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Treatment

Obstructive sleep apnoea

Treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)  may include making lifestyle changes and using breathing apparatus while you sleep.

Lifestyle changes

In most cases, you should make healthy lifestyle changes, including:

Sleeping on your side, rather than on your back, may also help relieve the symptoms of OSA.

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)

A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device is used to treat OSA.

This is a small pump that delivers a continuous supply of compressed air through a mask. It covers your nose or your nose and mouth. The compressed air prevents your throat closing.

It can reduce symptoms such as snoring and tiredness. It can also reduce the risk of complications of OSA. For example, high blood pressure.

Possible side effects of using a CPAP device can include:

  • mask discomfort
  • nasal congestion, runny nose or irritation
  • difficulty breathing through your nose
  • headaches and ear pain
  • stomach pain and flatulence (wind)

Mandibular advancement device (MAD)

A mandibular advancement device (MAD) is a dental appliance used to treat mild OSA. 

They're not usually recommended for more severe OSA. But it might be an option if you're unable to use a CPAP device.

A MAD is like a gum shield. You wear it over your teeth when you're asleep. It's designed to hold your jaw and tongue forward. This increases the space at the back of your throat and reduces the narrowing of your airway.

A MAD should be made by a dentist with training and experience in treating sleep apnoea.

Talk to your dentist if you have any dental caps, crowns or bridgework.

Surgery for OSA

Surgery is not usually recommended. It is not as effective as CPAP at controlling the symptoms. It carries the risk of more serious complications and is usually a last resort. There are a range of surgical treatments.

Tonsillectomy

The tonsils are removed, if they're enlarged and blocking your airway when you sleep.

Adenoidectomy

Adenoids are only present in children. Adenoids are removed, if they're enlarged and are blocking the airway during sleep. Adenoids are small lumps of tissue at the back of the throat above the tonsils.

Tracheostomy

A tube is inserted into your neck to allow you to breathe freely. Even if the airways in your upper throat are blocked.

Weight loss (bariatric) surgery

The size of the stomach is reduced if you're very obese and this is making your sleep apnoea worse.

Soft palate implants

These are implants that are inserted into the soft palate to alleviate snoring only. The soft pallet is part of the roof of the mouth. They make the soft pallete stiffer and less likely to vibrate and cause an obstruction.

It is only recommended in rare cases.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.

page last reviewed: 22/12/2020
next review due: 22/12/2023

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.