People with sleep apnea stop breathing for short periods of time while they are asleep. They usually do not wake up completely when this happens. But in the morning, they feel exhausted and continue to feel sleepy during the day.
There are two types of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common. It happens when your throat muscles relax, blocking your airway. The other type, central sleep apnea, is caused when your brain does not send the right signals to the muscles that control your breathing. Some people have a combination of the two types, called complex sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious condition and should be treated.
Symptoms of sleep apnea include:
Sleep apnea is caused by:
Sleep apnea is also linked to:
The typical person with sleep apnea is an overweight, middle-aged man with allergies. But apnea can happen at any age, and in women as well. It can also be inherited.
People with sleep apnea often go to the doctor because they feel tired all the time or because their partner complains about their snoring. Your doctor will check your weight and blood pressure and ask about allergies. You may get a device to check your oxygen levels while you sleep.
Your doctor may also refer you to a sleep clinic for overnight testing. Your doctor may request X-rays, computed tomography scans (CTs), or magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRIs) to see what may be blocking your airway.
Treatment depends on:
The most effective treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). CPAP treatment includes using a machine and mask to blow air through your airway to keep it open. Studies show CPAP also reduces arterial stiffness.
Wearing dental appliances may help by pushing the lower jaw forward, keeping the tongue from blocking the airway, or a combination of both. These may be uncomfortable until you get used to them.
In severe cases, surgery may be needed. But most often, sleep apnea can be managed with CPAP and lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle changes that may help obstructive apnea include:
There is no drug that completely treats sleep apnea. Some of the drugs used in combination with CPAP include medications used to treat central apnea and medications used to treat obstructive apnea.
Central apnea may be treated with medicines including acetazolamide and clomipramine (Anafranil). Side effects of clomipramine may include impotence.
Obstructive apnea may be treated with modafinil (Provigil), which is sometimes prescribed in combination with CPAP to treat excessive daytime sleepiness.
Sleep apnea is a potentially dangerous condition that needs to be evaluated and treated with conventional medicine. Complementary and alternative therapies (CAM) may be helpful when used in addition to medical treatment. You should coordinate CAM therapies with your medical doctor. Alternative therapies may help treat sleep apnea caused by allergies. Homeopathy and nutrition are most likely to have a positive effect. While some manufacturers promote supplements for weight loss, none of these products have been proven to work as well as eating less and exercising more.
Few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic remedies, though it may be helpful as a supportive therapy. Professional homeopaths, however, may recommend one or more of the following treatments for sleep apnea based on their knowledge and clinical experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type, includes your physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate remedy for a particular individual.
Some evidence suggests that a type of acupuncture called auriculotherapy acupoint pressure may help treat sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can cause fatal heart problems. So it is crucial to stick with your treatment plan. If you are using a mask and ventilator equipment, be sure to take care of them. If they are uncomfortable, talk to your doctor so they can be adjusted. If you have sleep apnea, you may have an increased risk of peptic ulcer bleeding. Talk to your doctor.
Keep in contact with your doctor or sleep clinic to make sure your treatment is working.
If you are pregnant, you may have nasal congestion that makes you snore in a way that people with apnea do. However, this is not the same as sleep apnea. If you have apnea and become pregnant, be sure to continue your treatment so that your condition will not affect your baby.
People who have had a stroke and who have obstructive sleep apnea have a higher risk of early death.
Abad VC, Guilleminault C. Treatment options for obstructive sleep apnea. Curr Treat Options Neurol. 2009;11(5):358-367.
Ackel-D'Elia C, da Silva AC, Silva RS, et al. Effects of exercise training associated with continuous positive airway pressure treatment in patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Sleep Breath. 2012;16(3):723-735.
Asha'ari ZA, Hasmoni MH, Ab R, Yusof RA, Ahmad RA. The association between sleep apnea and young adults with hypertension. Laryngoscope. 2012;122(10):2337-2342.
Awad K, Malhorta A, Barnet J, Quan S, Peppard P. Exercise is associated with a reduced incidence of sleep-disordered breathing. The Amer J of Med. 2012;125(5):485-490.
Bope ET, Kellerman RD, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2016. 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2013.
Buchner NJ, Quack I, Stegbauer J, Woznowski M, Kaufmann A, Rump LC. Treatment of sleep apnea reduces arterial stiffness. Sleep Breath. 2012;16(1):123-133.
