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Overcoming Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can be a serious medical condition in which an individual has interruptions in their breathing pattern during sleep. Researching sleep apnea cures can become a challenging problem. To treat the problem, one must correct the underlying cause.

In sleep apnea, the airway intermittently collapses during sleep (hence the name obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA), often secondary to obesity or other diseases. To prevent the airway from collapsing, the most simple—and potentially the most difficult—solution is to simply lose weight. Without extra pounds to compress the airway, breathing becomes much less labored. There are several other “quick and easy” fixes for sleep apnea, which include propping the head up with several pillows in order to keep the airway from collapsing. The same theory goes for sleeping on one’s side instead of the back—a person’s weight around the neck is not pressing directly on the airway, thus, gravity has less of an effect.

Sometimes weight loss is not enough of a cure for sleep apnea, and people with sleep apnea must resort to other means of treatment. Patients can use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which delivers a constant flow of air into the patient’s airway through a face mask. This continuous pressure effectively props the airway open, preventing collapse. Unfortunately, CPAP can dry out mucous membranes, and the mask is not comfortable to wear.

Patients who do not have relief with CPAP can ask their doctors to prescribe a BiPAP machine. A BiPAP machine also delivers air to a patient via a face mask, but the pressure of the air delivered varies depending on whether the patient is breathing in or out. Most people find this significantly more tolerable than CPAP, where the air pressure is constant during inhalation. For very serious cases of sleep apnea, the opening to the airway can be improved by surgical means. This may mean removing tonsils and excess tissue, or could be as drastic as altering the structure of the jaw to permit freer breathing.

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