Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by frequent stops in breathing, often lasting up to a minute. Each of these “breathless” episodes is called an apnea event, which can occur as often as a hundred times a night. The consequences of sleep apnea can be life threatening, including hypertension, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Several sleep apnea remedies are available, varying from lifestyle changes, to oral devices, to surgery. sleep health
Of the three types of sleep apnea, the most common is obstructive, resulting when tissue, the tongue, or relaxed throat muscles obstruct the airway. Lifestyle changes, the least invasive of sleep apnea remedies, are the first step to relieve sleep apnea. These changes most often include losing weight, avoiding alcohol, reducing caffeine, and the cessation of smoking.
Sleep position adjustment is another of the non-invasive sleep apnea remedies. Avoid sleeping on the back; instead sleep on the stomach or on the side. Sleeping on the back allows the tongue to relax toward the back of the throat, blocking the airway. Turning to the side and staying there can help prevent obstruction occurring. Using pillows to prop the head can also help, as can a hard object, such as a tennis ball propped behind the back to prevent rolling over during sleep.
Oral devices, moderately invasive, can also be used as sleep apnea remedies. Oral devices range from simple prosthetics placed in the mouth during sleep to prevent the tongue from obstructing the airway, to the use of CPAP, continuous positive airway pressure. CPAP uses a medical pump, attached to flexible tubing, which is attached to a mask that fits over the nose, or mouth or both. Via this mask, the CPAP pumps a stream of air into the mouth during sleep to keep the airway open.
Other sleep apnea remedies include palate (roof of the mouth) stiffening. Insertions of polyester material into the palate lessen vibration. Scarring, too, can stiffen the palate, achieved by injecting a scarring solution (injection snoreplasty), using a laser, or surgery to create the scarring.
Airway widening through tissue reduction is yet another of the sleep apnea remedies. Radiofrequency Tissue Reduction (RFTR) involves piercing the tongue, soft palate or throat using a needle connected to a radio frequency generator. The inner tissues shrink, but outer tissues, those that contain taste buds, remain unaffected.
The most invasive sleep apnea remedies are surgical procedures. Uvulopalatoplasty is a procedure that can shrink or remove the uvula (that tissue that dangles from the roof of the mouth in the back of the throat). Nasal surgery involves straightening the septum (the barrier between the nostrils) in patients where nasal congestion complicates the sleep apnea. In addition, a tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy may be performed to widen the airway.