Buman MP, Kline CE, Youngstedt SD, Phillips B, Tulio de Mello M, Hirshkowitz M. Sitting and television viewing: novel risk factors for sleep disturbance and apnea risk? results from the 2013 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Poll. Chest. 2015;147(3):728-734.
Chasens ER. Obstructive sleep apnea, daytime sleepiness, and type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Educ. 2007;33(3):475-482.
Dahlqvist J, Dahlqvist A, Marklund M, Berggren D, Stenlund H, Franklin KA. Physical findings in the upper airways related to obstructive sleep apnea in men and women. Acta Otolaryngol. 2007;127(6):623-630.
Dieltjens M, Vanderveken O, Heyning PH, Braem MJ. Current opinions and clinical practice in the titration of oral appliances in the treatment of sleep-disordered breathing. Sleep Med Rev. 2012;16(2):177-185.
Ehrhardt J, Schwab M, Finn S, et al. Sleep apnea and asymptomatic carotid stenosis: a complex interaction. Chest. 2015;147(4):1029-1036.
Faccenda JF, Mackay TW, Boon NA, et al. Randomized placebo-controlled trial of continuous positive airway pressure on blood pressure in the sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2001;163(2):344-348.
Flemons WW. Clinical practice: obstructive sleep apnea. N Engl J Med. 2002;347(7):498-504.
Freire AO, Sugai GC, Togeiro SM, Mello LE, Tufik S. Immediate effect of acupuncture on the sleep pattern of patients with obstructive sleep apnoea. Acupunct Med. 2010;28(3):115-119.
Grotz W, Buchner N, Wessendorf T, et al. Sleep apnea -- treatment improves hypertension. Med Klin. 2006;101(11)880-885.
Hein H. The sleep apnoea syndromes: alternative therapies. Pneumologie. 2004;58(5):325-329.
Ioachimescu OC, Collop NA. Sleep-Disordered Breathing. Neurol Clin. 2012;30(4):1095-1136.
Sahlin C, Sandberg O, Gustafson Y, et al. Obstructive sleep apnea is a risk factor for death in patients with stroke: a 10-year follow-up. Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(3):297-301.
Sengul YS, Ozalevli S, Oztura I, Itil O, Baklan B. The effect of exercise on obstructive sleep apnea: a randomized and controlled trial. Sleep Breath. 2011;15(1):49-56.
Shah NA, Yaggi HK, Concato J, Mohsenin V. Obstructive sleep apnea as a risk factor for coronary events or cardiovascular death. Sleep Breath. 2010;14(2):131-136.
Shiao TH, Liu CJ, Luo JC, et al. Sleep apnea and risk of peptic ulcer bleeding: a nationwide population-based study. Am J Med. 2013;126(3):249-255, 255.e1.
Swanson CM, Shea SA, Stone KL, et al. Obstructive sleep apnea and metabolic bone disease: insights into the relationship between bone and sleep. J Bone Miner Res. 2015;30(2):199-211.
Valentino RM, Foldvary-Schaefer N. Modafinil in the treatment of excessive daytime sleepiness. Cleve Clin J Med. 2007;74(8):561-566, 568-571. Review
Veasey SC, Guilleminault C, Strohl KP, Sanders MH, Ballard RD, Magalang UJ. Medical therapy for obstructive sleep apnea: a review by the Medical Therapy for Obstructive Sleep Apnea Task Force of the Standards of Practice Committee of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Sleep. 2006;29(8):1036-1044.
Villa MP, Brasili L, Ferretti A, et al. Oropharyngeal exercises to reduce symptoms of OSA after AT. Sleep Breath. 2015;19(1):281-289.
Vozoris NT. Sleep apnea-plus: prevalence, risk factors, and association with cardiovascular diseases using United States population-level data. Sleep Med. 2012;13(6):637-644.
Wang XH, Yuan YD, Wang BF. Clinical observation of effect of auricular acupoint pressing in treating sleep apnea syndrome. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2003;23(10):747-749.
Weaver TE, Mancini C, Maislin G, et al. Continuous positive airway pressure treatment of sleepy patients with milder obstructive sleep apnea: results of the CPAP Apnea Trial North America Program (CATNAP) randomized clinical trial. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2012;186(7):677-683.
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2022 A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.