Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Treatments and Cures
Recommended treatment is dependent upon how severe the Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is.If your OSA is moderate to severe, or you’ve tried self-help strategies and lifestyle changes without success, a more proactive approach may be recommended to find an effective treatment. Treatment for sleep apnoea has come a long way in recent times, so even if you were unhappy with OSA treatment in the past, you may now find something that works for you now.
Sleep apnoea treatment 1: Dental Devices
Dental devices can be made from a variety of materials and fit inside your mouth, similar to an athletic mouth guard. Two common oral devices are the Mandibular Repositioning Device (MRD) / Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD) and the tongue retaining device. These devices open your airway by bringing your lower jaw or your tongue forward during sleep.
- Dental devices are most effective for mild-to-moderate sleep apnoea but can also help with severe cases by being used in combination with other treatments (i.e. the effectiveness of a CPAP can only increase if the jaw is in a more optimal position, reducing the amount of pressure required to keep the airway open).
- It’s very important to get fitted by a dentist with knowledge and clinical experience in sleep apnoea, and to see the dentist on a regular basis to monitor any problems and periodically review / adjust the device.
Sleep apnoea treatment option 2: CPAP
Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure (CPAP) is a commonly prescribed treatment for moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnoea. The CPAP device uses a mask that covers both your mouth and nose. It provides a constant stream of air that keeps your breathing passages open while you sleep.
- CPAP technology is constantly being updated and improved, and the newest CPAP devices are lighter, quieter, and more comfortable.
- In many cases, you’ll experience immediate symptom relief and a huge boost in your mental and physical energy.
- CPAP machines are still relatively bulky and heavy which can prove inconvenient if they need to be transported (holidays, business trips etc.).
CPAP tips and troubleshooting
It can take some time to get accustomed to sleeping while wearing a CPAP device but there are things you can to do make the adjustment easier.
- Make sure your CPAP device fits correctly. A well fitting mask makes a huge difference. Regular appointments can be schedule with your doctor to check the fit whilst also evaluating your treatment progress.
- Ease into it. Start by using your CPAP device for short periods. Use the “ramp” setting to gradually increase air pressure.
- Customise the mask, tubing and straps for the right fit. Soft pads can be considered to reduce skin irritation, nose pillows for nasal discomfort, and chinstraps to keep your mouth closed and hence reduce throat irritation.
- Many CPAP devices now come with a built-in humidifier to decrease dryness and skin irritation.
- Try a saline nasal spray or a nasal decongestant for nasal congestion prior to using the machine.
- Keep your mask, tubing and headgear clean. To ensure maximum comfort and benefit, replace CPAP and humidifier filters regularly and keep the unit clean.
- Mask the sound of the CPAP machine. If the sound of the CPAP machine bothers you, place it beneath the bed to reduce the noise and use a ‘sound machine’ to help you sleep.
Sleep apnoea treatment option 3: Other breathing devices
In addition to CPAP, there are other devices that may be recommend for sleep apnoea treatment:
- Expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP) – single-use devices that fit around/ over the nostrils to help keep the airway open. They are smaller, less intrusive than CPAP machines and may benefit people with ‘mild’ to ’moderate’ obstructive sleep apnoea.
- Bilevel positive airway pressure (BPAP) – devices that can be used by those who are unable to adapt to using CPAP, or for central sleep apnoea (CSA) sufferers who need assistance with a weak breathing pattern. The BPAP device automatically adjusts the pressure while you’re sleeping, providing more pressure when you inhale and then less when you exhale. Some BPAP devices also automatically deliver a breath if it detects you haven’t taken one for a certain number of seconds, especially useful for CSA sufferers who sometimes experience breathing that simply stops.
- Adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV) – devices can be used for treating central sleep apnoea (CSA) as well as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). The ASV device stores information about the patients normal breathing pattern and then automatically uses airflow pressure to prevent pauses in breathing while they are asleep.
Sleep apnoea treatment 4: Sleep Apnoea Implants
One of the newest treatments for sleep apnoea involves the insertion of a pacemaker system that stimulates muscles to keep airways open so you can breathe during sleep. The new treatment has been approved by the FDA in the U.S. for people with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnoea. Although the technology is relatively new (and expensive), studies suggest it may also be of benefit to people with central sleep apnoea.
Sleep apnoea treatment 5: Surgery
If all other sleep apnoea treatment options have been exhausted , surgery can be used in an attempt to increase airway ‘patency’ (keeping it unobstructed) or increase the actual size of your airway, thus reducing episodes of ‘obstruction’ in obstructive sleep apnoea. Surgical considerations include;
- Removal of tonsils, adenoids, or excess tissue at the back of the throat or inside the nose.
- Reconstruction of the jaw / jaws to enlarge the upper airway.
- Implantation of plastic rods into the soft palate.
Please Note: Surgery always carries risks of complications and infections, and in some rare cases, the symptoms can become worse after surgery.