What treatment options are there for sleep apnea?

By Adrianna MacPherson | Last updated: April 6, 2023

Sufferers of sleep apnea experience repeated sleep interruptions caused by breathing difficulties. These breathing problems may be triggered by neurological or physical causes. Several symptoms including excessive snoring and daytime drowsiness (Learn more in "What Happens If Your Employees Have Sleep Apnea?") may indicate that a person has sleep apnea. But, the most common method of diagnosis is through the use of a sleep study.

Treatment of the risk factors for sleep apnea can help reduce its occurrence. These methods may include weight loss, allergy treatment, smoking cessation, and reduced alcohol consumption. Sufferers may also be advised to raise the head of the bed to help reposition the throat for easier breathing.

When lifestyle changes are unsuccessful, sleep apnea is often treated by assistive breathing devices. A continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP) or automatic positive airway pressure device (APAP) delivers a steady stream of air to the apnea sufferer, keeping his or her airway open. Another treatment option is the use of a special mouthpiece at night to keep the jaw and tongue properly positioned for clear breathing. Surgery to remove excess tissue in the airway can also help to reduce the effects of sleep apnea.

Single use nasal covers, called expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP) devices, can sometimes be used to maintain air pressure in the respiratory tract. This increased pressure prevents the sleeper’s airway from collapsing. In some instances, a nerve stimulation device may be used to prompt tongue movement when a sensor detects a change in breathing patterns.

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