Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder which causes pauses or significant reductions in breathing during sleep. The most common form of sleep apnea is OSA or obstructive sleep apnea and this is the form addressed in this article. It is thought that around 2-4% of the middle aged and over population has the disorder. However, these figures can not be relied upon upon, since it is thought that many sufferers live with the condition without knowing anything about it. As the condition only affects sufferers in their sleep, it is logical that many sufferers are unaware there is a problem. Of course, there are consequences of the disorder, such as daytime sleepiness, but for many sufferers this is simply the norm, a state of affairs to which they have become accustomed.
The condition is associated with serious conditions such as heart disease and strokes and these are reasons why, as well as improving day to day wellbeing, it is important to treat the condition. Unfortunately there is no single way of indefinitely treating the condition.
Neverheless, the condition is often affected by lifestyle factors. This means that for those patients with only mild sleep apnea, treatment in the conventional sense may not be necessary, as simple changes can bring about a significant improvement. One of the single largest contributing contributor factors to the condition is obesity. For this reason, patients are advised to lose weight if they are overweight before undertaking any more invasive treatment. The same is true of smoking and of drinking alcohol close to bedtime. It is even possible that a patient's sleeping position on their back is a contributing factor in their sleep apnea, as this position allows the tongue to fall back into the throat creating an erection in the windpipe and stopping breathing. Some sufferers advocate sewing a sock containing a tennis ball on to the back of their pyjama shirt, so that the ball is uncomfortable enough to wake them if they should roll onto their back. In this way, they say, they eventually became accustomed to sleeping on their sides.
In more severe cases of sleep apnea treatment is needed. More often than not, doctors will recommend CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure. This remains the preferred approach to sleep apnea treatment. It basically involves a flow of pressurized air being passed through a machine, tube and nose or mouth mask, to act as a scaffold for the windpipe, preventing it from collapsing in on itself, allowing breathing to continue uninterrupted.
Patients who undertake CPAP treatment very often report improvements in wellbeing within just a few nights or weeks, while others find the treatment very hard to get used too. Neverheless, no other treatment is as universally accepted and praised as this, so CPAP remains the favored sleep apnea treatment.