If you are concerned about having the risk factors that could develop into sleep apnea, ask your doctor about what healthy lifestyle changes you can make such as:
· Lose weight if you're overweight.
· Exercise regularly.
· Drink alcohol moderately, if at all, and don't drink several hours before bedtime.
· Quit smoking.
· Use a nasal decongestant or allergy medications.
· Don't sleep on your back.
· Avoid taking sedative medications such as anti-anxiety drugs or sleeping pills.
If these measures don't improve your sleep or if your apnea is moderate to severe, then your doctor may recommend other treatments. Certain devices can help open up a blocked airway like using PAP therapy.
Positive airway pressure. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, you may benefit from positive airway pressure. In this treatment, a machine delivers air pressure through a piece that fits into your nose or is placed over your nose and mouth while you sleep.
Positive airway pressure reduces the number of respiratory events that occur as you sleep, reduces daytime sleepiness and improves your quality of life.
The most common type is called continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP (SEE-pap). With this treatment, the pressure of the air breathed is continuous, constant and somewhat greater than that of the surrounding air, which is just enough to keep your upper airway passages open. This air pressure prevents obstructive sleep apnea and snoring.
Although CPAP is the most consistently successful and most commonly used method of treating obstructive sleep apnea, some people find the mask cumbersome, uncomfortable or loud. However, newer machines are smaller and less noisy than older machines and there are a variety of mask designs for individual comfort.
Also, with some practice, most people learn to adjust the mask to obtain a comfortable and secure fit. You may need to try different types to find a suitable mask. Several options are available, such as nasal masks, nasal pillows or face masks.
If you're having particular difficulties tolerating pressure, some machines have special adaptive pressure functions to improve comfort. You also may benefit from using a humidifier along with your CPAP system.
CPAP may be given at a continuous (fixed) pressure or varied (autotitrating) pressure. In fixed CPAP, the pressure stays constant. In autotitrating CPAP, the levels of pressure are adjusted if the device senses increased airway resistance.
Bilevel positive airway pressure (BPAP), another type of positive airway pressure, delivers a preset amount of pressure when you breathe in and a different amount of pressure when you breathe out.
CPAP is more commonly used because it's been well studied for obstructive sleep apnea and has been shown to effectively treat obstructive sleep apnea. However, for people who have difficulty tolerating fixed CPAP, BPAP or autotitrating CPAP may be worth a try.
Don't stop using your positive airway pressure machine if you have problems. Check with your doctor to see what adjustments you can make to improve its comfort.
In addition, contact your doctor if you still snore despite treatment, if you begin snoring again or if your weight goes up or down by 10% or more.
Information provided by the Mayo Clinic