What are the CPAP Alternatives for Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a common problem that affects over 18 million people around the world. More often than not, sleep apnea isn’t recognized, diagnosed, or properly treated. But when sleep apnea is detected, the go-to treatment is often the use of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). This involves wearing a mask while you sleep, which supplies air continuously to keep the air passage unblocked and facilitate normal breathing. If you, or someone you know, suffer from sleep apnea, you must have used or have been recommended to try CPAP.
Although a very effective treatment in dealing with sleep apnea, it often takes a lot of effort to get used to the mask. It causes claustrophobia, nightmares, dry and irritated throat, and nasal problems. Many people never get used to it, and several studies have found that more than 86 percent of sleep apnea sufferers never get comfortable with CPAP machines.
While a good solution for sleep apnea, CPAP is definitely not the only treatment for the condition. With technological advances, several alternatives to CPAP have been invented. They are often minimally invasive and provide long term treatment for sleep apnea.
Here are six alternative options for CPAP non-compliant people:
Also called Oral Appliance Therapy, dental appliances form the safest and simplest alternative to CPAP. This appliance is customized to fit the mouth of the patient and is worn only during sleep. Dental mouthpieces work like orthodontics that keep the jaw in position and enable proper breathing. This appliance is made and fitted by a dentist, so the patient, the doctor, and the dentist should work in close consultation about the device.
Oral devices are portable, comfortable, and don’t have the side effects of a CPAP. They are also often cheaper than CPAP, and more convenient when traveling.
The piece of tissue hanging down the back of your throat is called the uvula, and most often, this tiny projection is the cause of obstructive sleep apnea. The condition can be treated by minimizing an enlarged or extended uvula with the help of laser surgery. While traditional removal of the uvula is complicated and results in a number of side effects, laser surgery takes less than 30 minutes and is generally less complicated. With the removal or minimizing of the uvula, symptoms of sleep apnea are controlled, and proper sleep is restored.
Laser Tonsil Ablation
When tonsils are the ones blocking the airway, reducing their size can often provide relief from sleep apnea and snoring. This is a minimally invasive procedure that uses a laser to reduce the size of the tonsils and unblock the airway. The process takes around thirty minutes and is generally performed under local anesthesia. Compared to other forms of surgical procedures to cure sleep apnea and related symptoms, laser tonsil ablation has little to no discomfort, requires no hospital stay, and does not need the tonsil to be removed. Laser tonsil ablation is a common alternative to CPAP to treat sleep apnea as well as other tonsil disorders.
If a patient suffers from positional sleep apnea, then positional therapy is an effective solution. People sleeping on their backs, also called the supine position, often suffer from sleep disorders because of the obstruction of the airway. Positional therapy involves wearing a device that keeps a person on their side while they are asleep. This solution works only for those who suffer from mild sleep apnea that is corrected when they sleep on their side. For more severe cases, this therapy may not be effective.
Acupuncture or Acupressure
In a recent study, acupuncture and acupressure were found to be more effective than CPAP. They provide relief by stimulating the muscles of the upper air passage. This is a holistic method that aims to relieve sleep apnea sufferers without medications, devices, or surgery. However, this is again a procedure that works best for mild sleep apnea. For more complex problems, a more potent treatment needs to be followed.
Radiofrequency Tongue Ablation
If sleep apnea and snoring are being caused by an abnormal positioning of the tongue, then radiofrequency tongue ablation is a procedure that could provide relief. This procedure often proves helpful for those with an enlarged tongue that gets in the way of airflow. This minimally invasive procedure involves shrinking and tightening the base of the tongue with the help of radiofrequency technology, and usually takes less than thirty minutes.
Sleep apnea, if left untreated, can lead to severe health problems, including cardiac issues and hypertension. While CPAP is still the most widely used treatment for sleep apnea, there are alternatives that are designed for people uncomfortable with the CPAP device. Even if CPAP isn’t for you, there are other options that can provide long-term relief from the problem.