Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder characterized by repeated breathing interruptions, due to a complete (apnea) or partial (hypopnea) airway blockage during sleep.
This occurs when the soft tissue in the back of your throat relaxes, causing a momentary cessation of breath and a decrease in oxygen saturation.
Consequently, your brain wakes you up to resume functional breathing. This results in impaired, fragmented sleep—which can impact cognitive function during the day.
The primary treatment for OSA is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device.
This device helps to maintain an open airway during sleep, thus improving sleep quality, mood, and heart health. However, over a third of CPAP users need help to adapt to this treatment. It is fairly difficult to acclimate, and requires the user to have constant air pressure delivered to them via hose or mouthpiece.
CPAP devices can be intrusive, disturbing partners and resulting in poorer sleeping quality—what users are trying to avoid in the first place. CPAP alters the intracranial pressure (ICP) in patients with OSA through various mechanisms, making it a risk to those with increased intracranial pressure. It’s no surprise that 46-83% of patients don’t adhere to CPAP therapy.
If a CPAP machine doesn’t work for you, you may wonder how to ever help alleviate sleep apnea without a CPAP device. Our team of experts at Sleep & CPAP Center knows it’s important to understand there are viable alternatives.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Without CPAP
There are a number of clinically studied sleep apnea treatments that don’t involve the use of CPAP:
If your sleep apnea worsens when you sleep on your back—a supine position—changing your sleep position can help. This is known as positional therapy.
Weight Management Therapy
Excess body weight can cause the tissues around your throat to narrow or block your airways. Thus, maintaining a healthy weight can significantly alleviate sleep apnea symptoms. However, this method is only effective if the condition is related to weight rather than the anatomical structure of the mouth or airways.
In milder cases, adjusting your lifestyle can help manage sleep apnea. This typically involves modifying behaviors and environmental factors that negatively affect your breathing. This could mean quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, or ensuring your sleeping environment is allergen-free.
Custom-molded dental appliances that adjust the position of your mouth and jaws can also be a highly effective home treatment for sleep apnea. Worn overnight, they help keep your airways open and unobstructed, ensuring a peaceful, snore-free sleep.
As an added benefit, most Medicare and insurance plans cover dental appliances for sleep apnea.
In some cases, surgery may be an option for sleep apnea treatment without CPAP. Depending on the cause and severity of the condition, different surgical procedures can be performed to remove or reduce the tissue that blocks the airways.
For example, a tonsillectomy can remove enlarged tonsils, a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty can trim excess tissue from the soft palate and uvula, and a maxillomandibular advancement can move the upper and lower jaws forward to create more space behind the tongue.
Surgery is usually considered as a last resort option when other treatments have failed or are not suitable.
Why Use an Alternative to a CPAP Machine?
Despite the effectiveness of CPAP machines, many patients seek alternatives due to several valid concerns. These concerns should always be discussed by a doctor or physician, who can provide advice based on your individual medical history.
Cost: CPAP machines can be expensive, ranging from $500 to over $1000. Insurance policies might require a rent-to-own plan with strict compliance rules.
Compliance requirements: Insurers may require CPAP users to use the machine for at least four hours a night on 70% of nights, which some users may find invasive or challenging to adhere to.
Side effects: Some users experience discomfort, dry mouth, red or itchy eyes, and a stuffy or runny nose. Noise from mask leaks can also disturb sleep, affecting compliance rates. There are reported complications (rarely) in some users with IIH or CSF leaks.
Adherence: CPAP machine adherence rates can be as low as 20%, making it an unsuitable long-term solution for many.
We understand these challenges at Sleep & CPAP Center, and strive to help you explore suitable alternatives to manage your sleep apnea effectively. We aim to help you sleep better, live better, and wake up rejuvenated—rather than depleted.
If you are ready to treat your sleep apnea or say goodbye to your CPAP machine, call the sleep lab at (909) 584-3764 to begin your consultation today.