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.