You may be able to treat mild cases of sleep apnea by changing your behavior, for example:
Avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills.
Changing sleep positions to improve breathing.
Stopping smoking. Smoking can increase the swelling in the upper airway, which may worsen both snoring and apnea.
Avoiding sleeping on your back.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
Continuous positive airway pressure -- also called CPAP -- is a treatment in which a mask is worn over the nose and/or mouth while you sleep. The mask is hooked up to a machine that delivers a continuous flow of air into the nose. This air flow helps keep the airways open so that breathing is regular. CPAP is the most common treatment for sleep apnea. There's also bilevel positive airway pressure, or BPAP, which is similar to CPAP but the air flow changes when you breathe in and then breathe out.
Sleep Apnea and Dental Devices
Dental devices can be made that help keep the airway open during sleep. Such devices can be specifically designed by dentists with special expertise in treating sleep apnea.
Surgery for Sleep Apnea
If you have a deviated nasal septum, enlarged tonsils, or a small lower jaw with an overbite causing the throat to be too narrow, surgery may be needed to correct sleep apnea.
The most commonly performed types of surgery for sleep apnea include:
Nasal surgery: Correction of nasal problems such as a deviated septum.
Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP): A procedure that removes soft tissue on the back of the throat and palate, increasing the width of the airway at the opening of throat.
Mandibular maxillar advancement surgery: Surgery to correct certain facial problems or throat obstructions that contribute to sleep apnea.
Other Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea
There are minimally invasive office procedures that reduce and stiffen the soft tissue of the soft palate. While these procedures have been effective in treating snoring, their effectiveness in treating sleep apnea in the long term isn't known.
For people unable to use a CPAP, an implanted device called Inspire is now available. The device, called an upper airway stimulator, consists of a small pulse generator placed under the skin in the upper chest. A wire leading to the lung detects the person's natural breathing pattern. Another wire, leading up to the neck, delivers mild stimulation to nerves that control airway muscles, keeping them open. A doctor can program the device from an external remote. Also, those who have Inspire use a remote to turn it on before bed and turn off upon waking in the morning.