CPAP is a common sleep apnea treatment but wearing a mask while sleeping can be cumbersome and intrusive. Luckily, there are some alternatives you can try.
CPAP therapy is considered to be one of the most effective and efficient treatments for sleep apnea. That’s why most sleep specialists and technologists recommend it to deal with OSA and have a sound night’s sleep.
But many patients don’t find this therapy comfortable and prefer to avoid it altogether. If you’re one of those, there’s nothing to worry about! We have compiled a list of the most suitable alternatives to CPAP to treat sleep apnea.
Let’s jump into it!
1. Using Dental/Oral Appliance
In recent years, oral and dental appliances have become a common treatment option for people suffering from sleep apnea. It’s a more comfortable treatment method for people facing difficulties sleeping by wearing a mask.
The AADSM (American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine) suggests that using dental appliances is an effective treatment option that brings positive results.
How Does it work?
The oral appliances for treating sleep apnea slide the jaw forward or hold the tongue of the patient in position. This way, these devices keep the airway from collapsing and allow the patient to breathe comfortably during sleep.
Who Is It For?
Patients who can’t tolerate a CPAP device and have moderate or mild sleep apnea conditions can use oral appliances to sleep well. The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine also recommends this technique to people who want to avoid using CPAP devices.
2. Following a Weight Management Plan
According to an NCBI study, there’s a linear correlation between obstructive sleep apnea and obesity. That’s because obese people usually have extra tissues in their throats and have thick necks that can block the airway.
Weight loss not only alleviates the sleep apnea symptoms but can also improve your cardiovascular health and overall well-being.
An NCBI study suggests that losing 10 to 15 percent weight can reduce the severity of OSA by up to 50 percent.
You can consult with a professional dietician or nutritionist to create a comprehensive dietary plan to lose and maintain weight. Another research shows that a healthy weight can also eliminate the need for long-term CPAP therapy and upper airway surgery.
It’s also important to note that your sleep apnea condition may return if you regain weight.
Who Is It For?
Undergoing a weight management plan is for overweight people. Although decreasing weight may assist, there is no guarantee that it would eliminate your sleep apnea symptoms.
It’s also important to bear in mind that losing weight is unlikely to help individuals who have a small airway or nasal passage.
3. Following Positional Therapy
Some people only experience sleep apnea symptoms when sleeping in the supine position (on their back).
The breathing patterns of such patients return to normal if they start sleeping on their side. According to a study, more than 50 percent of OSA cases are caused by sleeping positions.
Positional therapy aims to bring behavioral changes in order to treat sleep apnea. It might also involve wearing specialized equipment around your waist that keeps you from sleeping on your back.
Who Is It For?
A study published by NCBI in 2012 states that positional therapy can generate positive results and reduce sleep apnea symptoms. Patients with positional sleep apnea who couldn’t use CPAP devices were tested for this study.
4. Changing Your Everyday Habits
There’s a range of lifestyle changes that can help you reduce your obstructive sleep apnea symptoms as well as snoring. You can change some of your habits, such as quit drinking alcohol or smoking.
Alcohol consumption can cause snoring as it relaxes your throat muscles. In worse conditions, your airway may also collapse. People with allergies can also take a decongestant before going to sleep at night in order to improve airflow.
Patients who find it difficult to follow a strict treatment plan and can’t sleep with a CPAP device are also usually recommended to undergo cognitive behavioral therapy.
The decreased saturation of oxygen in your bloodstream is also associated with sleep apnea. Exercising regularly is yet another effective way to have a better sleep. It strengthens your heart, improves your energy levels, and encourages oxygen flow.
5. Undergoing A Surgery
Remember, surgery is the last resort, and it commonly involves extracting extra throat tissues that block or collapse the airway. Some surgeries can be very complex, and others are minimally invasive.
In most cases, sleep apnea treatment entails surgery in any of the following –
-The lower and upper jaw
-Adenoids and tonsils
-Uvula and soft palate
You should ask your doctor or sleep specialist the following questions if you’re suggested to undergo surgery –
-What are the potential side effects and risks?
-Why is surgery a better option than other available treatments?
-How will surgery improve your sleep apnea and snoring?
-What is the probability of a successful outcome?
Bear in mind that surgery isn’t the best solution for every OSA patient. Some people might not experience the same results that others do.
The following are some of the negative aspects of undergoing surgery –
-Overnight hospital stay
-Jaws wired shut for many days
-Restricted diet for many weeks
-Throat swelling and bleeding
In some cases, the advantages of surgery may be temporary, and sleep apnea may reoccur after some time.
Who Is It For?
Oral and CPAP devices are considered to be more effective in treating sleep apnea as compared to surgery. However, if oral and CPAP appliances aren’t working for you, you can discuss all the available surgical options with your doctor.
These are some of the best alternatives to CPAP therapy for those people who can’t tolerate a mask while sleeping. Bear in mind that some lifestyle changes and home remedies can reduce your sleep apnea symptoms.
However, you must not ignore the traditional treatments.
Sometimes surgery and prescribed medications are necessary to get rid of this sleep disorder. It’s advisable to discuss with your doctor before opting for any alternative treatment.