Causes of sleep apnea include overly relaxed throat tissues and tongue; a large tongue, tonsils, uvula or soft palate; and/or an abnormally small airway. Natural aging can limit your brain’s ability to keep your throat muscles stiff while you sleep, causing the airway to narrow or collapse. Those most at risk are males, over the age of 40, overweight, smoke tobacco, suffer from allergies or sinus infections and/or have a family history of sleep apnea.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the best treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. It reverses the collapse of your throat by streaming small amounts of air pressure into your mouth and throat. The device is made up of two major parts: a mask and a machine. The wearer places the mask over their face while the motor of the machine pumps air into a humidified tube that attaches the two parts.
CPAP may be recommended after a sleep study, which is used to diagnose sleep apnea. Home sleep studies are the preferred testing method, where oxygen levels are monitored overnight to determine the type and severity of the sleep apnea. If the doctor decides CPAP is the best course of action, they will contact a home equipment provider to select a machine. A home equipment provider and/or your doctor will help you set up the machine and teach you how to operate it.
CPAPs are the preferred treatment method for adults. For children with sleep apnea, however, the doctor may decide that removing the tonsils and adenoids is the best solution to prevent lifelong sleep apnea. A CPAP may be used after a tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy if there is no improvement in symptoms.