There are several things you can do to reduce your chances of developing sleep apnea or reduce episodes:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get regular exercise
- Maintain good sleeping habits
- Stop smoking
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
Non-surgical and surgical treatments
There are several treatments available for sleep apnea:
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): involves a machine that regulates air pressure in a mask that goes over your mouth and nose while you sleep. CPAP is considered the first line of treatment for sleep apnea. The pressure in the mask is slightly greater than in the surrounding air, which keeps the passages in your upper airway open. This prevents sleep apnea and also snoring. CPAP is widely used and is very reliable, but some people find the mask uncomfortable.
- Other airway pressure devices: may be implemented when patients do not respond to or tolerate CPAP. In this situation, another device called Bi-level PAP may be used. This machine provides two different pressures, a greater pressure when you inhale and a lower pressure when you exhale.
- Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure (EPAP): uses small devices that are placed over each nostril when you go to sleep. Each device allows air to flow in freely, but creates a small amount of resistance when air flows out. This increases the pressure in the airways and keeps them open.
- Adaptive Servo-Ventilation (ASV): a device that uses pressure to regulate your breathing pattern, which prevents pauses in your breathing. In people with complicated sleep apnea, ASV can be more effective than CPAP.
- Oral appliances: devices worn in your mouth that are designed to help open your throat by bringing your jaw forward. These devices are not as reliable as CPAP, but they may relieve snoring or mild to moderate sleep apnea.
- Tissue removal surgery: a surgical procedure in which your doctor removes tissue from the back of your mouth and top of your throat. The procedure is called a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty. It is less effective than CPAP and is more effective at stopping snoring than treating sleep apnea.
- Jaw repositioning surgery: a surgical procedure in which your jaw is moved forward relative to the other bones in your face. The procedure is called maxillomandibular advancement. It increases the space behind the tongue and soft palate, which makes obstruction of the airway less likely.
- Upper airway stimulation therapy: involves the implantation of a small generator that stimulates a nerve in the tongue and the upper airway muscles during sleep. This small generator is placed in the anterior chest wall and patients turn the device on before they go to sleep using a small handheld remote.
- Tracheostomy: involves surgically creating a hole in the front of your neck and into your windpipe. A tube called a tracheostomy is put into the hole, creating a new airway. For treatment of sleep apnea, the tracheostomy opening is kept covered during the day, and open at night. The airway created by the tracheostomy allows air to pass in and out of the lungs without passing through any blocked or constricted portions of the throat.
- Other surgery: used to remove nasal polyps or repair an uneven septum between your nostrils, or to remove adenoids or swollen tonsils can help reduce snoring and sleep apnea episodes by enlarging airways and clearing blockages.
- Treating related medical problems: in some people, sleep apnea is caused or made worse by other medical problems, such as heart failure. In these cases, obtaining treatment for these related conditions can help reduce sleep apnea.