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.
Sleep Apnea Research: The HeartBeat Study06/07/2012
In this video—presented by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health—Dr. Susan Redline of Harvard Medical School/Brigham and Women's Hospital discusses her ongoing sleep apnea research. Sleep apnea is a common disorder that can raise your risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), heart failure, obesity, and diabetes.
One of Dr. Redline's projects, the HeartBEAT Study, is comparing treatments for sleep apnea to see whether they lower the risk of heart disease. The results of this research, which is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, may help reduce deaths from heart attacks and strokes.
Living With and Managing Sleep Apnea05/18/2011
This video—presented by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health—shows how Jim, the father of two young girls, has coped with having sleep apnea. Symptoms such as waking up tired and falling asleep while driving long distances made Jim concerned about his health. While Jim was sleeping, his wife noticed snoring and long periods of silence followed by gasps.
Wanting a better quality of life, Jim sought the advice of his doctor, who recommended a sleep study. As a result of the sleep study, Jim was diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea and prescribed treatment with a CPAP machine. CPAP provides mild air pressure to keep the airways open during sleep.
Jim explains that adjusting to CPAP treatment was hard at first, and his inability to stick with the treatment led to more symptoms. However, after using the CPAP machine regularly, Jim feels better and has more energy to do activities with his children.
For more information about living with and managing sleep apnea, go to the Health Topics Sleep Apnea article.