Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that usually occurs at night during deeper sleep. It is the involuntary stopping of breathing due to closure of the airways. Sleep apnea leads to poor quality of sleep, and thus the side effects are carried over to the next day. Sleep apnea can also have long term health implications including increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and memory loss in addition to the normal side effects of not getting enough REM sleep.
Even though there are several types of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common complication. It is characterized by disruption of sleep, reduced oxygen levels, and fragmented sleep. There are, however, some basic sleep apnea treatment options available.
- Weight loss – Like many other diseases, excess weight and obesity are major forces behind obstructive sleep apnea. According to research, losing weight minimizes the severity of obstructive sleep apnea. A leaner body has minimal fat deposits around the tongue and at the back of the throat. The airway is, thus, not obstructed. Weight loss minimizes OSA-related symptoms while at the same time improving cardiovascular health and the overall quality of life. Losing weight involves several measures such as revamping your diet and exercising.
- Regular exercise – Exercise has a lot of positive impacts on overall health. Regular exercise greatly reduces OSA. It’s been scientifically proven that exercises minimize OSA and its symptoms even without weight reduction. Regular exercise strengthens your heart, improves sleep apnea, and increases your energy levels. Yoga is proven to improve respiratory health and increase oxygen flow. With an improved circulation of blood, you can reduce the disruptions in your sleep.
- Limiting alcohol, sedatives, and cigarettes – Alcohol and sedative medication often lead to a slackening of the tissues surrounding the airway, increasing the risk of airway collapsing and obstructive sleep apnea. Alcohol causes low-quality sleep due to its effect on the sleep cycle. You can minimize the effects of OSA by minimizing the consumption of alcohol or sedative medication, especially on hours leading to bedtime.
Cigarettes also increase the risk of OSA. Active smokers have a higher risk of severe OSA cases compared to non-smokers and former smokers. Also, smokers face a severe form of OSA as compared to non-smokers. Smoking cigarettes should therefore be avoided at all costs.
- Avoid sleeping on your back – When you sleep on your back, gravity acts on your tongue and other tissues near your airway, increasing the risk of difficult breathing. Switching to a different sleeping position prevents constriction of the airway in some patients, thus lowering the effects of OSA.
- Use a humidifier – A humidifier is a machine that adds moisture to the air. Dry air often irritates the respiratory system. Humidified air is, however, friendly to the respiratory system. Your airways remain open, you breathe clearly, plus there is no congestion in the airways. You can add peppermint, eucalyptus oil, and lavender to draw more benefits from the humidifier. These substances offer MILD soothing and anti-inflammatory benefits. You should follow the manufacturers’ instructions precisely when cleaning should you opt to use a humidifier.
- Use oral appliances – Oral appliances will help in minimizing the effects of sleep apnea. They reposition your jaw and tongue so that your airways remain open while you sleep. You can choose either a mandibular advancement device or a tongue stabilizing device. Some are available OTC, while a dentist prescribes others.
Should the home remedies fail or not be sufficient, you should visit a dental clinic offering sleep apnea procedures such as Wellesley Dental Arts. Professional dentists offer the best solution. They first diagnose the type of sleep apnea then explore the various treatment options with you.
For severe cases, you might be required to spend a night at a sleep center. Under your dentist’s care, they can provide a variety of options. A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine or other airway pressure devices may be recommended for moderate to severe cases.
For more severe cases, surgery may be required. Various surgical options include tissue removal or shrinkage, implants, nerve stimulation, jaw repositioning, or tracheostomy. Unlike home remedies, clinical options provide a permanent solution to sleep apnea.