Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is considered the “Gold Standard” of treatment for patients with sleep apnea. But what happens if you are intolerant to CPAP or would prefer another treatment option? While CPAP may be the most common fix for sleep apnea, it is not the only fix. There are treatment alternatives to CPAP therapy.
Five Treatment Alternatives to CPAP Therapy
Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral Appliance Therapy, also called dental sleep therapy, utilizes an oral sleep device to move and hold the lower jaw in a slightly forward position. This forward advancement places tension on the soft tissues and eases the tongue forward as well, creating more space for airflow.
Various surgical options exist to treat obstructive sleep apnea. The maxillomandibular advancement surgery (MMA), sometimes called a double jaw advancement, enlarges the airway by moving both the upper jaw (maxilla) and lower jaw (mandible) forward. Other procedures, such as the uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), widen the airway by altering the uvula, soft palate, tonsils, adenoids, and excess soft tissue in the pharynx.
Inspire therapy is an implantable nerve stimulator device that delivers stimulation to the hypoglossal nerve, which causes tongue movement. The device and a battery pack are implanted under the skin and the device is turned on and off by a remote. The stimulation is designed to keep the airway open during sleep.
Excess weight contributes to a higher likelihood of airway collapse and often increases the severity of sleep apnea. One study published by The Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that a 10% gain in weight increased the likelihood of developing moderate-to-severe sleep apnea by 6 times (1). However, while weight loss can reduce the severity of obstructive sleep apnea, weight loss alone is usually not a complete remedy and additional therapies may be needed.
Positional Sleep Therapy
Positional sleep therapy is a behavioral approach to improve and treat positional sleep apnea. Positional sleep apnea occurs when the majority of apneic and hypopneic events occur while sleeping in a particular position. For example, there is often a greater likelihood of airway collapse and obstruction when sleeping on your back in the supine position due to the force of gravity on the lower jaw (mandible), tongue and tissues in the airway. This type of sleep therapy encourages and helps you to sleep in a position where you are not having as many events, such as on your side.
In summation, while CPAP therapy is a great treatment option for many patients, there are alternative methods for treating obstructive sleep apnea. In choosing a treatment option, it is important to speak with your physician about your specific condition, needs, lifestyle and preferences.