ZocdocAnswersCan sleep apnea be treated with medication?

Question

Can sleep apnea be treated with medication?

I wake up and I haven't been breathing. What pills should I take?

Answer

Obstructive sleep apnea is a common problem among patients. It affects children and adults. Apnea is defined as the cessation of breathing during sleep for at least 10 seconds. Obstructive sleep apnea is when apneas are caused by anatomic narrowing or obstruction of the upper airway. If you are concerned that you may have obstructive sleep apnea, you should see your physician and discuss this with them. The symptoms that most patients have that are associated with obstructive sleep apnea include snoring, witnessed apneic events (someone sees or hears you gasping for breath during your sleep), daytime sleepiness, chronic mouth breathing and decreased work performance. Obstructive sleep apnea can be caused by collapse of the tonsils into the airway while sleeping at night if the tonsils are enlarged. Enlarged adenoids can also be associated with OSA. Obstructive sleep apnea is diagnosed with a sleep study. This measures the number of apneic episodes per hour. Greater than 5-10 episodes per hour suggests sleep apnea. The treatment of sleep apnea is usually with use of CPAP, which is continuous positive airway pressure. This gives constant pressure to maintain the airway open while sleeping. There are no pills that will cure sleep apnea. Weight loss can help to decrease sleep apnea. If there are other medical diseases that are contributing to your sleep apnea such as nasal congestion sometimes a nasal steroid spray can help with that. You should speak to your doctor about this to see if you may need a sleep study.

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