For most patients who have a confirmed diagnosis of sleep apnea, the first option that is recommended by physicians is using a CPAP machine.
But there’s a problem with that.
Many sleep apnea patients find CPAP impossible to use – because it’s uncomfortable, claustrophobic, prevents a good night’s sleep, and has a range of health side effects.
Fortunately, there are a lot of alternatives to CPAP. In this article we’ll cover the many alternatives to CPAP. Some CPAP alternatives are very simple and require very minimal effort on your part, while others need a bit of work, time, money, and planning. For a comprehensive guide on alternatives to CPAP, with detailed descriptions and case studies, please check out Cure Your Sleep Apnea without CPAP.
Easy-to-follow Treatments for Sleep Apnea
Listed below are some treatments for sleep apnea that are quite easy to follow. It should be kept in mind that these will not get rid of the condition. Instead, these alternative treatments will aid you in getting a good night’s sleep while you are still in the process of looking for a better, more effective, permanent treatment for your sleep apnea.
Adjust Your Sleeping Position
If you have sleep apnea, you should avoid sleeping on your back. This is because sleeping on your back allows gravity to work against you – your jaw and tongue fall back, causing your airway to become blocked.
As a solution to this, try sleeping on your side. Have a tendency to roll onto your back after you fall asleep? Follow these tips:
- Sew a tennis ball into the back of your pajama top (seriously. When you try to roll onto your back while asleep, that hard ball in your back back will stop you!)
- Use a “bumper belt”. If you’re not John McEnroe and don’t have any tennis balls lying around the house, or you don’t know how to sew, look into popular anti-sleep apnea t-shirts like Rematee. (For our complete review of bumper belts, please read our article Bumper Belts for Sleep Apnea: A Simple Way to Prevent Sleeping on Your Back
- Use an “sleep apnea pillow”, which makes it much easier to sleep on your side. We review several popular pillows in this article: Sleep Apnea Pillows: A Review of the Best Brands and Their Effectiveness.
Use a Product That Can Help You Breathe Easier
This alternative treatment is advisable for patients suffering from mild to moderate sleep apnea, or those who have blockages located mainly in the external nasal areas.
Saline drops and nasal strips are the most popular examples of solutions used by sleep apnea sufferers whose apnea stems from blocked a nasal passage. Breathe Right nasal strips are a popular choice.
Mouth & Throat (“Orofacial”) Exercises
Orofacial exercises involve exercising the muscles of the mouth, throat, jaw, tongue, and soft palate. The exercises must be done consistently to see a result, and there are numerous clinical studies that have proven the effectiveness of this treatment in curing sleep apnea.
In one research study patients following three months of daily orofacial exercises experienced a decrease in snoring frequency and intensity and daytime sleepiness, an increase in sleep quality score, and a significant decrease in obstructive sleep apnea severity (as measured by their apnea-hypopnea index).
Many doctors are now recognizing the effectiveness of this easy and painless treatment. In the video below, Dr. Mike Nelson, Director of the SMCC Sleep Lab, describes the benefits of mouth and throat exercises for sleep apnea:
If you would like to learn the exact exercises necessary to cure your sleep apnea, please check out our popular program: Sleep Apnea Exercise Program.
This alternative treatment works by strengthening the airway muscles. In one study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine it was found that 20 minutes of singing exercises for three months reduced snoring significantly by strengthening the throat muscles of participants – the same muscles that collapse during sleep and cause obstructive sleep apnea.
Below is an example of a singing exercise that can help to strengthen and tone the muscles of your soft palate (the soft part of the roof of your mouth).
This exercise uses the vowel sounds “yah” and “ah ah.” Feel your soft palate rise with the sound as you do when you yawn. And let your mouth open wide and the back of your tongue move down and forward.
Pull the back of your throat wide open. Breathe in now, and ready? Sing this sound, ascending twice:
“Yah-ah-ah-ah ah. ah. yah-ah-ah-ah ah. ah.”
Then descend: “yah-ah-ah-ah ah. ah. yah-ah-ah-ah-ah.”
[features_box_blue width=”75%” + border=”2px”]If you would like to hear this exercise in action, please click the arrow below:
To learn about our singing therapy program for sleep apnea (step-by-step instructions and songs designed to cure sleep apnea), please click here: Singing for Sleep Apnea Program.
“Didgeridoo” is the name of a wind instrument that originated from Australia, and is made from the wood of the Eucalyptus tree. Playing the instrument serves as a therapy that works to help treat sleep apnea by making the airway muscles stronger.
In one research study published in the British Medical Journal 25 patients were trained in playing the didgeridoo and followed a routine of playing 25 minutes per day. The researchers found that four months of training of the upper airways by didgeridoo playing reduced daytime sleepiness in people with snoring and obstructive sleep apnea; reduced their apnea hypopnea index; and reported that the partners of participants were much less disturbed in their sleep.
