Most adults with obstructive sleep apnea will need to use a CPAP machine to help keep their airway open as they sleep. This device consists of a mask that fits over the nose and a hose to send air into the back of your throat through a tube. You should keep the CPAP machine and mask clean to prevent infection, and wash your face before you put on the mask. You should also be sure to wear it every night.
Using a CPAP to treat sleep apnea is the most common treatment, but there are other types of devices that work differently for people with different needs. Your doctor will determine what type of therapy will be the best for you.
Changing the position you sleep can be an important treatment for sleep apnea, says Dr. David Knobbe of Stanford Sleep Group in Palo Alto, Calif. The most common sleep position for obstructive sleep apnea is on your back, but it’s also helpful to try sleeping on your side with or without a special pillow. Changing your sleep position can be difficult to get used to, but it may be worth the effort.
Your doctor might recommend oral appliances to help improve the way you breathe during sleep. These devices, which look like a mouthguard, help hold your tongue and soft palate in a proper position to keep your airway open as you sleep. You can talk to your dentist about getting a custom-made device that will fit your mouth and throat perfectly.
There are several procedures that can subtly change the shape of your jaw to help stop soft tissue from pressing back against your airway. These surgeries are often done for people who have severe or unresponsive sleep apnea, but may be useful for some mild cases, too.
Other Oral Devices
For some people, a chin strap can help keep their jaw in place while they sleep. These straps can be made by a dental specialist or by a sleep medicine doctor.
If you have obstructive sleep apnea, your health care provider might suggest a nasopharyngeal stent, which is a small tube that helps keep your nasal passages open at night. These stents can also be used in conjunction with a CPAP unit.
Other Oral Devices
A palatal expander is another device that can help open your mouth to reduce the airway blockage that causes obstructive sleep apnea. This device can be used with a CPAP machine or as part of a custom-fitted oral appliance.
Phrenic Nerve Stimulators
There are also a number of treatments that stimulate your phrenic nerves, which control your breathing. Those nerves are close to your diaphragm, a layer of muscle that controls the way you inhale and exhale.
Using a phrenic nerve stimulator can be effective in treating central sleep apnea, too. A phrenic nerve stimulator uses an electrical current to stimulate the nerves that control your muscles to make them contract and flex.