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A sleep apnea chin strap is a device used to help treat mild to moderate sleep apnea, a condition that can cause snoring and interruption of breathing during sleep. The condition can lead to a variety of complications, including frequent headaches, high blood pressure, and heart attack. A sleep apnea chin strap can be used alone or in combination with a positive airway pressure (PAP) device. When used alone, a chin strap helps to keep the mouth closed and the jaw properly aligned, forcing the wearer to breathe through his or her nose and keeping the airways open. When used with a positive airway pressure (PAP) machine, a chin strap can help make the therapy more effective.
The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is caused by the partial collapse of the soft tissue in the back of a person's throat. This collapse may be due to a person's anatomy or from being overweight, and it causes the person to stop breathing, sometimes many times throughout the night. Sleep apnea is also a common cause of snoring, although not all people with the condition snore, and not all those who snore have sleep apnea. If a person is diagnosed with mild or moderate sleep apnea, he or she may be able to correct the problem by wearing a chin strap.
When used alone, a sleep apnea chin strap fits over the top of a person's head and under the chin, keeping the mouth closed. This forces the wearer to breathe through the nose during sleep, which can prevent snoring. It also can help to reposition the jaw, which will sometimes help to keep the airways open. Although treatment with PAP machines is now more common than use of a chin strap, it still can be an effective treatment for some people who suffer from mild or moderate sleep apnea. Sleep apnea chin straps can also be useful for children and others who have trouble tolerating a PAP machine.
In some cases, a sleep apnea chin strap may be prescribed as an accessory to a PAP machine. These machines work by forcing a stream of air through a mask that a person wears over the nose and mouth. The flow of air helps to keep the soft tissue at the back of the throat from collapsing and has been quite successful. This type of treatment, however, is effective only when a person is breathing through the nose. People who breathe through their mouths may wear a chin strap while using a PAP device to force them to breathe through their nose and make the machine more effective.