Click the screen below to watch sleep apnea patients talk about didgeridoo therapy and the impact it’s had on their lives:
For more information on didgeridoo therapy for sleep apnea, please check out the Cure Your Sleep Apnea With the Didgeridoo Program.
There are several herbs and other natural remedies that have been proven scientifically to alleviate the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). While not all of these herbs and remedies are able to cure sleep apnea outright, they usually help the patient be calm and sedated, leading to better sleep overall.
Chamomile and lavender are flowers that are often made into tea or extract form for consumption and medicinal purposes. These two natural remedies are categorized as mild sedatives, which calm the nervous system and help one sleep better. These sleep aids have long been recommended by experts to help the symptoms of insomnia, and in several studies they have been said to be effective in helping people go to sleep.
Examples of these studies are as below:
- In one study done on the effect of warm chamomile jelly, there was a significant increase in better sleep among participants that had the warm chamomile jelly instead of plain jelly. Yet another study done on the cardiac effects of chamomile tea, ten out of twelve participants fell into a deep sleep after drinking the tea.
- In a study of 42 female participants suffering with insomnia and depression, higher concentrations of lavender fragrance used through aromatherapy helped improve sleep quality and reduced depression.
There is no significant evidence that proves that chamomile or lavender extracts help cure sleep apnea, but there is anecdotal evidence that they may help alleviate symptoms in sleep apnea patients, just like they do in insomniacs. Examples of this anecdotal evidence include the possibility that chamomile has anti-inflammatory properties which can reduce airway resistance and the speculation that lavender has the ability to alter the respiratory mechanism and therefore reduce the number of apneas experienced.
To learn more about herbal remedies for sleep apnea, please visit: http://www.HerbsForSleepApnea.com.
Yoga Breathing Exercises for Sleep Apnea
Yoga is all the rage these days. Millions of people around the world are using yoga exercises to reduce stress, increase relaxation, and tone their bodies. But did you know that there are yoga breathing exercises that can help your sleep apnea?
The centuries-old practice of yoga includes many breathing exercises that are meant to strengthen the diaphragm and increase oxygen intake. And as you probably know, one of the biggest dangers of untreated sleep apnea is a reduction in the body’s intake of oxygen. Without the right amount of oxygen, we experience fatigue and depression, and low oxygen levels can also lead to serious health conditions such as heart failure.
But there is hope! By following particular yoga breathing exercises, you’ll be well on your way to a stronger diaphragm and greater intake of oxygen into your body.
Buteyko Method for Sleep Apnea
The Buteyko method for eliminating sleep apnea has a long and controversial history. While there is little scientific evidence that the Buteyko Method consistently eliminates sleep apnea, there are many anecdotal cases of it working (in fact, we’ve received many emails here at ApneaTreatmentGuide.com from former sleep apnea sufferers who swear by it).
The Buteyko Method consists of a series of breathing exercises which are designed to help people develop a healthy breathing pattern.
It was discovered by Austrian physiologists Gering and Breyer that man has never quite developed the “right” way to breathe. We all breathe differently. Some take deep breaths, some shallow, some quick and some slow; we all vary. Professor Buteyko discovered that only one in ten people actually breathe in a correct manner.
The idea behind Buteyko in relation to sleep apnea is that apnea sufferers tend to hyperventilate, over-breathe, a fact that is often overlooked. Help is always given in the form of CPAP machines and surgery – to assist when the breathing enters a stop phase.
Buteyko concentrates on the sufferers’ over-breathing. It recognizes that the apnea is actually the body’s way of compensating for this. Through Buteyko exercises the pattern of breathing returns to normal. This encourages a more restful, apnea-free sleep.
Treatments That Require Moderate Effort
Dental appliances manage sleep apnea by pushing the jaw forward, thereby keeping the airway open. This is usually recommended by a physician, who refers you to a dentist. The dentist takes an impression of the teeth and oral structures to create a replica upon which the appliance or mouthpiece will be created. Another option is to purchase a generic mouthpiece and make modifications to help it fit in your mouth properly.
Dental appliances are a hugely popular alternative to CPAP – because they’re more comfortable and easy to wear while sleeping, and are small and convenient to carry while traveling.
To get a comprehensive report on the mistakes to avoid when buying a dental appliance, please consult our Dental Appliance Buyer’s Guide.
Acupuncture for Sleep Apnea
During acupuncture treatment, very fine needles are inserted in specific points on the body. This stimulates the release of hormones that can function to heal the body.
Recent research has found that specific acupuncture techniques can be used to stimulate the upper airway, keeping the airway open during sleep (thereby curing sleep apnea).
To learn more about acupuncture for sleep apnea (including which techniques work for sleep apnea), please visit: http://www.AcupunctureForSleepApnea.com.
- Excess fat in the neck area can compress the airway, making it more difficult to breathe.
