Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the respiratory condition which sees individuals experience episodes of partial or complete obstruction to the airways during sleep. This obstructed breathing can cause oxygen levels to fall and can result in continuously disrupted sleep. As it manifests in subtle ways – often dismissed as simply a snoring problem – OSA can often go undiagnosed, but left untreated can result in various other health issues. Alongside the obvious side-effects of disrupted sleep – fatigue, mood imbalances and poor immune function – chronic OSA can also contribute to memory loss and other mental health problems. Obstructive Sleep Apnea can seem like a life sentence, but there are methods for tackling the condition and experiencing restful, restorative sleep.
Try an oral appliance
One proven and simple-to-implement method for treating mild OSA is the use of oral appliances to facilitate unobstructed respiration during sleep. Oral appliances used to treat OSA range from chin straps to moulded mouth-pieces, which rest over the teeth of the patient and prevent obstruction to the airways. Oral appliances are a popular first option for patients of OSA; the easily adjustable, non-restrictive design is unobtrusive, and the appliances can be combined with the use of masks and machines for a more thorough, integrated cure. The main appeal of oral appliances as an initial option is their discreet design and relative affordability, and depending on the severity of the condition for the patient, using an oral appliance may be an effective and sufficient solution.
Lose some weight
Making lifestyle changes can be a highly effective method for preventing sleep apnea, as the condition overwhelmingly affects obese and overweight individuals. Carrying excess body weight can put a strain on your cardiovascular and respiratory system, and can cause airways to become narrow and obstructed. By maintaining a healthy body weight, breathing can become easier, and the risk of obstructed breathing during sleep can be significantly reduced: this is often the first cure recommended by doctors to patients suffering from moderate OSA since this treatment is cost-free and has other positive health implications.
Use a humidifier
Breathing dry air can contribute to sleep apnea by increasing congestion and causing irritation to the respiratory system. By releasing water vapour into the air, humidifiers improve air quality and moisture levels and are an easy-to-implement aid to clearer breathing. The unobtrusive nature of humidifiers make them an appealing option to individuals who are hesitant to use personal devices such as oral applications and masks, but the efficacy of humidifiers is less significant. Using a humidifier with essential oils with anti-inflammatory properties (such as lavender, eucalyptus oil and peppermint) can be a useful complement to other steps, but is unlikely to entirely cure moderate to severe cases of OSA.
Change your position
Since OSA is a result of congested or obstructed airways, trialling different sleeping positions may help to improve respiration and facilitate easier, more clear breathing. Lying on your back is seen to be the most dangerous option for patients suffering from OSA – the position most likely to lead to extended periods of obstructed breath. Positions which open up the trachea (throat) are the most likely to improve respiration and limit the negative impact of OSA. It is generally agreed that sleeping on your side is the most optimal position for minimising the obstruction experienced by individuals with OSA, and adopting this position may be an effective cure for mild cases. Using pillows and props to support a lateral sleeping position may help, and trialling this before investing in surgery or medical devices is an appealing option for many.
Try CPAP therapy
One option with proven efficacy is the use of CPAP therapy: scientifically engineered machines and masks which facilitate unobstructed breathing during sleep. CPAP Direct offers a range of masks and machines to treat OSA from home, with masks designed to immediately improve respiration during sleep. CPAP masks vary in size and design, and CPAP Direct offers a range of designs and brands alongside studies and video reviews to allow patients to choose the device which will be most suitable for treating their case and enhancing their life.
Look into surgery
While masks and machines can be effective, surgery is often an appealing option, particularly for younger patients whose social lives are at risk of being significantly negatively impacted by OSA. The surgery itself depends on the patient, ranging from tongue base reductions to tracheostomies: procedures which involve the creation of a passageway for air to easily travel to the lungs from the trachea. Less extreme surgical treatments for OSA often involve a realignment of the jaw or removal of excess throat tissue to facilitate unobstructed breathing. While surgery may seem like a radical and extreme option, the efficacy and freedom that surgery can afford patients post-recovery make it a wise and sustainable route for individuals whose lives are significantly affected by OSA.
Although lifestyle changes such as weight-loss and adjusted sleeping positions may be useful in limiting the impact of OSA, further steps are often required to cure the condition and minimise the impact it has on patients’ general health and wellbeing. Using humidifiers, oral accessories, masks and therapy machines is often necessary and highly effective, and sometimes surgery is required to enable unobstructed breathing during sleep. By preventing restful sleep, OSA can have significant impacts on physical and mental wellbeing, and the necessary steps should be taken.