Sleep apnea is a disorder characterised by frequent pauses in the breathing cycle during sleep. Although there are natural pauses in the breathing cycle, sleep apnea is characterized as more than 5 during an hour or pauses that last a long period of time. At this point, our blood oxygen level can be affected, and we can be predisposed to increased risks of heart disease, diabetes, and disrupted sleep. If you have sleep apnea, you may even find it more difficult to lose weight.
Treating sleep apnea, though, is not simple, and can depend on the type of sleep apnea you have. So if you came here looking for answers, here is your sleep apnea treatment guide.
2 Types of Sleep Apnea
There are two types of sleep apnea. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea or OSA. With this type of sleep apnea, sleeping position, inflammation, or even simply the size of the tongue or tonsils can cause the airway to become obstructed by soft tissues.
Less prevalent is central sleep apnea. The easiest way to tell this type of sleep apnea from its obstructive cousin is to keep an ear out for snoring. While snoring is a red flag for obstructive sleep apnea, it generally isn’t present in someone with central sleep apnea. That’s because it’s not the soft tissues that stop someone with central sleep apnea from breathing — it’s the brain.
You can have both types of sleep apnea. Sometimes this is described as a third type, called complex or mixed sleep apnea.
Traditional Treatment: CPAP
The most common first line of treatment for sleep apnea is a device called CPAP, which stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. This device has a mask or prongs that direct air into your nose, providing continuous air pressure to keep your airway open throughout the night. While CPAP has been proven effective at preventing sleep apnea episodes and reducing or eliminating the deadly risks of the disease, some people find it difficult to sleep with, and it can have some unpleasant side effects, such as nasal congestion, sore throat, facial irritation, and even abdominal bloating.
Not only can it be difficult to sleep with, it can also be a nuisance. CPAP manufacturers suggest cleaning the machine once a week, which requires disassembling it, and soaking each part in solution. This can be especially difficult for those who regularly travel. Hauling around all the pieces of a CPAP machine really ups the weight of your luggage.
Alternative Treatment: Oral Appliance
Luckily, however, CPAP isn’t the only treatment for sleep apnea. If you experience obstructive sleep apnea, an oral appliance can hold your jaw in the proper position to keep your airway open. This appliance, just like a mouth guard for an athlete, is easy to put in and take out, and allows you to sleep normally. It’s also easy to travel with and doesn’t require power, unlike a bulky CPAP device.
If you would like to learn more about your sleep apnea treatment options in Anchorage, please call (907) 274-7691 today for an appointment with a sleep dentist at Denali Dental Care.