What Can Help With Sleep Apnea?

Understanding Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disruptive sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during rest. The two primary types of sleep apnea are obstructive sleep apnea, the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax, and central sleep apnea, which happens when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. Treating sleep apnea is crucial to prevent complications such as daytime fatigue, cardiovascular issues, and other problems.

Treating Sleep Apnea with Positive Airway Pressure Devices

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

The most frequently prescribed device for sleep apnea is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. The CPAP machine keeps your airway open by providing a steady stream of air through a mask worn during sleep. It’s considered the gold standard for obstructive sleep apnea treatment, dramatically improving the quality of sleep for individuals with this condition.

Other Positive Airway Pressure Devices

Beyond CPAP, there are additional positive airway pressure devices like BiPAP (Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure) and APAP (Automatic Positive Airway Pressure) which adjust the amount of pressure on a breath-by-breath basis, offering a more tailored treatment for sleep apnea.

Lifestyle Changes

Weight Management

For many, weight loss can have a significant impact on reducing the severity of sleep apnea. Excess weight, especially around the neck, can constrict airways, so shedding pounds may help improve airflow while sleeping.


Regular physical activity can improve not only your health but also sleep apnea symptoms. Exercise assists in weight loss and can strengthen the muscles in your airways, making them less likely to collapse during sleep.

Reducing Alcohol Intake and Smoking Cessation

Alcohol relaxes throat muscles which can exacerbate sleep apnea symptoms. Similarly, smoking contributes to inflammation and fluid retention in the airway. Cutting back on drinking and quitting smoking can make a substantial difference.

Oral Appliances

Mandibular Advancement Devices (MADs)

These are custom-fitted dental mouthpieces that shift the lower jaw forward and downward slightly to keep the airway open. MADs can be a good alternative for those who cannot tolerate CPAP therapy.

Tongue Retaining Mouthpieces

These devices hold the tongue in place to keep the airway open. Like MADs, they are often used for mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, especially in patients who are CPAP intolerant.

Surgical Options

Upper Airway Surgery

Surgery might be considered if other treatments have failed. Procedures such as uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), which removes soft tissue in the back of the throat, or a maxillomandibular advancement, which moves the jaw forward, can be effective for some people but come with more significant risks and recovery time.

Nasal Surgery

Surgical remedies can also address nasal problems such as a deviated septum, contributing to sleep apnea symptoms.

Inspire Therapy

It’s a more recent treatment involving a surgically implanted device that stimulates the muscles to keep the airways open during sleep.

Supplemental Oxygen and Adaptive Servo-Ventilation (ASV)

Supplemental Oxygen

In some cases, especially central sleep apnea, simply providing supplemental oxygen during sleep can help. This does not necessarily prevent the breathing stoppages, but it can ensure the blood remains oxygenated.

Adaptive Servo-Ventilation (ASV)

ASV is a device that learns the normal breathing pattern and stores this information to regulate the breathing against any pauses that may occur.

Positional Therapy

For some individuals, sleep apnea symptoms are more severe when sleeping on their back. Positional therapy involves wearing a special device around your waist or back that keeps you sleeping on your side to help keep the airway open.

Alternative Therapies

Didgeridoo Playing

Interestingly, learning to play the didgeridoo has been suggested to strengthen the airway muscles due to the breathing technique called circular breathing.

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There is some evidence that acupuncture may help some individuals by promoting relaxation and muscle toning around the airway.

Finishing Thoughts

Sleep apnea is a serious condition, but there are numerous approaches to managing and treating it. The efficacy of each treatment can be highly individual, and it often comes down to the type of sleep apnea, the severity of the condition, and your personal comfort and health considerations. It’s essential to work closely with a healthcare provider to determine the best approach for your needs. Developing a treatment plan that includes device therapy, lifestyle adjustments, or possibly surgery can lead to improved sleep quality and overall health. Remember, tackling sleep apnea is not just about a good night’s rest; it’s a vital step towards enhancing your wellbeing and safeguarding your health in the long term.


  • Aiden Lawrence

    I'm Aiden Lawrence, a certified Sleep Science Coach and senior editor of GoodSleepHub, proud parent of two amazing kids, and a pet lover with a cat and a dog. Join me as we explore the world of sweet dreams and comfy pillows. Let's make bedtime the highlight of your day!

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