Step 2: Treatment Options
Your type of sleep apnea is the first factor in determining the best treatment option. The second factor to consider is the severity of your condition, and finally, your willingness to comply with the treatment options.
CPAP stands for “Continuous Positive Airway Pressure.” It’s a machine that pushes air through your airway while you sleep, via a mask fitting over your nose and mouth or just your nose. You can use it for all types of sleep apnea.
CPAP is 100% effective if you wear it every time you sleep, all night long. However, many people and their sleeping partners find CPAP uncomfortable due to the mask, tubes, and the soft noise of the machine. Traditional CPAP machines are also notoriously difficult to travel with—but you have options to make things easier.
Many people don’t mind the machine’s noise because it provides white noise. If you’re someone who sleeps with a fan for noise, the CPAP likely won’t bother you. You have different options for masks. Masks can be a full-face, nasal, and nasal pillow. Your sleep doctor can help you determine which mask works best for you.
Remember: a clean CPAP machine is essential for effective treatment.
If you travel for work or pleasure frequently, don’t worry. You can use a travel CPAP machine that is compact and convenient. Security at airports is easy, too. Just send it through as usual. Keep your CPAP with you and never check it. Checked bags tend to get lost, and you need to use to every time you sleep. If you opt to bring a full-size CPAP, you can carry it on separately since it’s a medical device.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliance therapy (OAT) is a sleep apnea treatment that works without a machine or a mask. It’s a small mouthguard-like appliance you wear when sleeping. It holds your jaw in a position where your airway stays open despite the sagging soft tissues. OAT is 95% effective clinically, but it may be more effective in a real-world setting than CPAP because patients have an easier time adhering to treatment. Oral appliance therapy can treat mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea.
Caring for your oral appliance is easy. Just brush it along with your teeth after you wear it. Keeping it clean will make you more likely to wear it every time you sleep.
Traveling with your OAT is easy, too, since it fits in a small protective case. But just like with CPAP, never check your oral appliance. Keep it with you at all times while traveling.
Inspire is a new sleep apnea treatment and an alternative to CPAP. It’s a device that lives inside your body and keeps your airway clear with a gentle pulse. The pulse keeps your tongue from falling back and creating a blockage. It is FDA approved and treats obstructive and some complex sleep apnea.
The device is placed in short outpatient surgery. When you’re going to sleep or take a nap, turn it on with your remote and turn it off when you awaken.
This device is easy to travel with, too. Like CPAP and OAT, always keep your remote on your person.
Treatment Supplement: Lifestyle Changes
Many people wonder if they need sleep apnea treatment and if lifestyle changes can eliminate their sleep apnea. Since it is a life-threatening and altering condition, we don’t recommend only lifestyle changes as treatment. However, the best way to treat sleep apnea is to use the treatment option you’ll follow in combination with lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes alone will not cure your sleep apnea, but they can supplement treatment.
- Lose weight if applicable
- Increase exercise and activity
- Quit drinking alcohol and all smoking
- Avoid certain medications such as muscle relaxants and strong pain killers
- Sleep on your side
- Manage your allergies
- Practice healthy sleep habits