Sleep apnea is the inability to have a continuous uninterrupted night’s sleep. It is a silent disorder but can cause a range of problems, from mild to severe.
Some people may not even be aware that they are having a mild problem with their breathing. But the truth is that if untreated, the condition can progress to a serious form and even cause life-threatening sleep disorders.
There are two different types of treatment for sleep apnea: a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine and oral therapy. In either of these treatments, the aim is to keep the airways open and the patient awake during sleep. The more that the airways stay open, the more comfortable the patient will be and the less sleep he or she will get.
In either treatment, they both help by relaxing muscles of the mouth and neck to help with breathing. However, over the years there has been some evidence that the continuous use of a CPAP machine actually reduces sleep quality for the patient.
The solution? To use devices that are similar to nose strips, but which have an electrode fitted into them to monitor the patients’ breathing.
When a sleep apnea treatment that involves the use of nasal strips is used, the strip pushes against the soft palate while the patient sleeps. This reduces the amount of air flowing into the airway during sleep and causes the tissues in the throat to relax, allowing air to pass through easier.
Because the sufferer feels little pressure being applied to the area where the strip is, it is easier to use than the traditional CPAP machine, and because it is no longer attached to the patient’s face, there is no chance of it affecting the patient’s facial features. There is also less of a risk of injury when using a strip rather than a mask.
While there is much confusion about whether nasal strips are better than CPAP machines, they actually work well in most cases. But not all sufferers find the benefits as great as others; those who suffer the most severe symptoms feel that using the strips is less uncomfortable than using a mask.
The benefit of using a mask is that it is less painful, but it does not address the main problem with sleep apnea. The problem with the mask is that, while it improves the patient’s breathing, it does not allow the airway to become smaller. The airway becomes narrower as the mask presses against the face and the muscles in the face become used to the mask and therefore do not permit the opening of the airway.
With continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), higher pressure is pushed up into the patient’s throat and the airways become smaller, giving the airway a chance to expand, resulting in sleep. Masking masks are placed over the nose, the nasal or sinus muscles close, and a small pressure is applied to the throat and nose.
Because the nose and throat muscles become relaxed, the patient can breathe normally in spite of having an electrode fitted in their nose and the throat becoming more relaxed. Nasal strips offer the advantage of the patients not feeling any pressure being applied to their airways.