Effective Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea


Do you snore frequently at night and find yourself excessively tired during the day? Are you carrying around a few too many pounds? You may very well have obstructive sleep apnea. This is a very well described and common medical disorder characterized by frequent episodes of apnea (long pauses between breaths) with the body not getting an adequate amount of oxygen during sleep. The result is an inadequate amount of restful sleep. This deprivation of restful sleep accumulates over time and can leave you constantly irritable, forgetful, fatigued, and sleepy. People with obstructive sleep apnea have been known to doze off in the day in the middle of a conversation or even when stopped at a traffic light. The consequences of obstructive sleep apnea extend beyond morning headaches, fatigue and poor sleep habits. Obstructive sleep apnea has been shown to worsen high blood pressure as well as significantly increase the incidence of congestive heart failure and stroke.

The good news? Treatments exist for controlling the symptoms and health problems associated with obstructive sleep apnea. Most treatments focus around the use of either pressurized air (CPAP) delivered by a special mask, nasal prongs worn during sleep, or a unique dental support device placed inside the mouth at night that moves the jaw forward and helps to maintain adequate airflow. As you might suspect, neither of these devices is popular. Many OSA patients complain that the CPAP breathing apparatus and the noise it creates make it a nuisance to use and prevents restful sleep. Despite being relatively effective at preventing the health consequences of obstructive sleep apnea the long term compliance with dental guards or CPAP is extremely low.

A trial recently published in the American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine suggests that aggressive weight loss with a supervised low calorie diet program combined with counseling is effective for reducing the signs and symptoms of mild obstructive sleep apnea. The results were so impressive that nearly 63 percent of obstructive sleep apnea patients who lost significant weight achieved normal sleep parameters. Since abnormal sleep results and the frequency of apnea spells directly correlate with the likelihood of developing medical problems; the weight loss will likely reduce the frequency of OSA associated hypertension, stroke, and heart failure. In addition to improving obstructive sleep apnea parameters many patients who successfully lose weight also report less daytime sleepiness, snoring, and an enhanced quality of life.

Effectively treating obstructive sleep apnea remains a challenge. For individuals unable or unwilling to tolerate conventional therapies weight loss be can be a safe and reasonable option to address the symptoms and medical problems associated with this disease. The obvious question remains as to whether the ability to control the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea will provide adequate motivation for overweight individuals to lose weight when they otherwise are unable to do so.

Lifestyle changes other than weight loss can also be implemented to further reduce the severity of obstructive sleep apnea including smoking cessation, avoiding alcohol or sedatives prior to sleeping, elevating the head of the bed by 30 degrees, or avoiding sleeping on your back. Obstructive sleep apnea can be safely and effectively controlled with existing medical and surgical treatments in conjunction with simple lifestyle modifications.

Contact a HealhwoRx physician at 954.967.6550 for help with Sleep Apnea.