It’s often after years of snoring and lost sleep that patients decide to discuss their symptoms with their doctor and proceed with a polysomnography (home sleep test) to determine if they have sleep apnea.
After doing the test, the results come in and it is confirmed…..sleep apnea. Almost immediately, one of the first questions most commonly asked is: Can my sleep apnea be cured?
- The causes of sleep apnea
- Weight loss, health management
- Lifestyle management
- Reducing alcohol and drug consumption
The causes of sleep apnea
- The shape of your face. The cranial-facial physiognomy of your face can have implications with regards to a sleep apnea diagnosis. Essentially, the way your face is constructed can constitute one of the main reasons that you suffer from sleep apnea. For example, a large tongue, a long palate, prominent tonsils, a chin that is recessed or a small respiratory airway in the neck area can significantly reduce airflow once the muscles are relaxed during sleep.
- Extra weight. Once asleep, muscles relax in the body. Around the neck area, the relaxing of muscles leads to a reduction in the passage of air. The more weight in the neck area, the more likely the respiratory airways will close.
- Using sedatives, drugs or alcohol. Many people notice that after a night of drinking, after taking medication or a drug that relaxes muscles, that snoring tends to set in. In effect, these substances lead to a relaxing of muscles that favorise either a partial or full obstruction of the airways.
So, can I say that sleep apnea is curable? The answer: sleep apnea doesn’t cure itself, but there are ways to positively affect sleep apnea, depending on the reason(s) that you have sleep apnea in the first place.
Unless you have been evaluated by an oto-rhino-laryngologiste (ENT), we don’t know your internal physiognomy (if you are made small or not). There are some surgeries that can permit the creation of space in your upper airways that can be recommended, as necessary, by an ENT. However, in most cases, the use of a CPAP machine can create this space without needing invasive or painful surgery.
In more specific weight loss cases, documented improvement in the degree of severity of sleep apnea have been noted for some patients who have had bariatric surgery. However according to the medical director of Apnée Santé and professor at University of Montreal, Dr Claude Poirier :
Sleep apnea doesn’t disappear, it is a chronic condition. Rarely, certain surgical procedures can diminish sleep apnea, but they are not commonly performed and are associated with potential complications. We can actually control sleep apnea occurrences or make them disappear with a prescription of positive pressure delivered via CPAP. This treatment is recognized as being effective.
Weight loss, health management
Weight loss can have a positive effect on sleep apnea, as well as your general health. A crazy cycle happens when you are exhausted from lack of sleep. You simply don’t have the energy or will to do things, like exercise, or commit to a healthy regime. CPAP therapy can play a significant role here. By attaining a better quality of sleep the body can recuperate both physically and mentally. This will give you the energy and mental capacity to embrace a healthy lifestyle and keep yourself in shape. If weight loss is done in tandem with exercise, you will increase muscle tone and achieve a better quality of sleep, thus completing the cycle and positively affecting your sleep apnea.
Another aspect to note is the positive effect that quality sleep has on hormone management, which is related to satiation, which can significantly diminish the urge to snack.
Also, in some cases where patients are diagnosed with borderline levels of sleep apnea (that are not affected by their physiognomy), lifestyle management in terms of weight loss and gaining muscle tone can all but eliminate the sleep apnea (occasionally with the help of positional therapy). This occurs by relieving constriction in the throat, if weight is consistently controlled.
Reducing alcohol and drug consumption
Reducing intake of alcohol and drugs can reduce the severity of your sleep apnea. For medications, it is difficult to reduce consumption because medication has been prescribed by your doctor for specific purposes and they are the only ones who can determine if you can reduce dosages or stop taking them.
The bottom line? While there is no definitive cure for the majority of sleep apnea sufferers, regardless of the cause, you can certainly take measures, in addition to CPAP therapy, to reduce your sleep apnea. It is in your best interests to give yourself the a chance to achieve better sleep, healthy control of your sleep apnea, and a better quality of life.