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One of the most common ways to treat sleep apnea is with a CPAP machine – a machine that increases the air pressure in your throat via a mask that you wear over your face while sleeping. But for some patients, this treatment is almost as disruptive as their sleep apnea is. CPAP machines can be loud, bulky, and uncomfortable, making it difficult for patients – and sometimes their partners – to get enough sleep. In some cases, an alternative treatment may work just as well without any of the drawbacks of a CPAP machine and mask. Take a look at a few mask-free treatment alternatives for sleep apnea.
A Dental Device
Sometimes it's your dentist that has the answer, not your doctor. Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in your throat and tongue relax too much, leading to a blocked airway. Dental devices designed to treat sleep apnea work by sliding your jaw forward into a position that keeps your airway open and preventing your tongue from falling into a position that could block the airway.
Dental devices are best suited for patients whose sleep apnea is mild or moderate, and who want to avoid or switch from a CPAP machine. Patients with severe sleep apnea may need to seek another solution.
Sometimes, treating sleep apnea is as simple as changing your sleeping position. Sleep apnea is most likely to occur when you sleep on your back and least likely to occur while sleeping on your side. In fact, some people only experience sleep apnea when sleeping on their backs. But the problem is, no matter what position you choose to lie in when you go to bed, you may end up in a different position after you fall asleep.
That's where positional therapy comes in. With positional therapy, you'll wear a special sleep belt or use a wedge-shaped pillow to help keep yourself in the side-sleeping position and prevent yourself from rolling onto your back.
There are several different types of surgeries that can be used to treat sleep apnea, depending on the needs of the patient. They can include removal of the tonsils and adenoids or alterations to the tongue, soft palate and uvula, or upper and lower jaw. The purpose of any sleep apnea surgery is to prevent extra tissue from falling into the airway while you sleep.
As with any surgery, the decision to undergo sleep apnea surgery is a serious one that should be approached with caution. Sleep apnea surgery is not always a permanent solution to sleep apnea – the problem could return at a later date. Surgery also carries risks, such as pain, bleeding, or swelling during the recovery period. However, for some patients, surgery is the correct choice.
If you're a sleep apnea patient who is frustrated with your CPAP machine or would like to avoid using a CPAP machine, ask your sleep doctor about other apnea treatment options. One of these alternative sleep apnea treatments may be the right choice for you.