It is important that your sleep apnea is treated, because an untreated condition can lead to other illnesses. You may be at higher risk for heart problems or high blood pressure, because your lack of breathing will trigger stress hormones. People with sleep apnea are also at higher risk for both insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes, since the condition changes the way your body uses energy.
Things that you can start on your own include sleeping on your side instead of your back, losing weight, and stopping smoking. You may need to seek treatment for nasal allergies.
The latest treatment for moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea is hypoglossus nerve stimulation, a big name for a small device that is implanted in your chest to monitor your breathing and stimulate a nerve that keeps your airway passage open. The unit comes with a remote control — you can adjust it, and also turn it on and off so that functions only when you are sleeping.
For most, though, the tried-and-true treatment is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. This apparatus delivers air pressure through a mask you wear when you sleep; the continuous air pressure keeps your throat passage open. It may take time for you to find the most comfortable way to wear the mask.
Other treatments include valved devices you place over each nostril, and oral appliances that realign your jaw, opening the space in the back of your throat.
Depending on the root cause of your sleep apnea, different kinds of surgery may be an option for you and your physician. For example, you may need nasal surgery to move a deviated septum or remove polyps; you may need a tonsillectomy or to have your adenoids removed; weight loss surgery may be your best path forward. The tissue at the back of your throat may be removed; you may need to have your jaw realigned surgically; or you may require rods put into the soft palate. As a last resort, you may require a tracheostomy, where the surgeon will create an opening in your neck with a tube. Covered during the day, the tube is used for breathing at night.