There are several different systems that deliver air and pressure through the nose or mouth. The continuous delivery of pressurized air helps to keep the tissues in the throat open. Some
masks fit over the mouth and nose, while others fit over only the nose. Some devices simply deliver a preset amount of air at a preset unit of pressure. Other devices deliver more pressure with every inhalation and a bit less with every exhalation. Other devices monitor breathing and only add pressure if the machine senses a breathing abnormality.
Many of the devices are uncomfortable to wear if not fitted properly. They often dry out the nose and/or mouth, irritate the skin, leave you with a headache, and are bulky and tight to wear. However, CPAP devices provide clear benefits if you have sleep apnea that ranges from mild to severe.
Oropharyngeal exercises may help reduce snoring in those with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea.
Several dental devices are available to treat
sleep apnea. These devices may hold the tongue down, thrust it forward, or thrust the lower jaw forward. These devices seem to be less frustrating to use than CPAP devices, although they are only effective as a treatment for mild to moderate sleep apnea.
This procedure allows stiffening of the palate by implanting permanent pieces of silastic, a silicone elastomer. This procedure may be more effective for treating
than sleep apnea. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, the implant may help to reduce daytime sleepiness.
uses heat to destroy abnormal tissue. Applying this technology to the palate and the base of the tongue can shrink the tissue and widen the airway. Ablation is successful in the treatment of snoring, but studies do not show adequate effectiveness in the treatment of sleep apnea.
Explore CPAP. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/cpap. Updated December 13, 2011. Accessed June 3, 2013.
Fischer Y, Khan M, Mann WJ, et al. Multilevel temperature-controlled radiofrequency therapy of soft palate, base of tongue, and tonsils in adults with obstructive sleep apnea.
How is sleep apnea treated? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at:
Updated July 10, 2012. Accessed June 3, 2013.
American Sleep Apnea Association website. Available at:
http://www.sleepapnea.org/learn/sleep-apnea.html. Accessed June 3, 2013.
Snoring and sleep apnea.
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at:
http://www.entnet.org/content/snoring-and-sleep-apnea. Accessed June 3, 2013.
Steward DL. Effectiveness of multilevel (tongue and palate) radiofrequency tissue ablation for patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
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