One of the easiest ways to at least ameliorate the problem is to stop sleeping on your back because that position allows gravity to collapse your throat. Stomach sleeping, however, puts gravity back on your side, pulling the tissues of your mouth and throat forward.
Side sleeping helps, too, particularly if you can sleep on your left side because it creates optimal blood flow and reduces the chance of airway “collapse.” Right-side sleeping, while not as effective as left-side sleeping, helps airflow too.
If side-sleeping positions are alien to you, you might try employing a thicker pillow to support your head. Alternately, you could buy one of those Japanese love pillows (dakimakura) that have an Anime babe painted on them. A regular body pillow would work, too, but they’re a little less exciting. Either way, they can help keep the body in the same position all night.
Easy alternative treatments for minor or transient cases of sleep apnea include rinsing the sinuses at night using a Neti pot, using nasal decongestants or nasal strips, avoiding excess alcohol, and losing weight.
In more serious cases, there are more serious solutions. One is wearing a “continuous positive airway pressure” (CPAP) device where a small compressor blows air into a mask worn over the nose and mouth. The device was reverse-engineered from a common vacuum cleaner in the 1980s by an Aussie doctor. You might have seen one on the “Sopranos” episode where Tony, upon seeing a doctor slip a CPAP mask over Junior’s head, cracked wise and said, “How many MiGs you shoot down last week?”
Anyhow, it’s easy to see why CPAP compliance is low, anywhere from 29% to 83%, depending on what survey you believe. They’re uncomfortable, and they’re definitely not sexy.
The remaining alternatives consist of a variety of surgeries, the exact type depending on the OSA patient’s particular situation. Some may require palate surgery or an “uvulopalatopharyngoplasty,” where they remove part of the palate, along with the tonsils and the uvula.
Adenoid or tonsil removal is also applicable in certain patients, as is laser or cautery assisted uvulopalatoplasty, tongue surgery, nerve stimulation, permanent tracheotomy, bariatric surgery (simply to reduce body weight), and even skeletal surgery where they rearrange your jaw. Others find relief in palate implants where the doc puts rods in the throat, upon which scar tissue forms to stiffen up the palate.