A common sleep disorder that often goes undiagnosed is that of sleep apnea, which can have a severe impact on
your general health if left untreated. If your sleeping partner tells you that you are snoring loudly, tossing and
turning during sleep or you find yourself waking up with a headache, then it may be time to be tested for sleep
Treating sleep apnea is surprisingly simple and painless, but many patients frequently fail to follow the advice
of their doctor. This decision is one that can prove dangerous - even deadly. Read to discover the treatments that
doctors typically advocate and how they can simply become a part of your life.
There are four basic approaches to apnea treatment, and they can be used in conjunction with one another. The
simplest method involves changing the circumstances, which may be causing the condition. The patient is advised to
lose weight, quit smoking, avoid alcohol and sedative drugs, have a regular sleep schedule and try to sleep only on
The most common treatment option is using Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) in the upper airway to
support and hold the airway open. This involves wearing a CPAP mask over the nose. The mask provides a supply of
continuously flowing air via a flexible plastic hose from a CPAP machine. Studies have shown that when patients use
CPAP, they not only slept better and were more alert during the day, but there were significant improvements in the
size, shape and pumping action of their hearts.
The third apnea treatment option is the use of a dental splint to prevent the jaw and tongue from moving back
and narrowing the airway. However, oral devices have not proved to be as effective as CPAP and the appliances can
The fourth and extreme form of treatment is surgery. This kind of procedure involves removal of the part of the
soft palate that hangs down in the back of the throat, as well as the tonsils if present, and other soft tissue if
it is felt to be excessive. This procedure is usually reserved for patients with severe sleep apnea.
The toughest challenge in treating sleep apnea is getting the patient to comply. Because they often find the
CPAP device cumbersome, many patients do not use it consistently or for long enough periods while sleeping.
Researchers have found that improvements were maximized after 7.5 hours of use each night. Patients who actively
pursued treatment reported better sleep, fewer morning headaches, a better performance on the job and improved
mood. The lifestyle modifications are also a great benefit. Losing weight, drinking in moderation and quitting
smoking all improve your overall health.
Along with these methods for treating sleep apnea, there is research being done on other techniques and tools
like implants. However, while a number of medical devices and procedures have received FDA clearance, sleep doctors
are not currently recommending them because there is not yet enough evidence to support their use. It is best to go
with your doctor's recommendations and stay informed about advances in treatments becoming available.