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Treatment - Obstructive sleep apnoea

Treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea depends on how mild or severe it is.

Lifestyle changes can sometimes help treat mild obstructive sleep apnoea.

If your sleep apnoea is moderate or severe, your doctor may recommend using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.

Some people may need surgery, but this is rare.

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes can help ease symptoms of mild sleep apnoea and improve your sleep.

Your doctor may recommend that you:

  • lose weight
  • give up smoking
  • cut down on alcohol
  • avoid some medicines
  • change your sleeping position

CPAP machine

A CPAP machine is often used for sleep apnoea. This is a small pump that gives you a continuous supply of compressed air through a mask.

The mask covers your nose or your nose and mouth. The compressed air stops your throat from closing.

The CPAP machine can ease symptoms such as snoring and tiredness. It can also reduce the risk of sleep apnoea complications. For example, high blood pressure.

You can have problems with a CPAP machine.

These include:

  • the mask can be uncomfortable
  • nasal congestion, runny nose or irritation
  • difficulty breathing through your nose
  • headaches and ear pain
  • stomach pain and farting

The drugs payment scheme can help with the costs to rent a CPAP machine

Mandibular advancement device (MAD)

A mandibular advancement device (MAD) is used to treat mild obstructive sleep apnoea.

It can be an option for more severe sleep apnoea if you cannot use a CPAP machine.

A MAD fits around your teeth, holding your jaw and tongue forward. This increases the space at the back of your throat and reduces the narrowing of your airway.

The device should be fitted by a dentist who has experience in treating sleep apnoea.


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

Surgery for obstructive sleep apnoea

Surgery is not usually recommended for obstructive sleep apnoea. For most people, it is considered only if other treatments have not helped.

Types of surgery for obstructive sleep apnoea


This is where your tonsils are removed. Your tonsils may be enlarged, blocking your airway when you sleep.


Adenoids are small lumps of tissue at the back of the throat above the tonsils. A child might have their adenoids removed if they are blocking their airway during sleep.


A tracheostomy is when your surgeon makes an opening into your windpipe (trachea) through your neck. They put a tube into the opening to let air in. It is sometimes used for severe sleep apnoea.

Weight loss (bariatric) surgery

Weight loss surgery is done to reduce the size of your stomach. The weight loss helps ease sleep apnoea symptoms. This type of surgery is not suitable for everyone.

Soft palate implants

The soft pallet is part of the roof of the mouth. Your surgeon will insert a soft palate implant to stop you snoring. It is only recommended in rare cases.

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

Page last reviewed: 13 September 2023
Next review due: 13 September 2026

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