By Denise DeWitt / EmpowHer Writer
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious breathing condition that causes a person to stop breathing for varying lengths of time during sleep. The three types of sleep apnea share similar symptoms, but the risk factors for sleep apnea vary for each type, as do the treatments.
Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea
• Lose weight – If you are overweight or obese, this can reduce the excess fat that is restricting your airway. Even a little weight loss may help improve your symptoms.
• Avoid alcohol and medications that make you sleepy – They can make it harder for your throat to stay open while you sleep.
• Sleep on your side – Your throat is more likely to close when you sleep on your back. Prop pillows against your back to keep yourself from rolling over while you sleep.
• Keep nasal passages open – Nose sprays or allergy medicines may help. Talk to your doctor to find out if these medications might be right for you.
• Stop smoking – You can reduce fluid retention and inflammation in your throat by giving up cigarettes.
If these lifestyle changes don’t bring about enough improvement, a mouthpiece or oral appliance may be the next thing to try if you have mild sleep apnea. A dentist can create a custom-fit mouthpiece out of plastic that will adjust the position of your lower jaw and tongue to help keep your airway open while you sleep. This can also help reduce snoring in people who don’t have sleep apnea.
For moderate to severe sleep apnea, it may be necessary to use a machine that will help move air into your lungs. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most common treatment for this level of sleep apnea in adults. The CPAP machine uses a mask that fits over your nose and mouth, or just your nose. The machine gently blows air into your throat with enough pressure to keep your airways open so you can breathe normally.
If this device doesn’t work for you, you may need to try a bilevel positive pressure device (BiPAP). BiPAP provides two levels of air pressure – a higher level when you inhale and less pressure while you exhale.