While you were sleeping, you may have woken up hundreds of times without knowing it—if you have sleep apnea, that is. Experts put the number of Americans with sleep apnea between 12 and 18 million, including many who are untreated and undiagnosed. People with sleep apnea may snore heavily, wake up with headaches, have trouble sleeping through the night, or feel drowsy throughout the day.

Types of Sleep Apnea

The most common type of sleep apnea is the obstructive type, which occurs when your airway becomes blocked, causing you to stop breathing hundreds of times during the night, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. Treating obstructive sleep apnea is crucial because doctors have linked the condition to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes.


Central sleep apnea means your brain fails to tell you to breathe while sleeping, and mixed, or complex, sleep apnea is a combination of types. These kinds of sleep apnea are less common and more difficult to treat. In all cases, it's important to talk to your doctor about the most appropriate treatments and coping techniques.

Home Remedies

If you have obstructive sleep apnea, depending on the severity, you may find that small lifestyle changes can improve your sleep. The American Academy of Family Physicians suggests the following if you have mild sleep apnea:


  • Sleep on your side.
  • Lying on your side, instead of on your back, helps keep airways open.

  • Stay away from alcohol and sleep medications.
  • They relax your muscles, including the ones in the back of your throat, which most often cause breathing obstructions.

  • Lose weight.
  • Extra weight increases fatty tissue in your throat, which can obstruct airways.

  • Stop smoking.
  • Smoking may inflame your airways, making breathing more difficult.

Medical Devices and Treatments

More severe cases of sleep apnea may call for one or more of the following treatments.


  • CPAP.
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is the most commonly prescribed treatment for sleep apnea. It involves wearing a mask at night to deliver an ongoing flow of air to keep your throat and nasal passages open.

  • Dental devices.
  • A dentist or orthodontist can create a special mouthpiece designed to keep your airways open at night.

  • Special pillows.
  • Certain pillows may help prevent you from sleeping on your back.

  • Surgery.
  • The most common surgery to treat sleep apnea is uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), in which the doctor removes the tonsils, part of the roof of the mouth, and the uvula (which hangs down in the back of the throat).