Sleep apnea is a form of sleep disordered breathing (SDB). Of the three types of sleep apnea, obstructive, which causes the airway to partially or fully collapse, is the most common, affecting over 18 million Americans. Consequences of sleep apnea can be life threatening, including hypertension, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Sleep apnea solutions very, depending on the severity of the disorder and on the patient’s medical history.

Ranging from lifestyle changes to surgery, sleep apnea solutions also have a range of effects. Simple changes such as using a humidifier during sleep, clearing the nasal passages of congestion before going to bed, and avoiding sleeping on the back can alleviate sleep apnea. Hypnosis, natural herbs, acupuncture have also been suggested as possible sleep apnea solutions. Breaking bad habits, such as overeating, imbibing too much alcohol and smoking can have an impact, too.

In some cases, the simple sleep apnea solutions do not completely relieve the problem. Oral appliances, devices similar to mouth guards used in sports, keep the airway open. A mandibular advancement device (MAD) pushes the lower jaw forward. A tongue-retaining device prevents the tongue from falli g back over the airway. The MAD is often adjustable so that the dentist can adjust the jaw as necessary. sleep health

Pressurized air is another of the sleep apnea solutions. Via a medical pump through a flexible tube attached to a mask, a stream of pressured air is pumped into the subject’s mouth, keeping the airway open. CPAP, continuous positive air pressure, is most commonly used and comes with a variety of attachments, including humidifier, variable inhalation and exhalation air pressures, and an air heater.

The object of treating obstructive sleep apnea is to relieve/remove the cause of obstruction, so several sleep apnea solutions include procedures to widen the airway. One such solution is tissue reduction. With the use of a needle connected to a radio frequency generator, RFTR (Radiofrequency Tissue Reduction) can reduce the inner thickness of tissue on the tongue, on the soft palate and on the throat. Reducing the tongue size aids in two ways: more room in the airway, and less tissue capable of creating a blockage.

Surgical procedures as sleep apnea solutions are usually reserved as a last resort. Most of the procedures are designed to help open/widen the airway. Uvulopalatoplasty, shrinking or removing the uvula (that bit of tissue that dangles from the roof of your mouth), is an example. For sleep apnea complicated by nasal congestion, surgery to straighten the septum (the partition between the nostrils) may be an option. Tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy can also be effective.

Maxillomandibular advancement (MMA), usually performed for the most difficult cases, is the most invasive of sleep apnea solutions. MMA involves detaching the upper and lower jaw, moving them forward and reattaching them with pins or plates.

Sleep apnea is a chronic disorder and may require a lifetime of treatment. Research is continuing on all avenues of sleep apnea solutions, and as technology advances, so do possible solutions.