Should a Sleep Study confirm the presence of OSA, there are a number of clinically proven treatments available.
1. CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) Therapy
CPAP is the most widely used method of treating OSAHS of all severities. It consists of a CPAP Machine to pump air through a connecting hose into a CPAP mask worn while sleeping, which gently creates an ‘air splint’ keeping the airway open. The pressure provided by the machine stops the throat from constricting and closing, preventing the apnoeas and hypopnoeas from occurring so you can sleep and breathe normally. While this may sound like a ventilator, CPAP does not do the breathing for you nor does it provide oxygen. You breathe air normally while the increased pressure from the machine prevents OSAHS from occurring.
You may be able to obtain the equipment via the NHS (although waiting times can be several months) or you can purchase privately from Intus.
2. OAT (Oral Appliance Therapy)
Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) uses a splint worn in the mouth to move the lower jaw slightly forward to allow for more airflow. As OSAHS is caused by the throat narrowing or closing, positioning the lower jaw further forward creates more space inside the throat for passage of air and reduces the frequency of apnoeas and hypopnoeas as a result. In many cases snoring is also reduced.
The splint can be either a custom-made appliance fitted by a dentist or a much lower cost ‘heat and bite’ device that provides simple customisation. OAT is a clinically-proven method of treating mild OSAHS, and some find it more comfortable or less invasive than CPAP.
3. Positional Therapy
In most cases, snoring and OSAHS is more severe when the person is on their back, and so positional therapy is used to keep them sleeping on their side. A finger pulse study does not record your sleep position so it is unable to indicate whether or not positional therapy will be of benefit, but if your partner has noticed that you snore or have breathing pauses more often (or exclusively) when you are on your back then this may be a good option. Treatment involves wearing equipment such as a bumper belt to gently prevent you from rolling onto your back during sleep. This can be an effective technique for keeping snoring and mild OSAHS under control.
4. Nutrition, lifestyle and weight loss
If appropriate, a nutrition and weight-loss program can often provide benefit. Living with a healthier body is known to have a significant, direct positive effect on sleep, OSAHS and many other health issues. A direct link between excess weight and both OSAHS and snoring severity has been shown, so if you are overweight you may find that weight loss provides an improvement in your OSA symptoms.