Sleep Apnea Is Treatable
Once you’ve gotten a sleep test to establish that you have the condition, you have your choice of treatments to improve your health and quality of life. You might find CPAP works for you or choose the more comfortable and convenient oral appliance therapy. It’s up to you!
Before you can get sleep apnea treatment, you need to get a diagnosis with a sleep test. Fortunately, SleepTest.com makes that easy. You can tell your doctor about us, or order an affordable sleep test for yourself with our online form.
CPAP: The Gold Standard That’s Not for Everyone
CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is considered the gold standard of sleep apnea treatment. That’s because, when used properly, it’s nearly 100% effective. Plus, it works on all types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed.
CPAP uses a pump to supply air to you through hoses and nose plugs or a mask. The air is pumped at a pressure high enough to keep your airway open. This treats obstructive sleep apnea, and the constant supply of air means that your body gets oxygen even if your brain stops sending the signals to breathe.
The only difficulty with CPAP is that many people have a hard time adapting to it. People find it uncomfortable, inconvenient, and cumbersome. As a result, only about half of the people prescribed CPAP use it long-term. This means that about half of all people prescribed CPAP still have untreated sleep apnea.
Oral Appliance Therapy: An Effective Alternative
Because many people don’t like or don’t use CPAP, it’s important to understand that there are alternatives. The leading alternative for obstructive sleep apnea is oral appliance therapy (OAT). OAT can be just as effective as CPAP for obstructive sleep apnea. OAT is similar to a mouthguard that you wear at night. It’s comfortable, convenient, adjustable, and covered by insurance. Many people can get OAT as their first treatment option.
Most OAT works by repositioning the lower jaw (mandible). Since the jaw is the main bony support for the soft tissues of the airway, this can hold the airway open to allow proper breathing. OAT also works great as a snoring treatment.
Some types of OAT have the potential to effectively “cure” sleep apnea. However, this is not always fully effective, and must be considered on a case-by-case basis.
The main limitation of OAT is that it does not treat central sleep apnea. It can still be beneficial for people with mixed sleep apnea who have a low central sleep apnea component. OAT is not recommended as a frontline treatment for severe sleep apnea. However, it can be used for severe sleep apnea if CPAP fails.
Sleep Apnea Surgery and Other Options
Sometimes doctors recommend surgery for sleep apnea. However, this is usually considered a last-resort alternative. That’s because surgery is not a highly effective treatment and usually provides temporary relief at best. In addition, people with sleep apnea are at an elevated risk for surgical complications.
Recently, doctors have used an implantable device called Inspire airway stimulation that is similar to a pacemaker to stimulate throat and tongue muscles to try to keep the airway open. Inspire is recommended to patients who do not respond well to CPAP or oral appliance therapy. The device is placed under general anesthesia by an Ear Nose and Throat Specialist. The device uses sensors to determine when to stimulate the tongue airway muscles. The surgery takes around two hours to complete and three weeks to completely recover from. Patients should take a sleep test two months after surgery to determine the effectiveness of Inspire.
Finally, lifestyle modification can help treat sleep apnea. This is rarely recommended as a standalone treatment, but weight loss, increased exercise, and reduced consumption of alcohol and other relaxants can make severe sleep apnea more compatible with OAT.
Find Out If You Need Sleep Apnea Treatment
The first step in treating your sleep apnea is getting the condition diagnosed. At SleepTest.com, we work hard to take down the barriers many people face in getting a sleep test. You can tell your doctor about us, or just use our online form to order a sleep test for yourself. With included 2-day USPS shipping, you can get results in about a week.