If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea chances are that sleep specialists have prescribed CPAP therapy for you and it is with reason. When it comes to treatment of sleep apnea CPAP therapy is widely considered to be the gold standard. However, it is not always the best option for obstructive sleep apnea patients.
Some patients find the use of nasal pillows or a mask very uncomfortable. Others have reported experiencing issues with the pressure produced by the CPAP machine mostly during exhalation. For patients that travel often or vacation a lot, they consider the CPAP machine a hindrance to their travels and would prefer not to take it with them wherever they go.
Unfortunately, some for the reasons given above some patients prefer not to go undergo treatment thinking that CPAP treatment is the only way to treat their obstructive sleep apnea. Thankfully this is not the case. Given the many challenges one is likely to go through if sleep apnea goes untreated such as high blood pressure, heart problems, stroke, depression, diabetes etc, it is important for OSA patients to seek treatment.
Below are some treatment alternatives for obstructive sleep apnea that have proven effective.
Positional therapy has been proven to work for those who suffer from mild obstructive sleep apnea. People who sleep on their backs are at risk of severe sleep apnea including the worst snoring. To prevent the upper airway from collapsing as the patient sleeps, sleep specialists advise that you sleep either on your right side or on your left side.
To ensure that patients don’t sleep on their backs, there are special shirts that have tennis balls sewn on their backs that will keep the patient from back sleeping. In addition, there now exists technology that will alert the patient when they are supine. A sensor located behind the patient’s neck vibrates every time they lie on their back.
There is renewed interest in throat exercises as a way to tone the muscles that line the upper airway. The prescribed throat and tongue exercises are primarily meant for people with snoring issues. For a demonstration of these exercises, you can watch this video. For the best result it is recommended that you do these exercises every day for not less than 10 minutes and for a duration of 3+ months.
Even though, the throat exercises are not likely to fix obstructive sleep apnea, there is a high chance that they will reduce their severity.
BiPAP (Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure)
Whereas CPAP offers single fixed pressure, BiPAP offers split pressures which in turn provide improved comfort. One mode of pressure enhances inhalation while the second mode provides pressure for exhalation.
There are three different forms of PAP (Positive Airway Pressure) therapy and CPAP is only one of them. As mentioned above switching to a different type of PAP therapy might be the solution. Other forms of PAP therapy include:
- APAP – Autotitrating Positive Airway Pressure
- BPAP – Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure
- Sleep Dentistry
In some patients, the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea manifest due to their physiology. Factors such assinus passages or a naturally narrow nasal passage might lead to sleep apnea symptoms. In other cases, patients with sleep apnea experience trouble breathing due to issues such postnasal drip as well as tissue drainage. Such patients may not do well with pressurized air therapy>
The best alternatives in such instances are oral devices. Some forms of oral appliance therapy include tongue retainers as well as mandibular advancement devices, also shortened as MAD. If you suffer from mild obstructive sleep apnea, you might want to consider oral appliance therapy as it has proven effective. In fact, it is in the first line of treatment for patients suffering from mild obstructive sleep apnea.
Mandibular Advancement Devices
These devices are styled similar to mouthguards and work by advancing the lower jaw. When combined with a forward reposition of the tongue, it leads to a more open airway. The user then uses a jaw repositioning mouthpiece which allows the bite to adjust back to its natural position in case it shifts during the night.
Tongue Retaining Mouthpieces
They act somewhat similar to the MADs mentioned above in the sense that they help get the tongue out of the way. The major difference is that this oral appliance is placed on the tongue and rests on the external part of the lips and not inside the mouth.
Unfortunately, most patients give up to easily on CPAP despite it being the best option for treating obstructive sleep apnea. Some of the reasons that discourage users from going through with CPAP therapy is using the wrong mask.