People who suffer from snoring or sleep apnea are often unaware of the severity of their condition and the disruption it causes for those around them. Those who do seek treatment for their symptoms may feel as though medical therapy is the only solution. As a result, individuals who snore or experience sleep apnea may become overly dependent on medical technology as they seek to cure their disorders.
Snoring and other problems associated with sleep apnea are the result of airway obstruction, often from excess or relaxed throat tissue that vibrates during sleep. Treatments for snoring and sleep apnea are mostly focused on opening the airway to facilitate healthy breathing and prevent additional complications. These treatments range from nasal strips to full oral devices.
Less-intensive treatment options to open the nasal airway include nasal strips, decongestants, and over-the-counter nasal sprays. These options are not always effective, however, and can damage the lining of the nose or encourage dependence. More-intensive medical treatments for snoring and sleep apnea include oral devices to bring the jaw forward and open the airway, although these may not fit well or may be uncomfortable to wear every night. Additionally, oral devices often have lower compliance rates that render them less effective. Surgery is sometimes suggested for severe snoring, but it is not very effective for reducing sleep apnea.
Medical research has recently emphasized the efficacy of behavioral methods instead of medication or surgery for treating sleep disorders like snoring and sleep apnea. Because approximately 56% of patients with obstructive sleep apnea are position-dependent snorers, many of those with this condition could benefit greatly from positional therapy enabling them to sleep on their side instead of on their back. Other lifestyle changes can be a helpful supplement or an alternative to medical treatment for less-severe cases of snoring and sleep apnea, such as losing weight, quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and exercising.