Healthy Living

Dead Air: The Perils of Sleep Apnea

How to Deal

Lifestyle modifications are often the first piece of medical advice for people with mild obstructive sleep apnea. Weight loss and tobacco cessation are recommended. For people with moderate to severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea, breathing devices are available, including the ones used in surgery.

Continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP is the most common device issued to patients with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea. CPAP delivers air pressure greater than that of surrounding room air through a mask placed over the nose during sleep. The air pressure is just enough to keep the upper respiratory pathways open, preventing sleep apnea and snoring. Although CPAP is the most reliable form of treatment for OSA, some patients find it cumbersome and/or uncomfortable and sometimes just end up not using it altogether.

Other airway pressure devices are also available other than CPAP like auto-CPAP that automatically adjusts the pressure during sleep, Bilevel positive airway pressure or BiPAP, and expiratory positive airway pressure or EPAP. Oral appliances are also available to keep the airways open during sleep, some designed to bring the jaw forward to open the throat and avoid snoring and sleep apnea.