Treating Sleep Apnea:
What is CPAP & Why Do People Seek Alternatives?
CPAP stands for continuous positive airway (CPAP) therapy and is the most common treatment method for obstructive sleep apnea. By drawing in air, pressurizing it, and delivering the air through a mask, it can clear the obstruction that is causing you to temporarily cease breathing. Modern CPAPs also humidify the air to combat dry mouth or nasal cavities.
CPAPs work, yet many patients dislike using them. In fact, as many as 4 in 5 people do not use their CPAP machines for the recommended amount of time. It’s common for patients to find the mask and air pressure uncomfortable, the machine’s motor noisy, and the CPAP bulky. This is a problem because it means 4 in 5 five people are not getting proper treatment for sleep apnea.
Doesn’t it make sense to find a treatment that not only works, but is also comfortable and non-intrusive?
Oral Appliances & Their Benefits
Sleep apnea oral appliances go by several names, including ‘mandibular advancement appliance,’ ‘snore guard’, and ‘mouthpiece.’ These names don’t do justice to their convenience.
Custom-fitted to the shape of your teeth and jaw, sleep apnea oral appliances are small, more comfortable to wear, and portable. The device will gently and slightly move your jaw forward, just enough to clear the obstruction that is stopping you from sleeping properly.
Which device is right for you depends on your unique characteristics. For example, we have solutions that are better for patients who grind their teeth, while we recommend a different appliance altogether for patients who suffer from nasal complications. Given the degree of customization, it’s telling that patients who use oral appliances are more likely to comply than those using CPAP.
CPAP and oral appliances are not mutually incompatible. It’s common for patients to use both. What’s great about the oral appliance is that it’s relatively inexpensive and affordable. Many patients use a CPAP machine at home and will take an oral appliance with them while traveling; they also use mouth pieces as a backup when their CPAP is undergoing maintenance.
Ideal for patients with mild-to-moderate sleep apnea, it makes sense to explore your options — an oral appliance just might be the preferable, more comfortable solution.
A sleep apnea oral appliance can also help those who snore but don’t necessarily have sleep apnea. Remember, your snoring doesn’t just affect you, it impairs your partner’s ability to sleep as well.
Other Alternatives to CPAP
Helping alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea can often come down to lifestyle choices. Even if you are being treated with a CPAP or an oral device, making certain lifestyle changes can only help minimize the effects of sleep apnea even further.
First, weight plays a role in sleep apnea and weight loss can definitely help alleviate the condition, depending on the patient. If you smoke, quitting smoking can make a large impact on your sleep apnea. Likewise, reducing consumption of alcohol and the use of sleeping pills, as well as other sedatives, can help.
Depending on the type and source of sleep apnea, positional therapy — training yourself to sleep on your side — can also help. There are also throat exercises you can practice, helping to tone the muscles along the airway passage. These are typically more useful for patients who suffer from simple snoring, but they can also help those who experience mild-to-moderate sleep apnea.
A number of surgeries are also available, including nasal surgery, adenoidectomies, maxillomandibular advancement surgery, and the tracheostomy. Newer treatments, such as the laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty and the palate Coblation®, are less invasive but are also less tested and can be more expensive.