As anyone will tell you, regularly getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for keeping up any kind of quality of life. Sleep disorders can do a surprising amount of damage to someone’s health and happiness. Sleep apnea is one of the more severe sleep disorders, but fortunately there are a few very reliable treatments.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is an obstructive sleep disorder. The obstruction is generally caused by the tongue, which closes off airways during sleep. This causes low oxygen levels and interferes with blood flow, and can cause very serious cardiovascular issues if left untreated for too long.
Moreover, sleep apnea repeatedly wakes the sleeper from deeper sleep, as a person will wake every time their oxygen levels grow too low. Though the sleeper may be able to sleep through the night, sleep apnea will cause them to waken partially, and their sleep will be less than restful, and they will wake up tired or with headaches. This can also cause a number of health issues.
Sleep apnea can also come with snoring and noises when the tongue is dislodged. This is frequently a large concern among sleepers, as it can be bothersome to anyone sleeping nearby.
Sleep apnea is generally caused by the shape of the jaw, and therefore it can be difficult to treat with simple remedies. Fortunately, with surgery, the severity of the sleep apnea can often be reduced greatly, and in many cases the sleep apnea can be entirely eliminated.
What treatments are available?
Mild sleep apnea can be treated with smaller remedies, such as propping up the head with a pillow or lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, avoidance of sleeping pills or alcohol before bed, or nasal sprays. If these do not prove effective or the condition is more severe, many doctors will recommend the next best treatment option, depending on the nature and severity of the obstruction and symptoms.
Like snoring, sleep apnea is often treated with a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). This is a non-surgical treatment where the patient is given a machine that exerts air pressure on the airways through a facial mask of some kind, thereby opening them when the patient inhales. Many doctors do recommend this as a treatment for sleep apnea. It is a fairly effective treatment, but it is a continuous treatment that many patients may find uncomfortable.
However, surgical treatments are usually capable of improving the condition permanently, without the need for constant remedies that might disturb sleep. The most common surgeries include:
• Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, where throat tissue is removed to clear the airways. This is most frequently done in adults, and is one of the more frequent surgeries done to improve sleep apnea.
• Tonsillectomy, where the tonsils are removed instead. This is more common in children, though depending on how swollen the tonsils are, it may be done in adults as well.
• Tracheostomy, where instead of removing obstacles, a tube is inserted into the airways to keep them open. This is a procedure that is usually done after other surgeries have failed to resolve the situation. It is very rarely the first surgery done when treating sleep apnea.
• Orthognathic, where the jaw is operated on to keep the airways clear. Orthognathic surgery is done depending on the jaw structure. Not all sleep apnea can be improved with orthognathic surgery, and the procedure can take several years to finish entirely, as orthodontics are often required after the surgery itself. However, the advantage of this surgery is that it can be effective for any number of obstructions causing the sleep apnea, and it can often improve the patient’s bite, which prevents headaches, jaw pain, and wear of the teeth.
• Nerve stimulation, where an implant is placed in the chest that assists with the stimulation of muscles regulating breathing and airways. This is usually a bigger surgical procedure, and is usually only used in cases where the sleep apnea can only be treated this way.
Each treatment option has its advantages and disadvantages, and each patient should discuss with their doctor how their sleep apnea affects them, what kind of sleep apnea they suffer, and other factors they find important. A doctor will often be able to come to an agreement with each patient about what appears to be the most reasonable course of action for them.
If you are having troubles with sleep apnea, you should talk to a doctor about whether orthognathic surgery is right for your condition. Dr. Jamali is a board certified surgeon specializing in oral surgery. He is highly rated and has especially good experience in anesthesiology in comparison to most oral surgeons. His practice is located in New York. If you are struggling with sleep apnea and live in the New York City area, call 212-480-2777 to see if Dr. Jamali is right for your needs!