal Decongestant - nasal decongestants or nasal sprays are used to break up mucous in the nasal cavities, thereby clearing the passageways and leading to improved breathing. This type of sleep apnea cure only works with people with mild sleep apnea and is more commonly used for people who snore.
- Nasal Strips - nasal strips, like Breathe Right strips, are like stiff, miniature band-aids that are placed on the bridge of a user's nose. These strips pull the outer walls of the nose open, allowing for more freedom in breathing. These strips have been shown to be very effective in both snorers as well as people suffering from mild to moderate sleep apnea.
- Sleep Apnea Pillows - Pillows for sleep apnea are designed to elevate the head and neck of the patient thereby reducing the blockages that occur in the airway. Users experience mixed results with this sleep apnea cure - some people are able to sleep well with their head in the elevated position and some people simply cannot.
- Positional Therapy - some people only snore and / or experience apneas when sleeping on their backs. For those people, positional therapy can be very effective. It basically involves using some type of device that prevents the patient from sleeping on their back. A home remedy would be to place a tennis ball in a sock and sew the sock to the back of a pair of pajamas. This way, every time the person tried to roll over on their backs, the tennis ball would make staying there very uncomfortable and naturally the person will roll back over to their side or stomach. There are especial pillows designed to help train a person to sleep on their side.
- Oral Devices - there are several oral devices on the market that perform different functions. Some are designed as a type of mouth guard which prevents the tongue from falling back into the throat and blocking the airway. Others, called mandibular advancement devices (MADs) are designed to move the lower jaw forward, thereby moving the tongue forward and freeing the airway. In addition, there is a device which uses the acronym OPAP (oral positive airway pressure) and is a combination of an oral device and a Positive Airway Pressure device. Although these devices have been approved by the FDA (food and drug administration) back in 1999, there has not been much study done on their effectiveness and they seem to be hard to find.
- Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) devices - the most common being CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), these devices are essentially a motor with a fan attached to a hose attached to a mask of some sort. These masks are placed over the patient's nose and mouth (or just the nose) and are fed a continuous flow of air. This air pressure clears the airways of any blockages and allows users to breathe more regularly. There are also other types of sleep apnea machines available including the VPAP (variable positive airway pressure) and APAP (automatic positive airway pressure) machines. In addition, sleep apnea masks come in 3 different styles - full face mask, nasal mask and nasal pillow.
- Surgery - there are various types of sleep apnea surgeries available depending on the level of severity of the patient's sleep apnea, where the blockages occur and what the patient is comfortable with. Here are the two main sleep apnea surgery types:
- UvuloPalatoPharyngoPlasty (UPPP)
This big word is a combination of words referring to the uvula (the little punching bag thing at the back of your throat), the palate and the pharynx (where your throat meets your windpipe), with the plasty part referring to surgery. This sleep apnea surgery involves removing the uvula along with any excess tissue that may be impeding breathing. This type of procedure runs at about a 50% efficacy rate - and, in some cases, can cause other problems.
This same procedure can be done with lasers and is called Laser Assisted UvuloPlasty (LAUP).
This type of sleep apnea cure uses low-temperature, low-power Radio Frequency energy. These radio waves are used to reduce and tighten excess tissue beneath the lining of the soft palate and uvula. This procedure causes a stiffening and strengthening of the palate and reduces the amount of tissue volume in the airway. This procedure is less invasive and painful than UPPP and patients can typically resume normal activities the following day. This has been shown to have a similar efficacy rate to that of CPAP.
Other Sleep Apnea Cures
Although they may not have sufficient medical studies to back them up, there are people who report relief from sleep apnea from a couple of other methods.
- Playing Wind Instruments - there have been many cases of people reporting that by taking up playing some type of wind instrument, that they have been able to lessen or cure sleep apnea. Playing wind instruments like the didgeridoo strengthen and tighten the throat muscles, which works towards alleviating snoring and sleep apnea.
- Acupuncture - acupuncture has been used for centuries to cure many different ailments. Although it is used more widely in the East than the West, it has been shown to be very effective in treating snoring and mild to moderate sleep apnea in some patients.
If you have taken a sleep test (called a polysomnography) and it was determined that you have sleep apnea, consult your doctor about the options you have at your disposal. Bear in mind that sleep apnea surgery should be one of your last options as it is not always effective and it can bring on further health complications. Now that you're educated about all the sleep apnea cures available, discuss them with your physician to find out which solution fits your specific situation.