Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is one of the most common sleep conditions people suffer from characterized by breathing interruptions while sleeping caused by a blockage of the upper airway.
In general, 20% of the world population has this disorder, especially obese people or those who suffer from heart or metabolic conditions. If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea may lead to poor cardiac and metabolic health, insomnia, daytime sleepiness, depression, and anxiety.
How is OSA diagnosed?
In order to be diagnosed with OSA, you have to undergo a sleep study. Based on how many times your breathing is interrupted in an hour, also referred to as apnea-hypopnea index (AHI), your doctor will determine the severity (mild, moderate, or severe) of the obstructive sleep apnea you suffer from. Statistics show that 60% of people suffer from mild obstructive sleep apnea.
However, bear in mind that symptoms do not always correlate with the severity of the condition determined by AHI. People with mild sleep apnea can suffer from different symptoms, while those with severe OSA can experience fewer symptoms.
How is OSA treated?
Logically, your doctor will determine the type of treatment based on the severity of your obstructive sleep apnea. In general, the first-line treatment for moderate and severe sleep apnea is CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) which can reduce snoring and breathing interruptions but is most beneficial when worn constantly throughout sleep.
But, how is mild obstructive sleep apnea treated?
Namely, studies proved that the quality of life of people treating OSA with CPAP therapy, besides the standard of care (sleep hygiene counseling), has improved remarkably. However, not all patients suffering from mild sleep apnea are suitable candidates for CPAP therapy. Your doctor will have to decide whether or not you should be treated with CPAP based on your overall health condition and sleep apnea symptoms.
The truth is, when it comes to mild sleep apnea, there are no clear-cut recommendations for treating the condition. Namely, the best approach is to try out different treatments, approved by your doctor of course, and if one treatment doesn’t help you, you can try another one.
Here’s a list of some conservative suggestions you can try to treat mild obstructive sleep apnea:
- Don’t leave nasal congestion or allergies untreated;
- Avoid sleeping on you back and try to find a comfortable side position;
- Try to lose weight if you are obese or overweight, even five to ten pounds can make a difference in OSA symptoms you experience;
- Don’t consume alcohol or take respiratory depressant medications several hours before going to bed;
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day of the week and get enough sleep.
However, if you have severe OSA symptoms like disruptive snoring, unrefreshing sleep, long breathing interruptions, repeated awakenings, insomnia, etc. or suffer from some serious health issues that may worsen your OSA like high blood pressure, arrhythmia, stroke, or severe mood disorder, consider getting an OSA medical treatment.
The most common medical treatments for mild OSA include:
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy);
- Sleep apnea mouth device;
- Visiting an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist.
The sum up, if you think you suffer from OSA, the first thing you should do is a sleep study which will help your doctor determine the severity of the condition. Once you know whether you suffer from mild, moderate, or severe OSA your doctor will probably recommend CPAP therapy since it has proven to beneficial for all of the three types of this sleep disorder.