Treating Sleep Apnea in the Most Effective Way

Thanks to advancements in the medical profession, most sleep disorders are now easier to understand and diagnose. But sleep apnea still remains baffling.

Some patients might be of ideal weight, no history of disorders, and might even not be snoring but still, be diagnosed with this condition that is characterized by difficulty in breathing, especially at night.  

What makes this condition unique from other sleep disorders is that it is neurological. Put simply, the signals are not sent to the respiratory system for a smooth and consistent breathing pattern when the patient is asleep. Sometimes, this condition is precipitated by other conditions or some medication, and other times, it just occurs without any known reason. 

But whatever the root cause is, there are effective treatment options available to treat sleep apnea. We’ve researched and highlighted the most popular, effective, and safe options for any patient.

Eliminate or Cut Back on Opioids

Various studies have shown that powerful opioids, especially those in pain medications like oxycodone and morphine are known to cause sleep apnea. Therefore, eliminating or reducing the dosage will help. But, you must consult a medical practitioner or a specialist before making these changes. 

Remember, pain medications are meant to help with the pain, and fixing sleep apnea at the expense of additional pain might not be the right thing to do. Discuss the options available to you to make sure you address both. 

Treat Condition That Causes Sleep Apnea (CSA)

Central apnea is sometimes caused by other preexisting conditions. The aftermath of a stroke or congestive heart failure is known to lead to CSA. To put it simply, treating a stroke or a heart condition will go a long way in reducing sleep apnea. 

Use of Adaptive Servo-Ventilation (ASV)

This is a medical device that is used in the form of a mask and is effective in detecting the breathing needs of the patients and adjusting them accordingly to deliver the required oxygen levels. Essentially, if the breathing is fine, it reduces the provided air. And if the breathing pauses begin, the ASV device will increase the oxygen it provides. 

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

This is yet another device that is very incredibly effective in helping CSA patients. It is especially advised for patients recovering from congestive heart failure. The patient is required to wear a mask that delivers continuous and constant air pressure to the lungs. Make sure to have the best chin strap for CPAP masks to help counter the inclination of the body that might pause smooth breathing. This will help the patient a lot.

Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BPAP)

This treatment option has been effective in treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea. It has proved to be exceptionally effective with CSA patients as well. Working in a similar way to a CPAP mask, this device will adjust the air provided to the lungs depending on the inhaling and exhaling cycles. 

Phrenic Nerve Stimulation

Recently approved by the FDA, Phrenic Nerve Stimulation is a therapy for adults with moderate to severe cases of CSA. It is implanted and delivered by a pacemaker to stimulate the chest nerve (phrenic nerve) that sends signals to the diaphragm to regulate breathing. The implant monitors the patient’s respiratory signals, and in case of any pauses, it quickly restores the normal breathing pattern. And, it doesn’t require a mask. This is because it’s implanted and works automatically. 

Surgery

This is one of the most effective and common ways of addressing CSA. In essence, it involves the removal of the extra tissue on the patient’s throat that collapses, causing blockage to the airways. While some of the surgical procedures are less invasive, some are more complex. If a patient chooses surgery, it generally involves one or a combination of the following areas;

  • Tongue
  • Tonsils
  • Adenoids
  • Uvula and soft palate
  • The jaws

And before a patient considers surgery, they should make sure the following questions are addressed in detail. 

  • How successful is the procedure?
  • Would oral appliances therapy be more effective than surgery? 
  • To what extent will the procedure enhance my breathing?
  • Are there any side effects?

Remember, surgery is not as effective on everyone. Some benefit more than others.

Some of the negative aspects of the procedure are:

  • A swollen throat, and sometimes it may bleed
  • Pain
  • “Shut” jaws for days or even weeks

Also, while the benefits are immense, they might not be permanent for some patients. Make sure to understand all the details of the procedure from a qualified medical practitioner. 

Surgery is advised for patients that have shown no significant improvements after the use of CPAP and other oral appliance therapies. 

Weight Management

If a patient is obese or overweight, weight loss is especially an inexpensive and effective way of addressing sleep apnea. The thick necks of overweight patients often have extra tissues that collapse and block the airways. 

Weight management is advised for patients that can engage in physical activity to manage their weight. While weight loss is not a guarantee to eliminate sleep apnea, it has proved to be effective in many patients. But, if the patient naturally has a narrow airway, weight loss might not make a difference. 

Positional Therapy

This is a behavioral strategy that has been known to treat positional CSA. Some patients will experience sleep apnea when they sleep on their back and breathing returns to normal as soon as they sleep on their side. This treatment option involves having a device around your waist to help you maintain the side sleeping position. 

Change Some Daily Habits

Lifestyle changes in some patients have been known to reduce snoring and alleviate CSA symptoms. These include quitting or significantly cutting back on alcohol consumption and smoking. Alcohol is especially known to relax your throat muscles that might cause them to collapse and block the airway.

Also, patients with allergies are advised to take decongestants before sleep to enhance airflow.

CPAP masks are incredibly effective in treating sleep apnea, but for those that don’t like wearing masks, the other treatment options mentioned above can be tried to treat sleep apnea. Make sure to consult a healthcare professional before settling on any of the options.