Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that needs to be treated. Our board certified sleep physician can help you select a treatment plan that is right for you. Depending on the treatment, he may work in collaboration with other members of the sleep team. Your plan may include any combination of these treatments:
CPAP is a machine that uses a steady stream of air to gently keep your airway open throughout the night so you are able to breathe. You sleep wearing a mask with a hose that is attached, which goes to a machine that is kept at the bedside. CPAP is the most effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea and is recommended for all cases of sleep apnea. Masks and machines may vary depending on your treatment and comfort needs. Other machines include Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BIPAP) and Automatic Positive Airway Pressure (APAP).
An oral appliance is a device that fits in your mouth over your teeth while you sleep. It may resemble a sports mouth guard or an orthodontic retainer. The device prevents your airway from collapsing by holding the jaw and tongue in position, or holding them forward so that you can breathe while sleeping. Some patients prefer sleeping with an oral appliance in place of a CPAP machine. After a sleep apnea diagnosis, our physician can fit you with an oral appliance, if that treatment is recommended for you. Oral appliance therapy may be recommended for patients with mild to moderate apnea if CPAP cannot be tolerated.
Surgical therapies are not as effective in treating sleep apnea as CPAP and oral appliances. However, there are a variety of surgical options that may help using CPAP or an oral appliance easier. Some surgeries may be considered if CPAP or oral appliance therapy does not work for you. The most common options reduce or eliminate the extra tissue in your throat that collapses and blocks your airway during sleep. More complex procedures can adjust your bone structures including the jaw, nose and facial bones. Our board certified sleep physician can help to determine if a surgical option may be right for you. Weight loss surgery may also be an option. You could discuss this with our sleep physician at your consultation or follow up visit.
In some cases of sleep apnea that are caused only due to weight gain, weight loss can help improve or eliminate sleep apnea. Overweight people often have thick necks with extra tissue in the throat that may block the airway. There is no guarantee that losing weight will eliminate your sleep apnea, though it may help reduce the severity. You could discuss this option with our board-certified sleep physician at your consultation or follow up visit. This approach is unlikely to make a difference in patients with a narrow nasal passage or airway, and in patients that have a family history of sleep apnea or snoring.
If you have mild sleep apnea, or you have sleep apnea that is confirmed by sleeping on your back during a sleep study done at our sleep lab, our sleep physician may recommend positional therapy for your sleep apnea. You may have an airway that only closes in a certain body position. Usually this cannot be diagnosed with home sleep testing and requires an overnight sleep study in the comfort of a bedroom at the Sleep Medicine Institute of Texas.
There are a variety of lifestyle changes that you can make to help reduce snoring and improve your sleep apnea symptoms. Behavioral changes such as quitting smoking or not drinking alcohol may improve sleep apnea symptoms. Alcohol relaxes your throat muscles which can cause you to snore or force your airway to collapse. Appropriate treatment of allergies or nasal congestion may help simplify the treatment of sleep apnea, although sleep apnea cannot be treated just by clearing allergies or nasal congestion as sleep apnea is caused by obstruction of the airway during sleep by soft tissue like the tongue.
If you have difficulty successfully staying with your treatment plan or cannot sleep even with treatment, our board certified sleep physician may recommend other treatment options and treatment of other sleep disorders. To find out if you have or need treatment for other sleep disorders, contact us to schedule an appointment at the Sleep Medicine Institute of Texas.