Sleep apnea is common enough today that the number of new cases reported annually rivals that of type 2 diabetes. Sleep apnea treatment can be maintenance-based or preventative in nature.
The most commonly reported treatments include CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure device) devices and surgical interventions, but there are also additional non-medical treatments that can work well for some patients.
In this article, learn more about what sleep apnea is, what causes it, how sleep apnea is diagnosed and what options you have for non-medical sleep apnea treatments.
Sleep Apnea Defined
Sleep apnea is medically defined as a condition where the flow of oxygen is temporarily interrupted one or more times during a person’s sleep cycle. There can be many causes for this interruption, which may be mild, moderate or severe (life-threatening).
Understanding Sleep Apnea
There are three main types of sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
The most common type is called obstructive sleep apnea. With this type, the reason the airway gets blocked has to do with the anatomy of a person’s face, jaw, neck and airways. People with narrow airways, small jaws, large necks and lots of soft tissue in the area of the soft palate are more at risk for this type of sleep apnea.
Central sleep apnea (CSA).
Central sleep apnea is less common but potentially the most severe, since with this type the brain fails to give the body’s muscles regular signals to breathe during sleep. This can also be the hardest type of sleep apnea to diagnose since snoring is rare.
Mixed (compound) sleep apnea.
When a person has elements of both OSA and CSA, they are said to have compound or mixed sleep apnea.
Obtaining a Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is now a well-known health condition, but it is still not always easy to diagnose. The reason for this is that symptoms can vary from person to person depending on what the type of sleep apnea is and whether there is someone else present (like a parent or partner) to report obvious symptoms like snoring.
Often a person will seek out medical attention because the symptoms of undiagnosed sleep apnea are beginning to interfere with the quality of their waking life. When a patient comes in for treatment and lists symptoms that include daytime sleepiness, irritability and mood swings, depression and/or anxiety, memory lapses, falling asleep at the wheel, morning headaches and dry mouth, impotence, frequent waking in the night and insomnia, sleep apnea is an immediate suspect.
Routine checkups as well as specialist visits can result in an initial suspicion of sleep apnea and a referral to a sleep specialist for further testing. Sleep testing can be done at home or in a sleep center, which is preferred if possible. The sleep test will measure breath flow during sleep and record interruptions. This will generate a firm diagnosis as well as information about how potentially severe the person’s sleep apnea may be.
Evaluating Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can range from mild to moderate to severe. Mild cases of sleep apnea are the most likely to respond favorably to at-home care and non-medical interventions. Severe cases of sleep apnea that have the potential to become immediately life-threatening may best be addressed with use of a CPAP device or through surgery.
Treatment options themselves range from mild to moderate to severe. Here are some examples:
- Losing weight.
- Avoiding alcohol and sedatives before bed.
- Exercising more.
- Maintaining a regular sleep schedule.
- Throat exercises.
- Neti pot, breathing over steam or sprays to open the airways before bedtime.
- Tighten jaw muscles before bedtime (aim for a mild ache).
- Use of snore control devices.
- CPAP machine.
- Dental mouth guards.
- Surgical intervention.
- Sleep apnea pacemaker implantation.
Recommended Non-Medical Treatments for Sleep Apnea
If you have been diagnosed with mild to moderate sleep apnea and you want to try non-medical treatments to control your symptoms, medical experts recommend these options.
Losing weight, getting in shape, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, limiting caffeine intake, avoiding sleep medicines or sedatives and eating a healthy diet can all be helpful in lessening the symptoms of sleep apnea.
Sleep position changes.
Just raising the head of your bed by about 4 inches and sleeping with a cervical pillow helps some people lessen sleep apnea symptoms. You can also try sewing a tennis ball to the back of your pajama top to keep you from rolling onto your back, which is the most dangerous position.
Take in more vitamins and minerals.
Magnesium helps to regulate muscles and Vitamins D, E and C are each powerful antioxidants. Patients who have sleep apnea are often found to be deficient in these supplements.
Try 5-HTP to boost serotonin levels.
Some people diagnosed with sleep apnea also have low serotonin. 5-HTP is an over-the-counter supplement that contains building blocks to help your body make more serotonin.
Up your daily intake of fish oil.
Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to play a part in sleep apnea. The DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in fish oil protects oxygen-starved cells from stress.
Contact Dr. Jamali Today
Dr. Majid Jamali is an oral and maxillofacial board certified surgeon practicing in the greater New York City, NY, area. Dr. Jamali has multiple areas of specialty, including facial (orthognathic) reconstructive surgery, obstructive sleep apnea treatment and advanced dental anesthesia and pain management.
Dr. Jamali performs outpatient procedures at his clinic and more extensive surgeries at local prestigious area hospitals where he holds affiliations. He has been recognized multiple times by Real Self as a Top 100 Provider and Top Doctor, where he consistently earns rave 5-star patient reviews.
To learn more and schedule your appointment, contact our office at 212-480-2777 or visit us online at www.omsofny.com.