What is the Difference Between CPAP and CPAP Alternatives?

man wearing cpap maskIf you have sleep apnea, you’ve probably been asked to try CPAP to help keep your airway open while you sleep. While this treatment can be very effective for some people, alternatives are available if it isn’t your best option or you find it to be too uncomfortable.

In this blog, sleep medicine specialist Dr. Samit Malhotra of Sleep & Neuroscience Associates explains more about the differences between CPAP and CPAP alternatives.

What are CPAP and CPAP alternatives used for?

Both are used to treat sleep apnea. This sleep disorder is characterized by repeated pauses in sleep that cause you to move from deep sleep into lighter sleep throughout the night. Your blood – and the rest of your body, including your brain – will also receive varying degrees of oxygen as your breathing repeatedly stops and starts.

If you have this sleep disorder, it’s important to receive treatment because it can have serious effects on your overall health and well-being. Treatment can help keep your airway open at night, which will help you achieve normal, uninterrupted breathing.

What is CPAP?

CPAP is a continuous positive airway pressure machine that helps increase the air pressure in your throat so your airway doesn’t collapse when you breathe in during sleep. The machine has a mask that fits over your nose and mouth or in some cases, just your nose. It’s hooked up to hoses and the machine, which delivers a steady stream of air.

This type of treatment is very effective in many cases since it can do a good job of keeping your airway open and improving your breathing and sleep cycles.

What are some alternatives?

Alternative treatments can be appropriate in some cases of mild sleep apnea or upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS). These treatments can be effective if you find the machine uncomfortable and don’t use it every night as recommended or abandon using it entirely.  Before exploring other options, however, you may find that cognitive behavioral therapy can help improve compliance.

Depending on your individual needs, the following are some alternatives that may be considered:

  • Lifestyle changes – such as losing weight, quitting smoking, and sleeping on your side instead of your back.
  • Medication – for sleep apnea that’s related to restless legs syndrome, insomnia, or narcolepsy.
  • Oral appliance therapy – custom-made mouthpieces worn at night to gently coax the jaw and tongue into a position that doesn’t block your airway.
  • Inspire therapy – a small device that’s surgically implanted on the chest wall. It delivers mild stimulation that helps open the airway while you sleep.
  • Apnicure Winx therapy system – an oral vacuum that rests inside your mouth and stabilizes soft tissue as you sleep.
  • Surgery – can sometimes be used to treat more severe cases or in children who have sleep apnea. It can correct underlying structural issues such as enlarged tonsils.

What are the differences?

Although CPAP can be modified in some ways – such as adjusting the size of the mask or the air flow – it isn’t always appropriate for every patient. Alternatives allow your doctor to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach and tailor the most effective treatment to suit your specific needs and comfort level.

If you have sleep apnea that’s not being well controlled, make an appointment today with Sleep & Neuroscience Associates. Dr. Malhotra is board-certified in sleep medicine as well as neurology and specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea. We offer many alternatives to provide you with the best treatment options to suit your individual needs.

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