How long does sleep apnea last? The answer is no, despite the fact that it is a common question among people with sleep apnea. Despite the fact that there is no proven treatment for this chronic illness, you may minimize the symptoms by changing your lifestyle and undergoing specific treatments.
For example, shedding pounds may lower the prevalence of obesity-related sleep apnea. Another option is to do surgeries like tonsillectomy on both adults and children, with some success, especially when treating young patients.
You will better understand this article if you are aware of the underlying causes of sleep apnea and the changes you may make to reduce your risk factors. It also looks at the long-term prognosis and possible effects of untreated sleep apnea.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when any area of the airway, from the tip of the nose to the lungs, closes down when a person is asleep and keeps them from breathing. As a consequence, a person’s fundamental anatomy often comes into play.
A deviated nasal septum or enlarged turbinates in the nose may restrict airflow. Large tonsils or adenoids, a soft palate that is too floppy, or a thick tongue may all obstruct the throat path.
Vibration and airway injury are results of chronic snoring. The swelling that results from this might constrict the airway. As nerve receptors may become less sensitive, muscles may not be able to maintain a strong adequate tone to support the airway.
Additionally, the following elements may aid in the development of sleep apnea:
- Weight gain, especially when it causes a large neck
- Sleeping on your back so that your tongue may re-enter your airway.
- Alcohol consumption, especially in the hours before bed
These factors lead to fundamental changes in the airway architecture, which culminate in a chronic condition that is often treated but not curable.
Does obesity contribute to sleep apnea?
Obesity is the greatest risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea and losing weight may help with the symptoms of the illness. Studies show that obese people who lose weight even have smaller tongues, which aids in preventing this airway issue. 6 However, “thin” people may have sleep apnea even if their reasons may be more difficult to treat.
Is sleep apnea treatable?
Sleep apnea is often a long-lasting chronic condition. Human anatomy tends to remain static, especially once puberty has passed.
However, sleep apnea in children may be successfully and permanently treated. Other allergy therapies are available, and the removal of the tonsils and adenoids is an option.
Rapid maxillary expansion, a kind of braces that lengthens the hard palate.
Teenagers and adults have additional surgical options. The most successful procedure has been to advance the jaw. Up to 80% of individuals who have this procedure, often referred to as maxillo-mandibular advancement, claim that their sleep apnea has completely disappeared.
To improve the airway, the jawbones are reshaped, set in place (often with titanium screws and plates), and the form of the face is changed.
Other procedures may also change the anatomy, although they often have lower success rates.
These options include:
- Septoplasty, which straightens a deviated septum
- Radiofrequency ablation of the nasal turbinates, which relieves nasal obstruction and congestion
- Tongue surgery, including tongue anchor movement
- Surgery on the soft palate, such as uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) (called hyoid advancement)
How likely is it that sleep apnea will result in death?
If sleep apnea is not treated, it may lead to serious and even life-threatening consequences. Some of these include cardiac (heart) problems, diabetes, and excessive blood pressure. As a result, sleep apnea may reduce your life expectancy; in the US, 38,000 people die each year from cardiac conditions associated with sleep apnea.
Lowering the risk factors of sleep apnea
The treatment for your sleep apnea may include medication and lifestyle changes. Exercise, losing weight, and giving up smoking are all good things.
Breathing exercises may help your airway muscle tone. According to certain studies, playing the didgeridoo while using circular breathing techniques and tongue-strengthening exercises known as myofunctional therapy had positive effects. The results are contradictory, however, and further research is needed.
Using nasal steroids to treat allergies may also help to keep the nasal airways open.
Medications like Rhinocort, Flonase, and Nasonex (mometasone) may be beneficial (budesonide)
Sleeping on your side or angling the bed’s head up to 30 to 45 degrees may also be advantageous.
For many people with sleep apnea, continuous positive airway pressure is still the gold standard of treatment (CPAP).
This constant flow of air prevents the airway from closing and keeps it open. Like a pair of glasses, it only works while being worn, but for those who can manage it, it might be rather useful.
Positive end-expiratory pressure in the nose
Before you go to sleep, you should implant a nasal expiratory positive airway pressure (nEPAP) device into your nostrils. When you exhale, these nEPAP devices, marketed as Provent, provide positive pressure to keep your upper airway from collapsing. These devices have advantages such as fewer apnea occurrences, improved quality of life, and less snoring.
Even while nEPAP devices can’t completely cure OSA, they are nevertheless practical, less costly than CPAP, and simple to use while on the go. Adherence is an issue, much as with other OSA therapy devices.
Mandibular Advancement Device
Your top and lower teeth are covered by mandibular advancement devices, which also hold your jaw in a position that prevents it from obstructing your upper airway. These gadgets are less costly than CPAP machines, quiet, and simple to use. Mandibular advancement devices, however, function best in those with moderate OSA or those who only have OSA while they sleep on their backs.
Tongue Retaining Mechanisms
To prevent your tongue from obstructing your airway, tongue keeping devices hold it forward. Though studies have revealed challenges with compliance, these devices also assist in reducing the amount of apnea occurrences you have. Mandibular advancement devices are often preferred by users over tongue retention devices.
Orofacial therapy, or treatment for the muscles of the mouth and face, may help lessen apnea episodes. You learn how to adjust your tongue’s position throughout this treatment so that it does not obstruct your airway. The muscles in your tongue, soft palate, lips, and face are also taught how to be controlled and strengthened.
Tonsils and adenoids are often removed from kids with OSA. Although the evidence for their effectiveness is limited to small studies, a variety of additional operations may lessen apnea occurrences in adults. Surgical procedures that might be helpful in treating OSA include:
- Maxillomandibular Advancement (MMA): The upper and lower jawbones15 are realigned to aid in maintaining an open upper airway.
- Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty: The upper airway’s surrounding tissue is removed during this procedure.
- Tracheostomy: To facilitate better breathing, a hole is made in the windpipe during this treatment and a tube is introduced.
For certain therapies, implanting devices necessitates surgery. The surgeon inserts a stimulator into the nerve that regulates tongue movement to perform hypoglossal nerve stimulation (HNS). The tongue is placed to maintain an open airway when this nerve is activated. Studies on HNS reveal the therapy improves quality of life, mood, daytime drowsiness, and sleep quantity.
Many people’s OSA symptoms might become worse if they drink alcohol. Avoiding alcohol is one of the first stages in treating OSA, along with losing weight and switching up your sleeping posture, according to the American Academy of Sleep.
There is no real treatment for sleep apnea, even though surgical therapy for young patients (whose bodies are still growing) often yields outstanding results.
Since adults have a permanent airway architecture, further therapies and interventions are required to address the changes brought on by sleep apnea. The use of CPAP, surgery, and medication are available as treatments. The symptoms of sleep apnea may also be alleviated by making a range of lifestyle changes, such as losing weight.
In biological females, menopause onset and age are two risk factors that cannot be changed, but there are other risk factors that could. Consult your doctor about your symptoms if you have worries about sleep apnea.