In a recent post, we looked at three different ways that untreated obstructive sleep apnea can have a serious negative impact on your health. Not only can it cause or exacerbate emotional and psychological issues like anxiety and depression, it can put you at a dramatically higher risk for cardiovascular problems. In addition, untreated sleep apnea is associated with a higher likelihood of causing road accidents. If you or a loved one snores loudly at night or nods off easily during the day, you will want to follow these steps to treat sleep apnea and enjoy better sleep and improved health.
Step 1: Get Your Condition Diagnosed
Obstructive sleep apnea can only be diagnosed by a medical doctor, generally one who specializes in sleep disorders. Usually, a patient will need to undergo a sleep study, so the doctor can get a clear picture of the severity his or her condition. Comprehensive sleep studies are conducted at a sleep lab, although some simple sleep studies can be conducted at home using special equipment.
Step 2: Find the Right Treatment Option for You
Once a diagnosis has been made, you will need to learn more about your treatment options. Severe sleep apnea is usually treated surgically (to remove excess tissue that’s blocking the airway at night) or through the use of a CPAP machine. Moderate and mild sleep apnea can also be treated with CPAP, although oral appliance therapy is swiftly becoming the preferred, least invasive treatment. Oral appliance therapy refers to a custom-fitted mouthguard that gently positions the jaw and throat so that the airway remains open.
Only dentists can prescribe oral appliances for sleep apnea, so talk to your dentist if you’ve recently received a sleep apnea diagnosis, or you’re already using CPAP and you’d prefer a less cumbersome and intrusive treatment.
Step 3: Make Lifestyle Adjustments
Other behaviors can increase the effectiveness of your sleep apnea therapy. Regular exercise (such as walking 30-45 minutes a day) is associated with lowered sleep apnea severity. In addition, losing weight (as little as 10% of your total body weight) has been shown in studies to reduce sleep apnea severity by 25%.