Know Your Options: Sleep Apnea Treatments
Have you or one of your loved ones been diagnosed with sleep apnea? Or are all symptoms pointing in one undeniable direction? There is positive news - sleep apnea is a very manageable and treatable sleep disorder. When properly managed, the adverse health complications and risk factors that untreated sleep apnea can lead to can be avoided, and the sleep apnea symptoms will finally stop disrupting your nightly routine.
Today, we’ll break down all of your options and provide you with all the information you need to get on track with treatment and get back to a refreshing night's sleep. But more importantly, get back to feeling 100% in your everyday life.
Common Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
Mild Cases: Lifestyle Changes
Some lifestyle factors can increase the risk of obstructive sleep apnea. Sometimes making lifestyle changes can even stop the symptoms of sleep apnea. It is possible that in seeing your doctor, they will only recommend lifestyle changes; however, this is only the case in mild instances of less persistent sleep apnea. Some of the lifestyle changes may include; losing weight, quitting smoking, lowering alcohol or sedative intake or dealing with any allergies that may be causing a blocked nose.
Although surgery isn't a go-to treatment for sleep apnea, it is an option that some patients of sleep apnea opt for and see benefit from. The primary treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which we will get into shortly – it is usually recommended as the first treatment option before considering surgery. CPAP treatment is, however, a permanent treatment, requiring the use of a machine on an ongoing basis for life. In rare cases, some patients cannot tolerate this permanent treatment and would prefer to opt for surgery to improve any anatomical obstructions.
To discuss the option of surgery, it would be best to be in contact with an otolaryngologist. During the appointment, the surgeon will be able to examine the mouth and nose. There may not always be an option to eliminate sleep apnea symptoms via surgery. However, surgery to open an obstructive nose is sometimes recommended to improve CPAP device tolerance. It is recommended that surgery be reserved for adults with OSA as a last resort. Surgery is usually one of the main treatment options for children with OSA.
Positive Airway Pressure (PAP)
A CPAP machine is the most effective treatment for OSA and is recommended as the first line of treatment for moderate-to-severe cases. Although CPAP is the most commonly spoken about and recommended treatment, there are multiple kinds of positive airway pressure options, including; CPAP (Continuous positive airway pressure), APAP (Automatic positive airway pressure) and BiPAP (Bilevel positive airway pressure).
All positive airway pressure machines deliver air through a mask to maintain continuous breathing by keeping the airway open. BiPAP, APAP, and CPAP machines are about the size of a lunchbox and come with a mask, nasal mask, or nasal plugs and an attachment tube. There are different sizes in the mask attachment, and it's essential to make sure you find one that's comfortable for you – if the mask isn't comfortable, you likely don't have the right size. Your comfort is a priority as you will be wearing this on a nightly basis.
What is the difference in the options of positive airway pressure machines?
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, such as the ResMed AirSense 10 Elite CPAP Machine, use a constant setting, distributing the same airflow continuously to keep the airway open. This air pressure is distributed through a mask and an attached tube into the wearer's airway while they sleep. As a result, the airway remains open throughout the night, preventing the wearer from gasping for air.
APAP machines (automatic positive airway pressure) like the ResMed AirSense 10 AutoSet adjust their settings according to the pressure needed. By monitoring the wearer's breathing, APAP devices change the pressure to maintain an open upper airway and deliver air at the minimum pressure required. As a result, they are creating a more natural breathing pattern. Therefore, an APAP machine can remain on a relatively low setting throughout the night until breathing indicates more airflow is needed.
BiPAP (Bilevel positive airway pressure is a machine with two settings). For those who previously found CPAP challenging to breathe, BiPap machines reduce the pressure when they exhale, making breathing easier and more comfortable. CPAP machines only have one air pressure setting; BiPap machines, such as the ResMed Lumis 100 VPAP S, have two; one for inhalation and one for exhalation. Furthermore, BiPap is recommended for those who might require more breathing assistance in addition to those who find it difficult to breathe with just one setting. A health professional may prescribe BiPap to assist patients with heart and lung diseases, such as congestive heart failure.
In short, CPAP machines deliver a continuous, unchanging airflow, APAP machines automatically change based on the requirements of the wearer, delivering the minimum pressure required at any time and a BiPAP machine has two settings, one for inhalation and one for exhalation, reducing the pressure for the exhale.
So how do you get started with these treatment options?
CPAP therapy is the first treatment plan recommended for sleep apnea sufferers, so testing if this treatment option works for you, is the first step. If these oral appliances fail to improve your obstructive sleep apnea, you may need to consider alternative options. While beginning CPAP therapy, you can also make positive lifestyle changes to prevent further health issues.
Two great options for checking if CPAP therapy will work for you are participating in an at-home sleep test or trialling a CPAP machine.
At-Home Sleep Test
The easiest way to determine if you suffer from sleep apnea is to take a sleep test at home. No doctor's recommendation is necessary, and it's simple. There are no wires or restricted equipment with the device. It simply rests on your fingertip. The device is clinically validated, and a qualified Sleep and Respiratory Physician will review the results.
Ready to get started? You can order the at-home sleep test here. Your test kit will be delivered to you, including the at-home test sensor, finger wraps, and an activation code for the companion app. You can use the app to record your sleep by opening it before bed and following simple instructions. You will receive a sleep report within 3-5 days after completing three nights of the test. To determine the next best step for you, you can book a phone consultation with a sleep coach. The phone call is included in the initial cost.
Take action on your sleep apnea today
We hope this article has given you a clearer understanding of the treatment options for sleep apnea. We also hope that you feel a new sense of confidence that there are plenty of steps forward to a better night's sleep. Sleep apnea is a very treatable sleep disorder; it's just important to find the proper treatment for you! Reach out to our sleep experts, and we will guide you back to restorative sleep.