The History of Sleep Apnea Treatment
Posted: June 23, 2020
Sleep apnea treatment offers many benefits for those suffering from sleep apnea. Treatment can help reduce your risk for heart disease, decrease your blood pressure, reduce your risk for strokes, and improve insulin sensitivity. Sleep apnea treatment can also help improve your quality of life by helping you feel more awake during the day, improving concentration, and can even boost your mood.
The gold standard for treating sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. These sleep apnea treatment devices help keep your airway open during sleep. They softly blow air into your airway at a certain pressure to stop your airway from collapsing while you sleep. This helps you breathe better at night and can help improve your overall health. While alternatives to CPAP therapy exist, it remains one of the most effective ways to help patients with sleep apnea.
A Brief History of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Sleep Apnea Treatment
Colin Sullivan invented the CPAP device and tested it for the first time approximately 40 years ago in June 1980. Dr. Sullivan tested it on a patient with such severe sleep apnea that he recommended tracheotomy to treat the patient’s sleep apnea. However, the patient did not want to undergo such a radical surgical procedure. Instead, Dr. Sullivan used continuous positive airway pressure sleep apnea treatment to prevent apnea events.
During the test, Sullivan noticed that when he turned the pressure up, the patient began to breathe normally. However, when he turned the pressure back down, he would experience sleep apnea events, which is where someone stops breathing or breathes shallowly for seconds or minutes at a time during sleep. Sullivan’s CPAP device quickly became the standard sleep apnea treatment.
CPAP Alternatives for Sleep Apnea Treatment
While CPAP therapy is the standard sleep apnea treatment device, alternatives do exist. Some alternatives, such as positional therapy, dental devices, and certain surgeries, predate CPAP devices for sleep apnea treatment. Others, like nasal dilators and nasal adhesives, have recently flooded the market as supposed over-the-counter sleep apnea treatments. However, visiting your sleep apnea clinic for diagnosis and treatment helps you receive effective solutions and continuous monitoring for your condition and your health.
Positional therapy can be an effective sleep apnea treatment for those suffering from positional sleep apnea. Positional sleep apnea is where patients who sleep on their backs experience more than double the number of sleep apnea events compared to when they sleep on their side or stomach. For this sleep apnea treatment, your sleep doctor determines if you have positional sleep apnea by analyzing your sleep position as well as your breathing, heart rate, and other factors during your sleep test.
If you have positional sleep apnea, our sleep physician may recommend positional therapy, which helps you sleep on your side or stomach. This often involves wearing a device that vibrates when you sleep on your back to encourage you to turn over while you’re still asleep. However, positional therapy may not fully treat your sleep apnea. Therefore, it’s often paired with a CPAP device.
Dental devices are commonly offered by dentists to patients who mention that they snore. Snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea. These devices aren’t meant to substitute CPAP therapy. Like positional therapy, these devices are often used in tandem with CPAP devices.
These sleep apnea treatment devices require a dentist to custom-make a device to either push your lower jaw or your tongue forward. This can help prevent your airways from collapsing as you sleep. However, they remain less effective than CPAP therapy and may even cause issues with the joints that connect your lower jaw to your skull.
While dental devices can help lessen the severity of mild to moderate sleep apnea, most patients who use these devices receive very little continuing care to see if their sleep apnea treatment is working. Also, dental devices may not fully treat your sleep apnea. This means that you may still experience apnea events while you sleep. CPAP therapy is the most effective tool for preventing these events for most sleep apnea patients.
Before CPAP therapy was invented, doctors often recommended surgery for people with sleep apnea, such as the tracheotomy Dr. Sullivan recommended for his patient who first tested the CPAP device. These surgeries generally involve creating more room in your airways. For example, correcting a deviated septum may help you breathe better at night. Another sleep apnea surgery involves removing tissue in your soft palate and throat. In contrast, the Pilar procedure involves implanting polyester rods in your soft palate to make it firmer. Less commonly, surgeons have also used lower jaw advancement surgery for sleep apnea treatment. This procedure involves pushing the lower jaw forward with titanium plates.
While surgery can help treat sleep apnea, it often comes with many risks. Therefore, most physicians recommend trying a CPAP device before choosing surgery. In many cases, surgeons won’t perform more risky procedures for sleep apnea patients until they show that CPAP therapy doesn’t work for them.
More recently, many nasal dilators have been marketed as CPAP therapy alternatives. These come in many shapes and sizes, including nasal strips and plastic nasal cones. They claim to treat sleep apnea by encouraging you to breathe through your nose, rather than your mouth, which can help reduce your chance of snoring. They may also help with snoring due to congestion. A common misconception is that nasal dilators can help treat sleep apnea. However, these are not approved for treating sleep apnea.
Also, nasal adhesives have hit the market for sleep apnea sufferers. These devices claim to increase pressure in your airway by partially closing off as you exhale through your nose. This is supposed to increase pressure in your airway as you breathe out until you breathe in again. However, these devices to have drawbacks. First, if you breathe through your mouth, these devices have no effect, as they only apply to your nostrils. Also, they may not stay on throughout the night as they bond to your nose like how a bandage would. They can also become quite expensive, as they are single-use and your insurance may not cover these devices.
Why CPAP Has Been the Gold Standard for Sleep Apnea Treatment
CPAP devices are an effective, non-invasive sleep apnea treatment option for many sleep apnea sufferers. Many of the alternatives carry risks, high expenses, and are generally less effective than CPAP therapy. In addition, modern CPAP devices allow our sleep team to monitor your therapy and progress remotely, and even make adjustments to help you sleep better.
At Low T Center, we offer full-service sleep apnea treatment to help you improve your sleep quality and overall health. Unlike many others, our sleep apnea clinic provides comprehensive sleep apnea services under one roof, from diagnosis to continued monitoring of your progress. We’ll provide your equipment, make pressure adjustments remotely, and even offer convenient, automatic CPAP supply shipments. Schedule an appointment to talk to one of our providers about your sleep apnea treatment options or order your home sleep apnea test online today for sleep apnea diagnosis.
Disclaimer: This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of Low T Center. You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.