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What medications help treat sleep apnea?

Medications to treat sleep apnea usually work together with other non-drug treatments, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. There is no one medication that completely treats sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing stops for short periods of time when a person is sleeping.

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, in which the throat muscles relax, causing the throat to narrow and become momentarily blocked. For obstructive sleep therapy, the drug modafinil is sometimes prescribed to improve daytime wakefulness, usually along with CPAP therapy to keep the airways open during sleep.

Central sleep apnea, a much less common type, is a change in breathing control and rhythm that occurs because the brain doesn't send the right signals to the muscles that control breathing. Drugs that may be prescribed to treat central sleep apnea include acetazolamide, which can reduce drowsiness, and the antidepressant clomipramine.

If sleep apnea is caused or worsened by allergies, colds or sinus infections, medications to treat these problems may also be prescribed.

Sleep apnea may actually be caused by medications or drugs (including alcohol); these may have to be reviewed by a doctor to see if they should be reduced or eliminated to address the problem.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.