- Excess weight in the abdominal area causes the respiratory muscles in that area to be less efficient, adding to the breathing difficulty already caused by an obstructed airway.
Losing weight can be difficult, as many of us already know. And this is especially true in the case of sleep apnea patients, as they tend to lose weight only after the treatment for their condition has begun. This is because when they get more sleep, they have more energy to use for exercise.
This treatment is very helpful, not just in managing apnea, but in promoting overall wellness. For advice on which diet can help you lose weight, please consult this article: Do You Know the 6 Types of Diet for Sleep Apnea?
Equally important as the other treatments for managing sleep apnea is the cessation of unhealthy habits such as drinking, smoking, and taking drugs.
- Drinking alcohol should be reduced (or eliminated), especially during nighttime, as it can significantly aggravate sleep apnea. It can decrease your breathing reflexes and, if taken excessively, could lead to serious health consequences or death. Alcohol produces effects similar to sleep medications, or other drugs that can influence your breathing.
- Smoking, as with weight loss and cessation of alcohol drinking, is good not just for sleep apnea, but for general health as well. Quitting helps return lung function to normal. If you are having a hard time with quitting smoking, there are nicotine patches available which can be of great help; however, use of patches is not a cure and still requires effort on the part of the patient.
Treatments That Require Surgical Intervention
If the treatments for sleep apnea listed above do not work, there are other options – surgery. This method of treatment is of help particularly if the apnea is brought about by a problem related to the structure of the airway. More often than not, surgeries include the removal of tissues that cause the blockage. Throat and nasal surgery are the most common procedures performed to manage sleep apnea.
Throat surgery for sleep apnea involves the removal of some of the soft tissues of the mouth such as adenoids, tonsils, and uvula. The tonsils and adenoids refer to the tissues found at the back of the throat, while the uvula is the small, cone-shaped structure that hangs from the back of the soft palate. Sometimes, implants are placed to stiffen the upper throat. Surgical repositioning of the tongue is also an option to prevent it from falling back and blocking the airway during sleep.
Listed below are the most common throat surgeries performed to correct sleep apnea:
Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UP3): Recommended for those with moderate to severe sleep apnea, this surgical procedure involves removal of the uvula and restructuring and tightening the sagging, fatty tissues of the upper throat and palate. It can be done alone or in conjunction with other treatment methods, depending on the location of the obstruction in the patient’s airway.
Just like any other surgery, there are risks involved when performing the UPPP, and these include:
- Depression of the breathing reflexes due to the administration of general anesthetics (this can be particularly risky in patient who already have breathing problems such as sleep apnea)
- Swelling of the airway
- Medications before and after surgery for pain control (most of which can affect breathing)
- Pain that may last up to several weeks
Laser-assisted uvula palatoplasty (LAUP): This is recommended for those with moderate sleep apnea. A relatively new procedure, which was developed to reduce snoring, LAUP involves the use of laser to remove the obstruction from the airway. It is less extensive, and therefore less risky than UPPP, although for that same reason, it may not be as effective as UPPP in terms of treating sleep apnea.
Since LAUP was originally invented to manage snoring, the main danger associated with this procedure is that patients may think that when their snoring is eliminated, their sleep apnea is cured. This may not be the case. The patient’s sleep apnea could get worse without the patient realizing it, as the primary sign, snoring, has been eliminated.
Nasal surgery can also be an effective way to manage sleep apnea. This can include any of the following procedures:
- Straightening of the nasal septum, the thin wall between the nostrils. Also known as deviated septum surgery, it is the only known cure for a displaced septum and can help you breather better at night. If your health care professional advises you to have this surgery but you need more information from people who have actually undergone this surgery, check out Deviated Septum Surgery Secrets.
- Decreasing the size of the nasal turbinates. These are bony shelves that are curled and project into the breath passage within the nose. This surgery can be done either by cutting of the tissues or through radiotherapy.
- Removal of the inflamed sinus tissues
- Removal or enlargement of bony tissues from the upper sinus area
It’s a sad fact that many sleep apnea sufferers think CPAP is the only solution – because their doctor doesn’t know (or won’t tell them) about alternatives. In this article I’ve listed many of the alternatives to CPAP that have been proven in scientific trials to cure sleep apnea.
Have I missed any treatments? Please leave a comment below and let me know!
And if you’d like to learn more about the treatments described in this article, please make sure to check out our best-selling guide Cure Your Sleep Apnea Without CPAP. The guide contains detailed descriptions of over a dozen alternative treatments, along with action steps and case studies of real-life people who have overcome their sleep apnea without CPAP! Click here to learn more.
If you’re interested in conquering your sleep apnea once and for all through one of our cutting-edge treatment programs, please click the links below for more information:
- Sleep Apnea Exercises Program (mouth and throat exercises)
- Singing for Sleep Apnea Program
- Cure Your Sleep Apnea with the Didgeridoo
- Dental Appliance Buyer’s Guide