This week the American College of Physicians (ACP) issued new guidelines for the treatment of sleep apnea. Their guidelines are intended to help doctors steer their patients toward the best treatment plan for the condition.

Understanding the ACP’s Recommendations

The ACP recommended the following three approaches to sleep apnea treatment:

  • People suffering obstructive sleep apnea should try to lose weight if they are overweight or obese
  • People with obstructive sleep apnea should use Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) for their primary treatment
  • For people who don’t tolerate CPAP, oral appliance therapy may be a good alternative

The new recommendations are based on a comprehensive review of all studies performed on sleep apnea from 1966-September 2010, looking at the effects of sleep apnea, including:

  • Heart attack and other cardiovascular disease
  • Death
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Oxygen deprivation at night
  • Diminished quality of life

They also looked at the impact various treatment options had on the condition before making recommendations.

The Problem with the ACP’s Recommendations

While lifestyle interventions, including an attempt to get more exercise, eat better, and lose weight, should be a part of any treatment plan, leaning on it as the primary recommendation is problematic for a number of reasons. First, weight loss may take a long time before it actually impacts a person’s sleep apnea, and many people will benefit from getting effective interventions sooner.

Second, sleep apnea may actually cause weight gain and make it hard for people with the condition to lose weight. Sleep deprivation associated with sleep apnea may influence insulin tolerance, and two hormones that affect the way the body uses or stores fat: ghrelin and leptin. Thus, the ACP’s recommendations that people lose weight to treat sleep apnea, run up against evidence that people can’t lose weight until they get treatment for sleep apnea.

We Can Help You Find the Right Treatment Option

The ACP’s guidelines are generalized and can serve as a useful starting point, but they are not necessarily right for every sleep apnea sufferer. People are encouraged to talk to their doctor and a sleep dentist about their treatment options so they can learn which treatment or treatments are likely to give them the best results.

If you have been diagnosed with or suspect you may have sleep apnea, please contact the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha, Nebraska for advice on how to get the treatment for your sleep apnea.