CPAP Alternative Options
If you are unhappy with the idea of getting CPAP, your alternatives are:
- No treatment
- Home care
- Sleep apnea surgery
- Oral appliance therapy
Not all of these are good options, nor do they all work for all types and levels of sleep apnea. For some people, CPAP is truly the only effective option, though this is relatively rare.
No Treatment for Sleep Apnea
It is not recommended that you leave sleep apnea untreated. Sleep apnea increases your risk of numerous dangerous conditions and complications, including cardiovascular disease, dementia, and dangerous accidents. Overall, people with untreated sleep apnea are 4-6 times more likely to die of any cause than those without sleep apnea or those who have an effective sleep apnea treatment.
Ironically, untreated sleep apnea is the practical effect for about half of people prescribed CPAP. That’s about how many people stop using their CPAP over the long term.
Home Care for Sleep Apnea
In general, home care is not recommended as a standalone treatment for sleep apnea. However, it is a reasonable complementary treatment to help you get the best results from other CPAP alternatives.
Home care for sleep apnea focuses on reducing the likelihood that your airway will collapse at night. You can do this by increasing the muscle tone in your throat, avoiding conditions that shrink the airway, and reducing weight on the airway.
The most successful approaches to sleep apnea home care include:
- Side sleeping
- Getting more exercise
- Losing weight
- Avoiding allergens
- Avoiding illness
- Not drinking alcohol at night
Sleeping on your side decreases the tendency for the airway to pull close when you sleep.
Getting regular exercise helps tone your throat muscles so they do a better job of holding your airway open at night. Any general exercise can contribute to improved muscle tone in your throat, but you can also do specific exercises to strengthen your throat muscles.
Losing weight can reduce the amount of weight that is pulling your airway closed at night. In addition, fat deposits in the tongue make it larger, which means it is more likely to close off your airway when it sags.
Allergens and illness cause your airway to swell and/or clog with phlegm. Reduce allergens in your home by changing air filters regularly, cleaning up dust and dander, and avoiding cleaners that irritate your nose and throat. Stay healthy with a vitamin-rich diet and avoid contagious situations when possible. Consider seasonal flu vaccinations.
Alcohol is a muscle relaxant with effects that can last for hours. To reduce the impact of alcohol on your airways, stop drinking alcohol after dinner.
Sleep Apnea Surgery
Sleep apnea surgery is not recommended for most people with sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea experience increased risk of surgical complications, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about this before getting sleep apnea surgery.
There are two main types of sleep apnea surgery:
- Obstruction removal
- Stimulator implantation
Obstruction removal surgery focuses on removing tissues that narrow your airway and can increase obstruction. The most common type of this surgery is uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP). This removes part of your upper palate, your uvula, and other parts of your throat to open up your airway. Obstruction removal surgery can reduce the obstruction in your airway, but the benefits diminish over time.
Stimulator implantation is surgery to place a device similar to a pacemaker in your chest. However, instead of your heart, the device stimulates your airway muscles to keep them from relaxing too much. The use of stimulators for obstructive sleep apnea is relatively new and does not have long-term evidence yet.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliance therapy involves the use of a mouthguard-like appliance that you wear at night to reposition your jaw and hold your airway open. Although it is comfortable, convenient, and relatively inexpensive, it is as effective as CPAP for most people.
Comfortable and Convenient CPAP Alternative
Unlike CPAP, oral appliances are neither complicated nor uncomfortable to use. There is no mask to fit over your nose and mouth, which can lead to feelings of smothering or choking. There are no straps that can irritate your skin. Nor is there a hose that binds you to your nightstand.
You don’t have a complicated setup ritual to go through every night before bed. Nor do you have a complicated cleaning regime to follow daily.
Plus, you don’t have to deal with the feeling of having air forced down your throat all night or the feeling of bloating in the morning that can sometimes result.
Inexpensive CPAP Alternative
Oral appliance therapy is a relatively inexpensive sleep apnea treatment. Although CPAP machines might initially seem less expensive, once you add the accessories most people use, the parts that need regular replacement, and the cleaning and maintenance equipment, CPAP costs 4-6 times as much as oral appliance therapy. Although both are covered by insurance, CPAP is likely to result in more out-of-pocket costs for copays and deductibles.
Effective CPAP Alternative
Oral appliance therapy has the benefit of being just as effective as CPAP for most people. Although CPAP is essentially 100% effective for sleep apnea when you use it, CPAP compliance is often considered just 4 hours a night on 70% of nights–and only half of people meet that level of use. In comparison, nearly 90% of people use their oral appliance all night every night.
Who Can’t Get Oral Appliance Therapy
While most people get great results from oral appliance therapy, it might not be appropriate for you if you have:
- Central or complex sleep apnea
- Severe sleep apnea
- Unusual anatomy
Oral appliance therapy doesn’t treat central sleep apnea, so it’s not a good choice if you have any significant degree of central sleep apnea.
If you have severe sleep apnea, your insurance company will usually recommend that you at least try CPAP before getting oral appliance therapy. If it doesn’t work out for you, your insurance will usually cover oral appliance therapy as a backup treatment.
Oral appliances reposition your jaw to improve support for your airway. This might not be effective for some people with unusual anatomy. However, a sleep dentist can use imaging to determine whether your anatomy is appropriate for oral appliance therapy.
Sometimes surgery or home care can help make oral appliance therapy more effective for you.
Find CPAP Alternatives in Detroit, MI
If you have sleep apnea and you are not happy about the thought of CPAP, let sleep dentists Dr. Chad Witkow and Dr. Richard Klein help you find the best sleep apnea treatment for you. They and their experienced team at the Michigan Head & Neck Institute can talk to you about your options and help you make an informed decision.
Please call (586) 573-0438 or use our online contact form to schedule an appointment today.