I'm male, 35, and was diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea in 2003 after having several sleep studies done. I've had sleep apnea symptoms since I was a child. I had always been active, played sports, and stayed in shape. I was never overweight. The common mis-conception of having sleep apnea is that only overweight people have it. Yes, that can defiantly contribute to the airways being blocked, but it's not the sole reason. I was put on the CPAP in 2003, used it for 4 years and it became unbearable to use. So, I stopped using it and continued to suffer. Nothing seemed to help. In 2010, I heard about a surgery called Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP - removal of tonsils, adenoids, uvula, and a light trim of the soft palate) and went to a specialist to discuss options. After a thorough examination, the doctor said that my neck was abnormally large and my tonsils and adenoids were "freakin huge". His words. He said I was defiantly a candidate for the surgery. I decided to go for it. The recovery was horrible, the absolute worst pain of my life, but the outcome has been life changing. I no longer need to use a CPAP and I no longer have the symptoms that come along with having sleep apnea. My number went from 72 episodes an hour, to 42 within the first 6 months after having the surgery. I am now under 12 episodes an hour, which is acceptably normal.
I'm not saying to run out and try to get this surgery done. The results are different for everybody. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. If you haven't already, get a sleep study done and see where you are at. If weight is the main issue, try your best to loose it. If it's a deviated septum, large tonsils and adenoids, the doctor may recommend surgery. Who knows. As fas as medication for sleep apnea, I wish… Nothing yet.
If you have anxiety, depression, etc etc…. Sleep apnea will intensify it by a thousand because you are not sleeping! If you take medications like Xanex, Ativan, Valium, sleep aids, and you take it before bed…. Yes, it will help you fall asleep initially, but your apnea will get worse throughout the night. These are medications that relax the muscles and can assist in constricting the airways. The same goes for drinking, if you drink before bed, it relaxes the muscles and you will not breathe as well. Trust me, I've had more of those nights then I care to remember. If you smoke, try to quit or at least cut way back. This can also make apnea worse.
Here are a few things that I found helped with my sleep apnea before I had the surgery:
Exercise (not right before bed / try for morning-late afternoon/early evening if possible)
Do not eat before bed or have late night snacks (allow 3 hours if possible for your food to start digesting)
Do not take anything that acts as sedative before bed, including sleep meds
If you drink alcohol, give yourself 3 hours between your last drink and bed
Sleep on your side
Use one pillow (head/neck should not be bunched up or tilted)
Do not over sleep. If you can't sleep, get up and try again later.
Try breathing exercises which can help open passage ways and help with anxiety/stress (I use 4-7-8 / you can look it up online)
Yoga? I've never tried it, but heard it helps
If you have any questions about my experience with sleep apnea, feel free to ask.