First-aid for Sleep Apnea and Snoring
6/15/20 in Blog Posts
Ofer Jacobowitz MD PhD FAASM, Board-certified in Sleep medicine
If you have been in lock-down with a snorer or snore yourself, then you already know that snoring is not a laughing matter. Snoring is not only a major problem for home life, but for many it is a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a dangerous condition. If OSA is severe enough, it can greatly increase one’s risk for dementia, stroke, heart attack and even cancer.
The good news is that the situation is not hopeless, with help readily available. Snoring can be checked and tracked using phone apps such as SnoreLab and a sleep apnea test can be comfortably done at home using a device such as the WatchPAT, provided from our office.
If you snore, first assess what habits and conditions you can modify
- Avoid smoking or vaping. It is dangerous, expensive and causes swelling and narrowing of your throat.
- Reduce alcohol consumption especially a few hours before sleep. It reduces muscle tone in sleep.
- Treat nasal congestion and allergies as mouth breathing leads to snoring.
- Avoid sleeping on your back. You just can’t order yourself to avoid it, but you can use wearable bumpers (ie Rematee) or stimulators (ie Nightshift).
- Lose 10 pounds. A small drop is achievable and can make a difference if you are overweight. Your upper airway will enlarge.
Still snoring? More advanced help is available.
- You may need a sleep test to diagnose OSA, in particular if you are not sleeping well, sleepy during the day or already have cardiovascular problems or diabetes. Did you know almost half of diabetics have OSA?
- If the nose is congested, office procedures can be performed comfortably under local anesthesia to improve nasal breathing (ie Vivaer, turbinate reduction)
- Oral appliances can be a great “silent” treatment for use at home or for a weekend getaway. They are best when correctly fitted for the right person.
- Office procedures that stiffen and shorten the palate can also reduce snoring.
Sleep Apnea diagnosed? Don’t despair.
- CPAP, where humidified, warmed air is pumped through the nose, can be quite comfortable using a small, soft, mini rubber mask that does not make you look like Darth Vader.
- If need an alternative to CPAP, Custom-made oral appliances may be the answer for you. They are silent, ultra-portable for the weekend away, hassle-free, and usually covered by commercial insurance plans (non-CMS) for sleep apnea treatment.
- If not successful with CPAP, modern reconstructive pharyngoplasty surgery for sleep apnea is a good treatment. Modern surgery has evolved and is no longer the traditional UPPP where the uvula is removed (palate’s “punching bag”) and the palate is trimmed. It is a plastic surgery using muscle repositioning to modify the shape and stabilize the throat.
- In this digital age, for a select few, implanting a tongue pacemaker (hypoglossal neurostimulator) that is activated in sleep can be of benefit. The FDA-approved device is called“Inspire” but more may be available in the future such as the experimental systems that I am researching by LivaNova and Nyxoah Medical.
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