My husband with sleep apnea can't use a mask, what other treatments are available?

56june asked...

My husband has been diagnosed with sleep apnea and also insomnia. He struggles to get to sleep, so he won't wear the mask.He says he can't get to sleep with it on. Any suggestions?

Expert Answer

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

Sleep apnea occurs when a person's breathing stops and starts during sleep, usually from an obstruction in the airway. This means that the brain is not getting enough oxygen during sleep, causing daytime fatigue and headaches. The sleep quality is poor, as the person will wake up alot at night, causing insomnia.

Many people struggle with wearing the mask (BiPAP/CPAP) for sleep apnea, so your husband is not alone. In mild cases of sleep apnea, losing weight, avoiding sleeping pills, stopping smoking, and avoiding alcohol can help. Sleeping on the back should also be avoided. There are dental devices that can be made that help keep the airway open during sleep. These devices are specifically designed by dental professionals with to treat sleep apnea. You can look on the internet to see if one is available in your area.

There are medical facilities that offer surgery for sleep apnea, fixing problems that affect the airway. This includes deviated septum repair or enlarged tonsils removal. There is also a procedure that removes soft tissue on the back of the throat and the roof of the mouth, increasing the opening of the airway.

You already know about the CPAP, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)device. This treatment is a mask which is worn over the nose and mouth while you sleep. The mask is hooked up to a machine that delivers a continuous flow of air into the airway at a positive pressure, which stops the apnea. Just so you know, this is considered by many to be the best treatment for sleep apnea.

Hope this helps!