Tired of CPAP?
Want a good night's rest without the mask?
CPAP is the most commonly prescribed sleep apnea treatment. It can be good for all types and severities of sleep apnea. However, it is not always the best. Many people find CPAP to be uncomfortable and inconvenient, which means they may not use it as much as necessary to get its full benefit. As a result, CPAP fails in the most important aspect of treatment: protecting your health.
What Is CPAP?
CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It is a sleep apnea treatment that uses an air pump and mask arrangement to force air into your airway to hold it open. The type of mask you use depends on your sleeping habits and your sleeping preferences.
The primary advantage of CPAP is that it can treat both obstructive and central sleep apnea, and can be used for sleep apnea of any severity. For some people with professional or insurance stipulations on their sleep apnea treatment, CPAP has the advantage that the amount you use is easily tracked.
The problems with sleep apnea are that many people find the system cumbersome and uncomfortable. Traveling with a CPAP machine can be difficult, and sometimes bed partners find they are unhappy with the sound of the machine itself (although models are getting quieter than they used to be). Other times people dislike the masks, which can chafe or irritate the skin. Some people even experience a smothering sensation when wearing the mask.
CPAP equipment requires regular maintenance, sometimes as much as weekly, and this can get cumbersome. Failure to maintain the equipment properly can lead to illness or early failure of the machine.
Oral Appliance Therapy
An alternative to CPAP that many people like better is oral appliance therapy. This doesn’t require a machine, tubing, or mask. Instead, it just uses a small appliance you put in at night, like an orthodontic retainer. This repositions your jaw in a position that holds your airway open at night, reducing or eliminating apneic events.
The primary limitation of oral appliance therapy is that it’s not appropriate for all types of sleep apnea. Typically, you can be evaluated to determine whether it is right for you before you commit to treatment.
There are also many things you can do to reduce the severity of your sleep apnea to make your other treatments more effective. Identify and reduce allergens in your home to reduce the severity of your sleep apnea. Reduce or change alcohol consumption. Try to change your sleeping position. Use dieting and exercise to try to lose weight or at least reduce fat in the neck region that contributes to sleep apnea.
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