1. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): A CPAP will help you breathe regularly while you’re sleeping by increasing air pressure in your throat, so it doesn’t close. People who regularly use their CPAP devices feel better. Even people who use it every night for half the time feel better. They reduce their risk of disease. They’re better able to manage their mood and weight. I highly recommend a CPAP for people with sleep apnea.
2. Oral Appliance Therapy: With oral appliance therapy, a type of mouth guard fits over your teeth and helps move the tongue and/or jaw forward while you sleep. This mechanically expands your airway so you can breathe. It’s not as effective as a CPAP—it reduces the obstruction by about 50%—and a CPAP is more like 100%. If you’re considering this option, know that it’s most successful in young people who are not overweight and experience most of their sleep apnea while on their back.
3. Medication: Unfortunately, no medications are available to help treat sleep apnea—only the resulting sleepiness. If you have a mild case of sleep apnea with snoring, a nasal decongestant or nasal surgery may help with the snoring. Be aware that some medications can be dangerous for people with sleep apnea, including many sleep aids. If you are taking any medications, let your doctor know which ones.
4. Surgery: In adults, it’s difficult for us surgeons to know which soft tissue is causing the obstruction, so multiple surgeries may be required. The most common type of surgery is uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP); it’s effective about 50% of the time, and in most cases, the patient still needs a CPAP afterward. In children with sleep apnea or snoring, having their tonsils removed helps in 75% of cases.