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Effective treatments for sleep apnea and snoring can make a huge difference in your life

Obstructive sleep apnea is very common and affects more than 12 million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health. Both behavioral and medical (or mechanical) therapy are used to treat obstructive sleep apnea, although the specific therapy is tailored to the individual patient based on medical history, physical examination and the results of a sleep study.

Behavioral therapy for sleep apnea
Behavioral changes are an important part of the treatment program, and in mild cases behavioral therapy may be all that is needed. If you’re prescribed behavioral therapy, you should avoid the use of alcohol, tobacco and sleeping pills, which make the airway more likely to collapse during sleep and prolong the sleep apnea periods.

Overweight patients can benefit from losing weight. Even a 10 percent weight loss can reduce the number of sleep apnea events for most patients. In some patients with mild sleep apnea, breathing pauses occur only when they sleep on their backs. In such cases, using pillows and other devices that help them sleep in a side position is often helpful.

Medical or mechanical therapy for sleep apnea
Although mild cases of sleep apnea and snoring can be treated by lifestyle changes such as losing weight or quitting smoking, the number one prescribed therapy and the most effective treatment of obstructive sleep apnea is called CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure).

In this therapy, you wear a mask over your nose during sleep, and pressure from an air blower forces air through the nasal passages. The air pressure is adjusted so that it is just enough to prevent the throat from collapsing during sleep. The pressure is constant and continuous. Nasal CPAP prevents airway closure while in use, but apnea episodes return when CPAP is stopped or used improperly.

Variations of the CPAP device attempt to minimize side effects that sometimes occur, such as nasal irritation and drying, facial skin irritation, abdominal bloating, mask leaks, sore eyes and headaches. Some versions of CPAP vary the pressure to coincide with the person’s breathing pattern, and others start with low pressure, slowly increasing it to allow the person to fall asleep before the full prescribed pressure is applied.

Dental appliances that reposition the lower jaw and the tongue have been helpful to some patients with mild sleep apnea or who snore but do not have sleep apnea. A dentist or orthodontist is often the one to fit the patient with such a device.

Surgical therapies may also be used to treat sleep apnea or snoring in select cases when the above therapies have failed or have not been tolerated.  Also, surgeries to correct anatomic abnormalities such as nasal passage obstruction or large tonsils may be beneficial.  Surgeries for sleep apnea are performed by Otorhinolaryngologists (ENT surgeons). Recently,, surgeries for significant obesity (bariatrics) have resulted in improvements in sleep apnea as a patient’s weight reduces.

Improve your sleep health with sleep apnea treatment
Graymark Healthcare professionals provide care and expertise to help you achieve success with your sleep disorder treatment. Our dedicated staff of physicians, respiratory therapists, and patient care coordinators will assist you to ensure your needs concerning sleep apnea and snoring are being met. We are your sleep health partner and our goal is to help you stop snoring and start living.