When we discuss obstructive sleep apnea treatment, the first image that often comes to mind is a mask, a hose, and a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. While effective, CPAP therapy is not always the most comfortable or practical solution for everyone.
Many individuals struggle with the inconvenience and discomfort of wearing a mask during sleep or find the noise of the machine disruptive. The good news is that sleep apnea can be treated through ways that do not involve CPAP, thanks to an array of alternative treatments.
These non-CPAP treatment methods for sleep apnea offer both natural and non-invasive ways to help people with sleep apnea symptoms. Though they may not substitute CPAP for those with severe sleep apnea, these alternative sleep apnea treatments act as complementary or primary treatments for mild to moderate cases.
Here are some of the best alternatives to CPAP:
1. Adopting Lifestyle Changes
Adopting lifestyle changes is one effective method of treating sleep apnea without CPAP. These changes can address the root causes of OSA (obstructive sleep apnea), such as obesity, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption.
Simple lifestyle adjustments that can help manage sleep apnea include:
- Aim for weight loss through a healthy diet and exercise.
- Shedding excess pounds can reduce pressure on the airway, leading to improved breathing patterns during sleep.
- Weight loss might be an effective approach for those with mild or positional sleep apnea (occurring when lying in specific positions).
- Quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption.
- Sleeping on your side to prevent airway obstruction.
- Establishing a regular sleep schedule and creating a soothing pre-sleep routine.
2. Integrating Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliance therapy is increasingly popular as a handy CPAP alternative treatment. These tailor-made devices move the jaw forward, preventing the airway from collapsing and thus reducing obstructive sleep apnea symptoms. They’re not only comfortable and easy to use, but they’re also effective for managing mild to moderate sleep apnea.
Plus, they’re portable and don’t need any power supply, making them an ideal companion for regular travelers.
Mandibular Advancement Device
The most common type of appliance is the mandibular advancement device, which moves your mandible (lower jaw or jawbone) forward to determine the best position where you may gain the most benefit.
Here’s what the process looks like:
- Once you begin to use your sleep apnea oral appliance, you will be evaluated for proper fit and effectiveness, and adjustments forward or backward may be necessary.
- Your dentist will follow you up until your condition has subjectively improved enough to be objectively evaluated by your sleep specialist, who will determine if your condition has truly improved. This may require another sleep study while wearing the sleep apnea oral appliance.
- If the sleep appliance is determined to be beneficial, they will see you at least annually for evaluation and to verify the fit and effectiveness of your oral appliance. You should also see your sleep specialist as recommended.
- With time, changes may occur in your soft tissue, dental conditions, and other body structures that may make it necessary to be fitted for a new oral appliance or to evaluate other alternative treatments.
3. Adopting Positional Therapy
The worst position to sleep in if you have OSA is flat on your back because as your muscles relax, the soft tissue at the back of your throat can easily collapse across the airway.
Sleeping on the side can help prevent airway obstruction, so positional therapy is another beneficial non-CPAP treatment for sleep apnea. This treatment involves using special pillows or devices that encourage side-sleeping. While it may not work for everyone, it’s affordable for individuals with mild or positional sleep apnea.
4. Investigating Surgical Options
Surgery often alters the shape and position of the soft palate, which is the rear portion of the roof of the mouth. However, several other criteria are typically required for surgery to be an appropriate treatment option for obstructive sleep apnea.
Your dentist may consider surgical intervention for severe cases that don’t respond to other treatments. These surgeries, be it an adenoidectomy, tonsillectomy, or nasal surgery, address the specific causes of sleep apnea. However, remember that surgery is typically viewed as a last measure and may not permanently eliminate the need for CPAP therapy.
5. Nerve Stimulation
Surgeons may also treat obstructive sleep apnea by implanting a device under the chin and collarbone and along the nerve that controls the tongue. The device provides light electrical stimulation to this nerve, which can help keep the tongue and other tissues from slackening and blocking the airway.
Nerve stimulation is still a relatively new treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, but it shows promise. To date, this type of treatment is authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for people who meet specific criteria:
- Over 22 years of age
- Previously tried CPAP without positive results
- Moderate or severe obstructive sleep apnea
- Lower body mass index
- Absence of anatomical features that could affect the device’s effectiveness
Like other treatments for sleep apnea, nerve stimulation can have side effects. These may include infection or irritation and weakness of the tongue. In addition, the device may malfunction and require another operation to remove or replace it.
Improve Your Quality of Sleep With CPAP Treatment Alternatives
CPAP is a standard treatment for sleep apnea, but it’s not your only choice. There are numerous ways to treat sleep apnea without CPAP, whether it’s lifestyle changes, oral appliances, or positional therapy. Knowing these CPAP alternatives helps you find a treatment plan that aligns better with your lifestyle and personal requirements.
If you suffer from sleep apnea and want to try other treatments besides CPAP, call us to book a consultation. We have a team of experienced dentists who have worked with sleep apnea patients. We are equipped with state-of-the-art technology to provide a comprehensive diagnosis and suggest the most suitable treatment plan for you.