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Wake up happy! Discover the proven sleep apnea treatments that guarantee a healthy and restful sleep!

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Helping yourself to get relief from sleep apnea

These self-help strategies are usually worth a try before turning to costly, inconvenient, or uncomfortable medical procedures.

Stay off your back. Many people snore or experience apnea only when they sleep on their back, a position that allows the tongue and uvula to flop back into the airway. (Night time observation can reveal whether you have such "positional" apnea.) In one recent study, more than half the people with that kind of apnea cured it by learning to sleep on their side, using any of the following techniques: wearing an alarm that beeped whenever they lay on their back; sewing a tennis ball into the back of a pajama top; laying thick pillows length-wise down the bed to keep themselves from rolling over; or even just concentrating on staying off their back.

Lose weight. Most people with apnea are overweight. Even modest weight loss can improve their breathing by thinning the tissues surrounding the airway.

Avoid sleeping pills altogether, and skip alcohol and tranquilizers for at least four hours before bedtime. Those drugs can make the soft tissues in the throat sag even more, and can also weaken the lungs' ability to inhale.

Stop smoking. While smoking itself does not cause sleep apnea, it may contribute to the airway blockage by swelling the tissues of the throat. Smoking may also magnify the oxygen deprivation produced by the apnea.

Check for improvement by having your sleep monitored periodically - every week or two if possible - and retaking the sleep questionnaire every month. Whatever method you try, keep your physician posted on your results so he or she can help decide whether you need additional treatment.

If you find that self-help is not very helpful, you may need professional treatment. Sleep specialists use a test called polysomnography to confirm the diagnosis of sleep apnea, gauge its severity, and adjust the treatment to the individual patient. The test usually requires patients to sleep in a laboratory for a night or two while technicians observe their breathing and monitor airflow, blood-oxygen levels, heart function, and brain waves.

Once polysomnography confirms the diagnosis, patients are fitted with a nose mask attached to an electric pump, which forces air down the airway. The treatment, known as CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), nearly always quiets snoring and prevents apnea. But people need to continue using the machine indefinitely. And some people can't adjust to the mask or the noise of the pump.

.Next: Is my snoring really sleep apnea?