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Sleep Apnea - Symptoms and Treatment

Apr 17, 2008
Sleep Apnea is a debilitating and oftentimes life-threatening disorder characterized by breathing cessation during slumber. Apnea literally means to stop breathing. In sleep apnea sufferers, breathing can cease for just a few seconds or last for minutes. The first signs of sleep apnea are usually noticed by family members and include snoring and gagging.

Sleep apnea sufferers are usually tired all day, complain of headaches, and wake with sore throats. It reduces the amount of quality sleep the body gets. Quality sleep is needed for the body and brain to recoup from the days activities. The most dangerous symptom is respiration cessation. This symptom can lead to death.

There are two major types of non-surgical treatments for the symptoms of sleep apnea: oral appliances and CPAP equipment. Each have drawbacks and both require monitoring by a physician.

Which one works best is based on personal preference, severity and cause of the sleep apnea, and treatment compliance.

The traditional method involves the use of a CPAP machine. This machine continuously blows air into the oral cavity effectively splinting open the airway. The machine airflow pressure can be titred (set) to the individual patients needs. They are available as home based units or portable units. Some come with humidifiers and some do not. Heated humidifiers are recommended to prevent the drying out of the nasal and oral passages.

CPAP machines require power. A backup power supply should be available. For standard 120 volt AC power, self-contained battery powered inverters are available that can help with this problem. Be sure to keep the battery charged so it's ready when needed.

A headgear and mask is used in conjunction with the CPAP machine and is tailored to each individual. Many patients do well with just a nose mask or nasal pillows while others need a full face mask due to mouth breathing.

Hoses may need to be rigged above the sleeper to prevent tangling and drainage of condensation into the users face. Usually condensation problems can be managed by experimenting with which heat setting works best in your bedroom environment.

Remember hot + cold = wet. If the heat setting is too high and the bedroom is cool or visa versa, condensation will build up.

The drawbacks associated with the CPAP include the patient's inability to adjust to sleeping with a mask and getting tangled in the hose with restless sleep.

For most people with severe sleep apnea these are non-issues. The body is craving sleep so fiercely that the patient will fall asleep and stay asleep.

Another drawback is if a patient is a mouth breather, the nose mask is not effective. They may need a chin strap to keep the mouth shut or a full face mask that covers the nose and mouth. Some people find the care of headgear daunting.

Headgear and hoses should be washed in hot soapy water daily to prevent inspiration of germs, possibly causing respiratory illnesses.

For patients that have a hard time accepting the CPAP, there are oral sleep apnea appliances available. These are most effective for mild to moderate sleep apnea and people within normal weight ranges.

Oral appliances attach to the teeth and realign the jaw to hold the tongue forward, capture the tongue to prevent it from falling back into the throat, or increases the airspace.

Most oral appliances need to be fitted and maintained by a dentist. Oral appliances are very portable and do not require electricity to use.

Oral appliances are easily misplaced or lost. Take care to store it in the same place each morning. Use a room humidifier to prevent airway passages from drying.

It may be difficult to find a dentist well versed in sleep apnea. A physician will be able to give an appropriate referral.

Occasionally oral appliances may make the sleep apnea worse. Close monitoring by self or a family member is paramount.

Whichever external treatment a patient chooses needs to be complied with in order to get the full benefits. Sleep apnea is very dangerous, but is also extremely treatable. The sleep apnea sufferer should work closely with a doctor and find the option that is best for his/her needs and lifestyle.
About the Author
For all the important facts about sleep apnea symptoms and treatment, including information about possible surgical procedures and natural cures, visit the new website http://www.SleepApneaOSA.com
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