How can my husband cure his sleep apnea?

This question was asked in Greenville, South Carolina on 05/07/2012.
My husband has a very hard time sleeping at night. He snores very loud and he sometimes stops breathing .Not sure if this helps, but the little thing that hangs down in your mouth near your tongue, his is so oversized, it actually sits on his tongue. We have tried everything; sleep medicine, nose strips, humidifier etc. He is self-employed and has no insurance, so I really need someone to help us. He has had friends pass away from sleep apnea and I sure don’t want him to be next. He hasn’t had a full night’s sleep in I don’t know how long. He’s a very hard working dad and husband and he deserves all the help he can get at this point. Thanks for listening and I hope someone can help.

Doctors Answers (3)

J. Douglas Hudson, MD, DABSM
Answered on: 5/10/2012

Curing sleep apnea is difficult although surgery to eliminate obstruction to air flow in the throat occasionally works. You would need to be evaluated by an Ear Nose and Throat physician. The uvula (that hangs down and touches the tongue) is likely enlarged due to snoring. Removing the uvula rarely helps with sleep apnea or snoring. The treatment for sleep apnea which works better than most any other treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Ideally, a sleep study is done to assess the severity of the problem. Then, another night in the sleep lab is needed to determine the pressure settings of the CPAP. However, with no insurance company involved, I would think he could just begin wearing a CPAP with auto titrating features. In other words, the machine will decide which pressure to provide to open up the airway, stop the apnea, stop the snoring, allow for a night's sleep and, most importantly, provide a refreshed feeling in the daytime with a reduction in the risk for developing high blood pressure, strokes or heart attacks. This is not the ideal approach but often works. Your family physician can order an auto titrating CPAP if he/she wishes. Payment plans can usually be arranged with the company that sells the machine. None of the treatments he has tried never work to treat sleep apnea. He could take a sleeping pill if the CPAP is in place.

Richard J. Schumann Jr., MD
Answered on: 5/7/2012 9

Sleep apnea is a very serious disorder and could be fatal as his friends and their families have come to know and understand. It sounds as if he needs to have a sleep specialist evaluate and treate him as soon as possible. If diagnostic testing is cost prohibitive then a Home Sleep Test for a few nights follow up by a titration if it is positive would start to address this problem If he is overweight then a medically supervised weight loss regimen would definitely be of benefit as well. He should take a proactive approach to this and see someone to help on all fronts.

Gary K. Zammit, Ph.D.
Answered on: 5/7/2012 9

Although I understand that insurance coverage may be an issue, the first step that you and your husband should take is to speak to his primary care doctor or a board certified sleep specialist in your area. Snoring can be a warning sign of sleep apnea, a sleep-related breathing disorder. Sleep apnea is more common in men, especially those middle-aged or older, and especially in those that are overweight or obese. Some anatomic factors contribute to the development of sleep apnea, such as a large uvula (the "little thing that hangs down" that you mentioned...) Sleep apnea can have serious consequences, including increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and irregular heartbeats, and is associated with higher mortality rates. Therefore, even though you may have to pay out-of-pocket for services, it can be worth it.