In honor of Sleep Apnea Awareness Week – which runs throughout the first week of October every year and is a little bit like Hanukkah for sleep scientists (eight sleepless nights anybody?) – the American College of Physicians released new guidelines for the treatment of sleep apnea. The resounding results: the best way to treat obstructive sleep apnea is – drumroll please – with CPAP treatment. Yes, CPAP treatment beat out surgical intervention, drug therapy, oral devices, oral implants, among other treatment strategies. Who knows if this news is more exhilarating than the excitement surrounding the season finale of Breaking Bad, but it sure is close.
CPAP gets the world champion belt, because when treating sleep apnea, CPAP therapy should be the first course of action – it’s doctor’s orders!
Researchers have known for a while now that CPAP therapy is the crème de la crème of sleep apnea treatment strategies, but now it is pretty much set in stone. Researchers at the American College of Physicians looked at nearly 50 years of research on the subject of treating sleep apnea, which included past studies, reports and patients files. The first reports date all the way back to the late 1960s – an era when people barely knew what sleep apnea was and when smoking Lucky Strikes was encouraged by physicians to ease morning sickness in pregnant women; it was also 20 years before the CPAP machine was even invented. Not only did researchers look at different treatment options provided, but they also looked at a number of other factors, like patients’ age, sex, race, and even bed partners.
Ah yes, sleep apnea doesn’t make people feel randy now, and it didn’t back then either, but that was only until people started undergoing CPAP treatment. The report, which is more of a firm guideline as to how doctors should proceed with recommending treatment to patients, was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and puts CPAP in the ring with a whole host of therapy solutions for obstructive sleep apnea. The word most commonly used for CPAP treatment: superior. Superior to surgery. Superior to prescription medication. Moreover, researchers point out that many of the benefits of CPAP treatment, which are miniscule, outweigh the risks – whereas surgery and medication have too many risks to actually be beneficial.
Some of the risks of surgery include nerve palsies and paralysis, respiratory failure, hemorrhage and voice changes (not the kind that make you sound like Tom Jones or Susan Boyle). The side effects of drugs include impotency, ejaculation disturbances, and sleepwalking – three things that should never, ever go together. And mandibular advancement devices, or MADs, can cause tooth loss and mouth and jaw damage – yikes. Moreover, researchers suggest losing weight to combat the negative health consequences of the obstructive sleep disorder, especially because so many people with a high body mass index have sleep apnea. At the end of the day, though, CPAP gets the world champion belt, because when treating sleep apnea, CPAP therapy should be the first course of action – it’s doctor’s orders.