The specific therapy for sleep apnea is tailored to the individual patient based on medical history, physical examination, and the results of polysomnography. Medications are generally not effective in the treatment of sleep apnea. Oxygen administration may safely benefit certain patients but does not eliminate sleep apnea or prevent daytime sleepiness. Thus, the role of oxygen in the treatment of sleep apnea is controversial, and it is difficult to predict which patients will respond well. It is important that the effectiveness of the selected treatment is verified; this is usually accomplished by polysomnography.

The following treatments are often used for sleep apnea:

Behavioral Therapy for Sleep Apnea

Behavioral changes are an important part of the treatment program, and in mild cases behavioral therapy may be all that is needed. The individual should avoid the use of alcohol, tobacco, and sleeping pills, which make the airway more likely to collapse during sleep and prolong the apneic periods. Overweight persons can benefit from losing weight. Even a 10 percent weight loss can reduce the number of apneic events for most patients. In some patients with mild sleep apnea, breathing pauses occur only when they sleep on their backs. In such cases, using pillows and other devices that help them sleep in a side position is often helpful.

Mechanical Therapy for Sleep Apnea

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a highly effective treatment for sleep apnea.

Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea

Patients with mild to moderate OSAS may benefit from using an oral appliance. These devices work in different ways. Some bring the jaw forward to keep the air passage open. Some hold the tongue forward to prevent it from blocking the throat. Others lift the uvula and soft palate, keeping them from blocking the throat.

Sleep Apnea Surgery

In carefully selected patients, surgery may correct OSAS. These surgeries correct physical problems that interfere with breathing during sleep. Most of these procedures involve tightening or removing structures in the throat to make the airway larger.

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