• Reviewed on 12/12
    By Dr. Harrington

Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Treatment

There are several options for managing sleep apnea. They include:

Maintaining An Ideal Weight

People who are overweight are more likely to develop sleep apnea. Therefore, maintaining an ideal weight is important in managing sleep apnea. Before starting a diet or exercise program, talk with your doctor about your plan to make sure it is safe.


Sleeping Position

Some people breathe better and snore less loudly when sleeping on their sides or stomach. There are simple techniques to keep you from sleeping on your back, including sewing a tennis ball to the back of your pajama top, wearing a soft backpack at night, or placing a pillow under your shoulder.


Dental Devices

Dental devices are designed to push the jaw forward. Worn at night, they widen the throat and increase the size of the airway. Dental devices may be used for mild and moderate apnea. Learn more.



Surgery may potentially improve sleep apnea in very specific circumstances. Learn more.


CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)


More severe cases of sleep apnea may require CPAP. This common and effective treatment provides pressure to the person's airway through a machine that blows air. The airflow from the CPAP machine is delivered through a mask that fits on the face and covers the nose, or the nose and mouth. This air acts as a splint to keep the airway open during sleep, allowing breathing to become more regular. Snoring stops and restful sleep is restored. Learn more about CPAP.


Different Therapies for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) Other than CPAP

Obstructive sleep apnea requires treatment. If untreated OSA can result in serious health problems. The most common treatment used is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). CPAP can improve a majority of the symptoms of OSA.
In some cases patients are unable to use CPAP or prefer to try other treatments; these therapies tend to be used in people with mild to moderate OSA. These other therapies include: oral appliances, positional therapy, upper airway surgery, nasal expiratory resistance and oral negative pressure devices. Overweight patients are advised to lose weight and exercise programs are advised for all patients with OSA.


Oral Appliances to Treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Oral appliances are used the entire time you are sleeping. They look very similar to the mouth guards used in sporting activities. These devices work best in patients who have mild to moderate OSA without severe obesity. Oral appliances work by advancing the lower jaw forward, allowing your airway to stay open while you sleep.

To learn more on Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea and answers to common questions, view the Patient Information Series from the American Thoracic Society.


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