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Living With Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can be very serious. However, following an effective treatment plan often can improve your quality of life quite a bit.

Treatment can improve your sleep and relieve daytime sleepiness. Treatment also might lower your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health problems linked to sleep apnea.

Treatment may improve your overall health and happiness as well as your quality of sleep (and possibly your family's quality of sleep).

Ongoing Health Care Needs

Follow up with your doctor regularly to make sure your treatment is working. Tell him or her if the treatment is causing bothersome side effects.

Ongoing care is important if you're getting CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) treatment. It may take a while before you adjust to using CPAP.

If you aren't comfortable with your CPAP device, or if it doesn't seem to be working, let your doctor know. You may need to switch to a different device or mask. Or, you may need treatment to relieve CPAP side effects.

Try not to gain weight. Weight gain can worsen sleep apnea and require adjustments to your CPAP device. In contrast, weight loss may relieve your sleep apnea.

Until your sleep apnea is properly treated, know the dangers of driving or operating heavy machinery while sleepy.

If you're having any type of surgery that requires medicine to put you to sleep, let your surgeon and doctors know you have sleep apnea. They might have to take extra steps to make sure your airway stays open during the surgery.

If you're using a mouthpiece to treat your sleep apnea, you may need to have routine checkups with your dentist.

How Can Family Members Help?

Often, people who have sleep apnea don't know they have it. They're not aware that their breathing stops and starts many times while they're sleeping. Family members or bed partners usually are the first to notice signs of sleep apnea.

Family members can do many things to help a loved one who has sleep apnea.

  • Let the person know if he or she snores loudly during sleep or has breathing stops and starts.
  • Encourage the person to get medical help.
  • Help the person follow the doctor's treatment plan, including CPAP treatment.
  • Provide emotional support.
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July 10, 2012 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.