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Living With Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

If you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), working on lifestyle changes while continuing your doctor's recommended treatment helps manage the condition. Treatments such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or oral appliances (OA) are considered treatments for obstructive sleep apnea but not cures. It is very important to use prescribed CPAP or OAs every time you sleep.

What to Expect

Many of your obstructive sleep apnea symptoms - including snoring, morning headaches, dry mouth, and difficulty waking up—will get better soon after you start treatment. While some symptoms will improve the first night you use treatment, other symptoms may take longer to go away. Daytime sleepiness and your memory improve faster when you wear your CPAP device for the entire night rather than removing it part way through the night. After you start treatment, you'll feel more alert and less sleepy during the day.

It may take you a while to adjust to using CPAP, as sleeping with a mask on is a new experience for most. If you are having a hard time getting used to your CPAP, or if you are still having symptoms after being treated for obstructive sleep apnea, contact your doctor.

If you use CPAP to treat obstructive sleep apnea, you need to regularly clean the device and replace the supplies. Many CPAP machines store information about how well they are working. Visit your doctor regularly to review the information on your CPAP machine and to make sure it's working well. If you use an OA, keep it clean, and follow up with a sleep specialist and a dentist as OAs may cause your teeth to shift.

If you had surgery to treat obstructive sleep apnea, you may need a follow-up sleep study to make sure your obstructive sleep apnea has improved. Over time, scar tissue or relaxation of your muscles can cause obstructive sleep apnea to return, so keep your doctor informed about any sleep symptoms you experience.

Managing the Disease

Leading a healthy lifestyle will make obstructive sleep apnea less severe. If you are overweight or obese, weight loss can improve or even cure obstructive sleep apnea. Getting a good night of sleep on a regular basis is also important, as sleep deprivation can make obstructive sleep apnea worse. Finally, avoiding tobacco, which can irritate the airway, and not drinking alcohol before going to sleep will make a difference in how you feel.

You also may need to repeat a sleep study if you gain or lose weight or if you have surgery on your airway. Keep in touch with your doctor, especially if any of your symptoms return. Sometimes, these symptoms are signs of other sleep problems or medical issues, medication side effects, or a sign that you're not getting enough total sleep.

Finding Support

Finding support is important with any disorder. Ask your doctor about any local obstructive sleep apnea support groups in your area. The Lung Association recommends patients and caregivers join our Living with Lung Disease Support Community to connect with others facing this disease. You can also call the Lung Association's Lung Helpline at 1-800-LUNGUSA to talk to a trained respiratory professional who can help answer your questions and connect you with support.

Educate your family and friends about obstructive sleep apnea so that they can better support you.

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    This content was developed in partnership with the CHEST Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians.

    Last updated April 5, 2018.

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