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Sleep Apnea Solutions: What Works?

Updated on June 6, 2021
Sam Shepards profile image

I'm Sam. I enjoy writing about sleep and mental health-related topics as well as ways to prevent stress and to relax.

Did you know that nearly 9 million Americans diagnosed with sleep disorder use prescription sleep aids? How many more million individuals are walking around in an undiagnosed, sleep deprived state? Drowsiness is a leading factor in poor daytime performance and sleep apnea is the most commonly diagnosed sleep disorder.

With the problem clearly identified it is a wonder why more people don’t know how to make the daily changes that can exponentially improve the quality of their life. When it comes to sleep apnea solutions there are a number of proven ways to achieve a better night’s sleep. There are also appropriate treatment options available for those with critical sleep apnea medical conditions. No matter your degree, there is a solution that’s right for you.

Testing for sleep apnea

Before delving into the more conservative and holistic solutions for sleep apnea it is important to recognize the option of professional diagnosis. Testing for a sleep breathing problem is the most comprehensive way to ensure effective diagnosis. There are two ways to do this.

A polysomnogram is a standard overnight sleep apnea test in a laboratory involving monitoring a number of different variables, such as heart rate, oxygen levels, brain waves, eye, chin, leg, chest, and abdominal movements. It is used to measure how well you breathe at night.

An at home sleep study is the second option. This method provides convenience and is more affordable. However, it may be less accurate than a professionally conducted sleep study.

Sleep apnea solutions: lifestyle changes

Despite one’s ability to take part in a laboratory study, there is an array of natural solutions that are easily implemented into your lifestyle as well. Steven Yark, medical doctor and expert on sleep apnea, provides numerous solutions for this condition in his book titled Sleep Interrupted. Research supports his claims as an effective solution for the alleviation of irregular breathing patterns. Yark provides the following conservative solutions:

A. Positional Therapy

The obstruction of airflow is the most commonly experienced type of apnea. Position therapy aims at properly aligning the body for sleep. This optimal position will allow for the unobstructed flow of air by the tissues of the throat and mouth. For example, “when lying flat on the back, there is nowhere for the tongue to go except to occlude the air passage.” Finding your optimal sleep position will support the proper placement of muscles and tissue and effectively prevent airways from being blocked.

B. Nasal Decongestant

Unclogging nasal passages can regulate breathing patterns. For this reason it is recommended that you take measures to control allergies. “Allergies can cause nasal congestion, which can promote throat or tongue collapse downstream.” This means that airflow is prevented from freely flowing by the obstruction of the throat or tongue. A nasal decongestant can prove to effectively free up the nasal passage, regulating breathing patterns.

C. Change your Meal Time

“If you have food in your stomach, any degree of acid can be irritating to the throat. Modify your diet.”

Anything to cause throat irritation can potentially contribute to obstructive sleep apnea. It is smart to consider all factors that may affect the health of your throat. Air must be allowed to flow freely through the trachea for the establishment of a healthy breathing pattern. An irritated throat due to acid build up may cause tissues along the airway passage to be obstructed.

D. Avoid Stimulants and Muscle Relaxants

When throat muscles relax during sleep the tissues of the throat are more prone to collapse. This can obstruct air flow. Any medication or stimulants that rest the muscles of the throat can result in disrupted sleep. Reducing alcohol consumption also provides for healthier sleep. Alcohol not only irritates the stomach and aggravates acid reflux but also has a relaxing effect on your muscles, including those of the throat. Alcohol is known to severely disrupt deep sleep.

In addition, “nicotine has been found to significantly relax the lower esophageal sphincter, promoting or aggravating acid reaching the throat.” You are at greater risk for irregular breathing patterns when the throat area is affected due to stimulants and relaxants. Purging alcohol and nicotine from your system will greatly increase the health of your body.

Medical and more invasive sleep apnea solutions

Another consideration is that a person with sleep apnea could have a mild to severe case. Basic lifestyle changes for sleep apnea treatment could not suffice in those cases. For those looking to receive medical intervention there are a couple available options:

A. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), is an effective, non surgical solution for sleep apnea. “It involves placing a mask over your nose to blow mild positive air pressure through your breathing passageways to keep your throat tissues from collapsing at night.

B. Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD) for sleep apnea

Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD), is the second effective nonsurgical solution for sleep apnea. The oral device works by “positioning the lower jaw slightly forward of its usual rest position. This small change is enough to keep the airway open during sleep.” It is continuously adjusted forward until breathing patterns during sleep improves. If the major reason for your obstructive sleep apnea comes from tongue collapse a MAD would be a fitting solution. Success rates have been proven at 70-80 percent.

C. Surgical solutions

More serious cases of sleep apnea that require medical attention may be invasive and involve surgery. Surgical sleep apnea solutions entail the removal of palatal soft tissues to create space and prevent the collapsing of mouth and throat structure. “Based on large-scale published studies, the success rate is about 40 percent.” Other surgeries may target the removal of soft tissue in the nose or the removal of the tonsils. Taking into account these additional sites of obstruction, the success rate is certain to increase with regards to surgical solutions for sleep apnea.

Concluding on sleep apnea treatment

In summation, there are many factors to consider when seeking treatment. It is worth noting that an overall healthy lifestyle will often prove effective in rectifying irregular breathing patterns. Reducing stress can also serve as a solution, lowering its ability to aggravate other symptoms of apnea. Proper maintenance with regards to consumption and exercise both contribute greatly to your body’s proper functioning as well. These actions coupled with the other options listed above have the greatest impact on finally providing the restful and proper night’s sleep your body deserves.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2016 Sam Shepards


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