Sleep apnea is a common disorder that affects millions of people in the United States. It is usually diagnosed by a sleep specialist who performs various tests and offers a diagnosis based on the signs and symptoms. The sleep apnea specialist may also consider your sleep history, which can be provided with the help of someone who shares your house, room, or bed. You may also be referred for an at-home sleep study or a sleep disorder center where a sleep specialist may determine your requirement for further evaluation.
This evaluation may include overnight monitoring of your breathing and other bodily functions during sleep at the sleep center. Many centers also offer home sleep testing. Once diagnosed with sleep apnea, you need to take steps for recovery. Let us look at some steps you can undertake to recover from acute or chronic sleep apnea.
Home Remedies and Lifestyle Changes
Self-care and lifestyle changes hold the potential to deal with obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea in some cases. The following tips may help:
Research has shown that even a slight weight loss can help relieve some constriction of the throat. Working to a healthy weight can help cure sleep apnea in several cases, but it may recur if you gain weight again.
Regular exercise works wonders in curing symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, even without losing weight. Moderate activity helps fitness and imparts a relaxing effect on the mind and body, leading to better sleep.
Avoiding certain medications and alcohol
Alcohol and certain medications such as sleeping pills and tranquilizers relax the muscles at the back of the throat and constrict breathing.
Sleeping on your side
Sleeping on your abdomen or side instead of your back can help relieve sleep apnea symptoms. Sleep on the back affects the tongue and soft palate’s positioning, causing them to push against the back of your throat. This blocks the airway, constricting breathing.
You can use home remedies such as tying a tennis ball to your back to prevent yourself from sleeping on your back. Commercial devices are also available that vibrate gently to remind you to roll over when sleeping.
Therapies and Other Treatments
If such home remedies do not relieve your sleep apnea symptoms, you can undertake other treatments like devices that help open up a blocked airway. In other cases, surgery may be necessary.
Positive airway pressure
Those with obstructive sleep apnea can benefit from a treatment known as continuous positive airway pressure, where a machine blows air pressure to your nose and mouth. This is done through a piece attachable to the mouth and nose while sleeping. Positive airway pressure decreases the number of respiratory events during sleeping, augments the quality of your life, and reduces bouts of daytime sleepiness.
The most generally used type is continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP. It produces a constant, continuous, and higher air pressure than the surrounding air to keep your upper airway passages open, thereby preventing snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. However, despite its extensive use and efficiency, some people may find wearing a mask while sleeping uncomfortable, loud, or problematic.
Newer PAP machines, however, are less noisy and much smaller and come in several different mask designs for elevated comfort. However, the mask is adjustable and requires a little practice to get the hang of. You can try different masks to find the one most suitable for you. Some available options include face masks, nasal masks, or nasal pillows.
Some machines can also augment comfort through innovative adaptive pressure features,
Which prove highly useful for people who face difficulties adjusting to high air pressure. In such cases, using a humidifier and a CPAP system also helps. CPAP may be given at a variable (auto-titrating) pressure (APAP) or a fixed (continuous) pressure. An auto-titrating CPAP adjusts the air pressure if it senses elevated airway resistance.
Another kind of positive air pressure that can help recover from sleep apnea is bilevel positive airway pressure (BPAP). BPAP delivers a particular amount of pressure during breathing in and a different pressure while breathing out to facilitate people who have difficulty adjusting to CPAP. You can also check with your sleep specialist to communicate any adjustments you can make along your recovery process.
Some other common options to treat sleep apnea may include:
Oral appliances designed to open your throat by positioning your jaw forward
Using adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV)
Treating associated medical disorders
Using supplemental oxygen when sleeping
Surgery is generally opted for as a last resort when all other treatment options fail. Before choosing surgery, sleep specialists generally conduct a three-month treatment trial with various options. It is, however, a suitable option for those with particular jaw structure problems.
Some common surgical options may include the following:
Known as uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), this procedure involves the removal of tissue from the back of the mouth and the top of the throat. It may also involve the removal of adenoids and tonsils. This surgery proves successful in causing throat structures from vibrating and moving during sleep, thereby stopping snoring.
However, this process is relatively less effective than CPAP and is not applied as a reliable remedy for obstructive sleep apnea. Individuals who are unable to tolerate oral appliances or CPAP can get the tissues at the back of their throat removed with radiofrequency energy, also known as radiofrequency ablation.
One other treatment option for obstructive sleep apnea is shrinking the tissue at the back of the throat and mouth by using radiofrequency ablation. This procedure is generally used to treat mild to moderate sleep apnea. Studies have found the effects of this process to be quite similar to tissue removal but with considerably fewer surgical risks.
This procedure entails a repositioning of the jaw to move it forward from the rest of the facial bones. This elongates the available space behind the soft palate and tongue, thereby reducing the chances of obstruction. This surgical process is also known as maxillomandibular advancement.
Implants involve the surgical placing of soft rods – generally made of plastic or polyester – in the soft palate. This process is carried out after general anesthesia, and considerable research is underway as to its effectiveness.
Nerve stimulation entails the surgical insertion of a stimulator for the tongue-controlling nerve (hypoglossal nerve). This controlled and increased stimulation moves the tongue in ways that prevent blockage of the airways. However, more research into this process is required.
Tracheostomy (creating a new air passageway)
A tracheostomy is the last surgical resort and is opted for when chances of recovery from all other processes are uncertain. It is performed on people with life-threatening and severe sleep apnea. It is performed by a surgeon who inserts a plastic or metal tube in an opening in the neck, which allows an individual to breathe.
The opening is kept closed during the day but uncovered when a person sleeps. The tube allows air to pass in and out of the lungs, overruling the blockage of air in the throat.
Other kinds of surgery can help treat sleep apnea by enlarging or clearing blockages in air passages or reducing snoring. These include weight loss (bariatric) surgery and surgical processes to remove large adenoids or tonsils.
Certified sleep specialists at SleepRX can help your sleep apnea recovery by conducting diagnostic tests, a home sleep study, or even an online sleep apnea test. Head over to SleepRx to book an online appointment within minutes!