Sleep apnea is a potentially deadly condition that impacts many aspects of your body and mind. The effects can not only put you at an increased risk of an early death from numerous causes–heart failure, stroke, car accidents, suicide, dementia, and more–but it can also make it hard to live a good life in your limited years. This makes many people wonder: can sleep apnea (and its effects) be reversed?
We’ll break this down into two different forms of the question. First: Can sleep apnea treatment reverse the effects of sleep apnea? Second: Can you reverse or cure sleep apnea itself?
This discussion is general and theoretical, focused on obstructive sleep apnea. The best way to understand how sleep apnea treatment can help you is to talk to an Omaha sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.
Can the Effects of Sleep Apnea Be Reversed?
Sleep apnea treatment can take many forms. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is the most common treatment, using forced air to keep your airway from collapsing. Oral appliance therapy repositions your jaw to better support your tongue and airway. Surgery might remove potential obstructions. Surgery might also place an implant that stimulates your tissues to keep your airway open. An Omaha sleep dentist can help you decide which is best for you.
These treatments can reduce or eliminate apneic episodes: moments where your breathing stops. However, does this reverse the effects of sleep apnea? Yes, in several ways. Science suggests that treatment reverses the effects of sleep apnea on your:
This goes a long way toward reversing sleep apnea for all practical purposes.
Restoring a Youthful Appearance
Sleep apnea can make you look older. Stress hormones from apneic episodes damage your skin, and a lack of restful sleep makes you look fatigued. However, sleep apnea treatment can reverse these effects on appearance, making you look more alert, attractive, and younger.
Repairing Brain Damage
People with sleep apnea can have problems with cognitive function including memory. These problems with brain function correspond to physical brain damage caused by sleep apnea. Studies suggest, though, that sleep apnea treatment can reverse brain damage and improve cognitive function.
Restoring Normal Weight
Being overweight contributes to sleep apnea, but sleep apnea can also make you gain weight. People with sleep apnea have a hard time losing weight and building muscle. Sleep apnea treatment makes it easier to lose weight and get the exercise necessary to build muscle.
Recovery from Heart Damage
Sleep apnea causes numerous cardiovascular problems. Together, these are the leading causes of sleep-apnea-related death. Among these are damage to the heart related to high blood pressure and the resulting impairment of heart function. However, some studies suggest that treatment can reverse heart damage related to sleep apnea.
Can Sleep Apnea Be Cured?
Now it’s time to consider whether sleep apnea can truly be cured. Let’s distinguish between what we mean here by a treatment and a cure. A treatment is something that allows you to manage a disease or condition, reducing, eliminating, or even reversing its effects, but must be used regularly or continuously to provide benefit. A cure is something used once to reduce, eliminate, or reverse the effects permanently or semi-permanently.
We’ll consider three different possible sleep apnea cures so you can judge for yourself.
Lifestyle Changes to Cure Sleep Apnea
For many people with sleep apnea, the challenge is weight gain and a lack of muscle tone. For these people, lifestyle changes such as weight loss and exercise can effectively eliminate obstructive sleep apnea. Coupled with positional therapy and avoiding alcohol too close to bedtime, people can get rid of even severe sleep apnea in some cases.
There are some caveats. First, it doesn’t work for everyone. There are plenty of thin, fit people with sleep apnea. Second, you have to keep it up. Your apnea will likely return if you stop exercising and/or gain weight. This makes it more like a treatment rather than a cure.
Surgery to Cure Sleep Apnea
Some surgical procedures can offer long-term relief from sleep apnea. Surgical treatments like uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) remove tissues that collapse the airway. These procedures have relatively high risk but low success rates. Most studies suggest that the success rate is 65% or less initially, with many people seeing their results diminish over time. Probably less than 50% of people see long-term reduction of sleep apnea with UPPP.
Surgeons may also place a nerve stimulation device to help your body keep your airway open. It’s like a pacemaker for your throat. The best of these implanted devices, like Inspire, have a proven success rate of 66% to 75%, and are proven to provide relief for at least five years in most cases. Note that this isn’t a cure per se. In most cases, people see a significant, lasting reduction in the severity of their sleep apnea, but they still have sleep apnea that may need treatment.
Oral Appliances to Cure Sleep Apnea
In addition to oral appliances that hold your airway open, oral appliances can enlarge your jaw space making more room for your tongue, which can help avoid airway blockage. Ideally, this will greatly reduce your sleep apnea symptoms.
In a recent study, the leading appliance of this type demonstrated a 28% cure rate for sleep apnea. This means that 28% of people treated had no sleep apnea after treatment. Overall, about 82% saw some improvement in their sleep apnea, and 64% saw their sleep apnea improve by at least a full category.
Treatment and Cures to Reverse Sleep Apnea in Omaha
If you have sleep apnea, you have many treatment options in Omaha. At the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center, we work hard to pair people with the best treatment for them. This might be a treatment that can reliably reverse the effects of sleep apnea, or an attempt to cure the condition, eliminating the need for treatment altogether. Our Omaha sleep dentists can discuss your options and understand your best choice.
Please call (402) 493-4175 or use our online form to request an appointment at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center, serving Omaha from North Park.