Sleep apnea is a persistent illness that is hard to manage. Despite there being numerous sleep apnea treatment options available to manage signs and symptoms, they all have their flaws which make them disliked by many people.
For example, the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) provides favorable results for almost every patient that uses it, but due to the uncomfortable nature of the machine, almost half of its users stop using it. This makes the treatment option not very effective, as people are not likely to follow through with it due to the discomfort it causes. Apart from that, PAP machines, in general, are loud and large in general. They do, however, allow the patient to feel as if they can sleep normally again.
Sleep Apnea Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of sleep apnea include lapses in breathing during sleep, snoring, difficulty breathing, insomnia, night terrors, anxiety relating to sleep, partial or complete blockage of the airway, and even hypertension.
These symptoms, save for lapses in breathing and partial or complete blockage of the airway, can manifest in many other illnesses such as insomnia. Thus it is important to understand the signs of sleep apnea clearly.
Sleep apnea presents itself in several ways. It is most easily recognized by loved ones of the patient reporting snoring and noises that suggest the patient is choking. However, people can also notice their symptoms themselves. If they experience difficulty sleeping, suddenly wake up during the night feeling breathless, or feel tired during the day despite getting a full night’s rest, they might have sleep apnea that is affecting their quality of sleep.
To confirm such a theory, one can get a home sleep study kit from companies like SleepRx that provide high-quality and reasonably priced options. You can use this kit to determine whether or not you have sleep apnea by having a specialist monitor your sleep virtually to examine for any irregularities, lapses in breathing, or excessive snoring.
As mentioned earlier, PAP machines are the most commonly prescribed treatment option for sleep apnea. However, they are not very liked amongst patients due to how uncomfortable they are. Other conventional treatment options such as surgery and physical devices are not as effective at dealing with sleep apnea when compared to PAP machines. This makes it problematic for patients, as they want to treat their sleep apnea without the use of PAP machines. So, is there hope?
This is where we introduce two breakthroughs! The first is Inspire therapy, and the second has to do with weight loss.
PAP machines were disliked as they made it hard for patients to exhale due to their positive airway pressure. This problem does not exist with Inspire therapy. Unlike the PAP machine, this technology neither requires a mask, a hose, nor a large machine that needs to be plugged next to your bed.
Inspire therapy is an FDA-approved, breakthrough treatment that can bring relief to patients suffering from sleep apnea who were unable to get better through PAP devices. This technology is minimally invasive and is placed right under the skin of the chest, from where it can send signals to the nerves of the tongue muscles.
These signals stimulate the tongue muscles to keep the airways open during sleep. This allows the patient to sleep without having to worry about fighting against the positive pressure to exhale or the loud noise of a PAP machine. The smart remote nature of this device that allows it to be turned on and off makes it even more functionally sound. You can switch it on before going to bed, and your breathing will be monitored throughout the night.
Inspire therapy is targeted toward patients with mild to severe sleep apnea upon whom the CPAP machine was not able to bring favorable results. The patients need to be above 22 years of age and should not be overweight, as that can cause the technology to not work properly.
Stimulation Therapy: eXciteOSA
A new device known as eXciteOSA, much like Inspire Therapy, has been approved by the FDA. This device consists of a silicone mouthpiece that is designed to be worn during the day for 20-minute sessions.
The silicone mouthpiece comprises four electrodes that deliver pulses of electrical stimulation to the tongue muscles. This stimulation helps train the tongue muscles to keep the airways open by improving their ability to function.
The electrical stimulation, over time, improves muscle function and prevents the tongue from falling backward during sleep, consequently keeping the airways open when the person goes to sleep. This is very effective for people with obstructive sleep apnea, as OSA occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax to the point that normal breathing cannot take place while you’re asleep.
The eXciteOSA device, over time, works to stabilize the tongue so that it no longer relaxes as much during sleep and does not fall backward. This device is perfect for people who are over 18 and have mild sleep apnea. The FDA recommends the use of eXciteOSA daily in 20 minutes sessions for the first 6 weeks and then 20-minute sessions once a week thereafter.
It should be noted this therapy may not be a suitable option for you if you have braces, tongue piercings, mouth ulcers, dental hardware, or if you are pregnant. It should also not be used by people that have pacemakers or other similar implanted devices.
Sommetric’s aerSleep II has shown promise in treating patients with all ranges of sleep apnea, from low all the way to severe. It has been designated as a breakthrough device by the FDA. Unlike PAP machines, sommetric’s device keeps the airway open by applying a negative pressure over the external surface of the neck.
The aerSleep II device is a self-contained unit that attaches just under the chin and throat. It has an integral vacuum pump, but the whole device is quiet, small, and easy to use. This makes it a perfect option for patients that find PAP machines loud and uncomfortable.
The unit is portable and is held in place without the need for a retaining strap. In previous clinical studies, there was a strong preference for aerSleep over other therapies like CPAP and oral devices.
CPAP and surgery have been common treatments for sleep apnea, but if you don’t want to go through any procedure, then reducing your weight can significantly help with sleep apnea.
For a while, researchers have known that reducing your weight improves sleep apnea symptoms. If someone was obese and lost a significant amount of weight, their symptoms might reduce so significantly that they do not need any other form of treatment.
Recently, researchers have found that weight also reduces fat in the tongue and reduces muscles in the airways alongside the mouth. This, essentially, means that the patient has more room in their airway for air to pass through, and it becomes unlikely that their airway gets obstructed. Thus, if an overweight person loses weight, in some cases, they can remove or reduce the source of their airway obstruction.
It’s important to understand that the goal is to maintain a healthy weight for your sex, height, body type, and age. Being overweight and underweight are both detrimental. Talk to your doctor about what a healthy weight for you would look like.
What Can You Do
It is important to remember that although there have been breakthroughs in sleep apnea treatments, the established, trialed, and tested methods of treatment like CPAP should be the first course of treatment. PAP machines are highly effective in managing symptoms so long as the patient keeps on using them. It is also important to use resources like sleep specialists from companies like SleepRx as professionals can help you navigate through potential treatment options.
As suggested by SleepRx in its numerous resources, lifestyle changes are also very important in treating sleep apnea, in addition to breakthrough technologies like Inspire Therapy or Advanced PAP machines. The importance of lifestyle changes is evident, considering weight loss has the potential to almost eradicate sleep apnea symptoms.