5 Types Of Sleep Apnea Surgery

Updated October, 2020
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While there are many surgical procedures for sleep apnea, the 5 most common are Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), Septoplasty and Turbinate Reduction, Radiofrequency volumetric tissue reduction, Genioglossus Advancement, and Maxillomandibular advancement. Sleep apnea surgery is usually recommended if primary treatments like CPAP and oral devices are unsuccessful in treating your sleep apnea.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea, which happens when throat muscles relax and block your airway. Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain doesn't send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. Complex sleep apnea syndrome is when you have both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea simultaneously.

What causes sleep apnea?

Obesity, smoking, alcohol, sedatives, other other medical conditions can cause obstructive sleep apnea. Heart disorders, strokes, or using narcotic pain medication can cause central sleep apnea.  More men have sleep apnea than women, and the elderly are also at risk. Making healthy lifestyle choices decreases your risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea.

Severity levels of sleep apnea

Sleep apnea severity is divided into three categories: mild, moderate, or severe. Sleep apnea severity depends on how many times your breathing stops when you're asleep. The more severe your sleep apnea is, the more at risk you are for other health problems.

  • Mild - your breathing is interrupted 5-15 times per hour.
  • Moderate - your breathing is interrupted 15-30 times per hour.
  • Severe - your breathing is interrupted 30+ times per hour.

Is there a surgery for sleep apnea?

There are many different surgical procedures for sleep apnea. Usually, surgery isn't required unless primary treatments like CPAP or oral devices aren't working.

1. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)

This is a soft palate surgery that removes and/or repositions excess throat tissue to make the airway wider. Although it's one of the most popular sleep apnea procedures, UPPP alone is unlikely to cure moderate to severe sleep apnea.

2. Septoplasty and Turbinate Reduction

These procedures open your nasal passage to allow for easier airflow. Septoplasy straightens a bent or deviated septum, while turbinate reduction reduces the curved structures that stick out from the side of the nose.

3. Radiofrequency volumetric tissue reduction

This option is for people with mild to moderate sleep apnea. It uses controlled cauterization to shrink and tighten the tissues in and around the throat.

4. Genioglossus Advancement

This surgery moves the major tongue attachment forward, opening up space for breathing behind the tongue. It involves making a cut in the lower jaw where the tongue attaches and moving the cut piece forward.

5. Maxillomandibular advancement

This option is for severe sleep apnea. It moves your upper and/or lower jaw forward to enlarge the space for breathing. Your jaws may be wired shut for a few days.

Are there other ways to treat sleep apnea?

There are lots of ways to treat central and obstructive sleep apnea without surgery, but you'll need a prescription from your doctor for them.

  • CPAP machine- Delivers continuous air pressure through a mask while you sleep. CPAP devices keep your airways open to prevent sleep apnea symptoms.
  • Oral appliances- These devices keep your airways open while you sleep, and can be made by your dentist.
  • Supplemental oxygen- Devices that deliver oxygen to your lungs may help if you have central sleep apnea.
  • Adaptive servo-ventilation- An airflow device that learns your sleep patterns and uses pressure to normalize your breathing.

Are there alternative things that can help?

There's lots of at-home tricks that may help you ease sleep apnea symptoms. Lifestyle changes like drinking less alcohol before bed or quitting smoking may decrease symptoms. Essential oils with anti-congestion properties or sleep apnea pillows may lead to a better quality sleep. Many people who suffer with sleep apnea have opted for an adjustable bed to raise their heads while sleeping, which opens the airways and prevents sleep disruption.

Can you cure your sleep apnea with a new mattress?

The short answer is no; a new mattress can't cure your sleep apnea. The good news? It can help—a lot.

One of the most overlooked changes you can make toward improving your sleep apnea continues to be a new, hypoallergenic mattress (with an adjustable base to elevate your body, like a Saatva). A new mattress not only can help you breathe better, but it serves to create a more relaxed, conducive sleep environment.

Devices, surgery, better eating, and a healthier lifestyle all contribute toward improving your sleep apnea. But if you have the money and your mattress's lifespan is teetering on 7+ years, we recommend replacing it.

The #1 Best Mattress For Sleep Apnea

Saatva is our top pick for the #1 best mattress for Sleep Apnea in 2020! They're a luxury hypoallergenic mattress shipped directly to your door (with full-service white-glove delivery). They have over 50,000 reviews and continue to be one of the most reputable, established brands in the industry (founded in 2009). Check their price, here

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