Treatment – Medication

Medications used alone are of limited benefit for the successful treatment of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. They may be most useful in cases of mild apnea or used as part of an overall treatment program.


There is no role for sedative/hypnotic agents - they destabilize the upper airway in sleep, impede arousal, potentiate airway closure and potentiate oxygen desaturation.

Nasal sprays

Over-the-counter nasal sprays that help clear the nasal passages can be habit-forming and should not be used for more than a few days. Prescription nasal sprays can help unblock the nose, but sometimes take days or weeks to work. Nasal sprays are usually not helpful if there is a permanent blockage caused by a growth, deviated septum, etc.


Medications to relieve congestion in the nose are sometimes helpful, but are not considered to be a treatment for sleep apnea itself. Although decongestants may help you breathe better, they can cause difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or both.

Respiratory stimulants

Protriptyline is one medication used to treat mild cases of apnea. It is an antidepressant that decreases REM (dreaming) sleep, a time when apneas are likely to be longer and more frequent. Protriptyline may help strengthen and tone the muscles of the throat. It can produce mild side effects (such as dry mouth and constipation), and is not recommended for people with high blood pressure or an abnormal heart rhythm.