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Alternatives to a CPAP Machine

by BetterSleep
Jun 28 • 12 min read

A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine treats sleep apnea. For many people, it helps improve breathing and overall sleep quality. However, a CPAP machine feels intrusive and is not for everyone.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes the sleeper to stop and restart breathing throughout the night. This sleep disorder is caused by the relaxation of the throat muscles during sleep, resulting in airway obstruction. The temporary closure or narrowing of the airway momentarily cuts off breathing.

Symptoms of Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea

You might not be aware that you stop breathing, but common symptoms include snoring, gasping for breath while asleep, waking up with a dry mouth or headache, difficulty staying asleep through the night, and daytime sleepiness.

It’s essential to get a diagnosis for sleep apnea, as prolonged suffering may cause many health complications.

Complications of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea repeatedly occurs throughout the night. The repeated occurrence interrupts your sleep, causing you to feel tired instead of rested after you wake up. In most instances, people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea are unaware they have the disorder.

Complications may arise as a result of sleep apnea left untreated. A person with sleep apnea may experience daytime sleepiness, forgetfulness, and irritability. They may feel like they have not slept because waking up often during the night prevents them from having high-quality sleep.

Other than making sleep difficult, untreated sleep apnea has potentially severe consequences. This sleep disorder can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.

Common Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatment

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is a common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. It involves using a machine to pump air into your lungs while you sleep. The air pressure keeps your airway from collapsing, which prevents snoring and apneas.

CPAP is generally safe and effective, but it can take some adjustment to wear the mask during sleep. Some people may also experience side effects such as dry mouth or nose, nasal congestion, or irritability.

How a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Machine Works

A CPAP machine uses a mask and tubes to push oxygenated air into your airway. This process prevents the airway from collapsing while you sleep.

If you decide to try a CPAP machine, you might need to undergo a sleep study using CPAP titration. This technique helps doctors determine the amount of pressure necessary when using a device to treat sleep apnea.

The Disadvantage of CPAP Machines

Despite medical advice, some people with sleep apnea feel reluctant to use a CPAP machine. Below are some of the disadvantages of using this machine:

  • The device is uncomfortable. It can take time to get used to the sensation of the air pressure delivered through the mask. Some people may find sleeping difficult with a CPAP mask on their face.
  • The CPAP machine is noisy. The machine is not only intrusive for some people and the people sleeping next to them. The device can be loud, making it difficult for people to sleep.
  • The device can cause dryness in the nose and mouth. The constant flow of air from the CPAP machine can cause dryness of the nose and mouth. Doctors recommend using a humidifier with the CPAP machine to alleviate the discomfort.
  • The device can cause skin irritation. The constant contact of the mask with the skin can cause irritation, redness, and even sores.
  • The device can be cumbersome. The machine, tubing, and mask can be awkward and inconvenient, especially when traveling.

What are CPAP Alternatives for Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

It can take some time to get used to a CPAP machine. In some cases, the device is ineffective in relieving sleep apnea symptoms. You might want to try these alternatives:


Your doctor might recommend surgery as a CPAP alternative if this device and other treatments don’t work. Some of the common surgical procedures to treat sleep apnea includes:

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) refers to a surgical procedure that requires the removal of excess tissue from the soft palate and pharynx. It is the common type of surgery recommended for people with severe sleep apnea.

Sleep specialists often recommend UPPP for people with sleep apnea who have not succeeded with other treatment options. This surgery can improve the function of the upper airway and help reduce snoring and sleep apnea.

A medical surgeon performs UPPP surgery under general anesthesia. During the procedure, your surgeon will make incisions in your mouth and remove excess tissue from your soft palate and pharynx.

The risks of UPPP include bleeding, infection, and sore throat. You may also experience temporary numbness or pain in your mouth, lips, and throat. In rare cases, the surgery can cause difficulty swallowing or speaking.

Maxillomandibular advancement (MMA) is another surgical option for treating sleep apnea. This procedure involves moving the upper and lower jaws forward to increase the airway size.

Just like other surgical procedures, there are risks associated with MMA, including infection, bleeding, and numbness or pain in the face. In rare cases, the surgery can damage the teeth or cause difficulty swallowing and speaking.

Lingual tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure involving the removal of lingual tonsils located at the back of the tongue. Some risks of lingual tonsillectomy include bleeding, infection, and sore throat. The patient may also experience temporary numbness or pain in the mouth, lips, and throat.

Tracheostomy is a surgical procedure that involves making an incision in the neck and creating a hole in the trachea. The surgeon inserts the tracheostomy tube into the hole to keep the airway open.

The risks of tracheostomy include bleeding, infection, and sore throat. You may also experience temporary numbness or pain in your mouth, lips, and throat.

Endoscopic sinus surgery (ESS) is a surgical procedure that involves correcting blockages in the sinuses to improve airflow and drainage. Medical professionals recommend endoscopic sinus surgery when they suspect inflammation of the nasal cavity and sinuses contributes to obstructive sleep apnea.

Nasal Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure

An EPAP device for sleep apnea is a favorable alternative for people who do not feel comfortable using the standard CPAP treatment.

An EPAP is attached to the nostrils before sleep and uses the sleeper’s breath to create pressure. The pressure triggers changes that keep the airway open during inhalation, reducing the likelihood of lapsed breathing.

While the Nasal EPAP system does not cure sleep apnea, many find it favorable as it is less costly than the traditional CPAP system.

Tongue Reduction Surgery

A larger tongue with more fat may increase the risk of sleep apnea, especially in obese adults. Surgeons perform tongue reduction surgery under general anesthesia to reduce the size of the tongue. The reduced size of the tongue may cause less collapse into the airway at night and alleviate snoring and symptoms of sleep apnea.

The procedure is typically fast and easily tolerated, with most patients having minimal side effects.

Nerve stimulation

A surgeon inserts a hypoglossal nerve stimulator during a short outpatient procedure. It is a breathing sensor that functions with a stimulation lead and a small battery. The device monitors your breathing and stimulates nerves and muscles to open the airway as needed.

Hypoglossal nerve stimulation is a sleep apnea treatment involving a device stimulating the hypoglossal nerve. This device is usually implanted under the skin on the chest, and it sends electrical signals to the hypoglossal nerve to help keep the airway open during sleep.

The procedure for implanting the device is generally safe and relatively simple, and most people find that it helps them breathe better during sleep. Some risks are associated with hypoglossal nerve stimulation, including infection and swelling around the implant site, but these are generally rare.

Lifestyle changes

Typically, people with mild sleep apnea may resort to using non-CPAP options such as lifestyle changes. For example, sleep apnea is common in obese adults, and losing weight may help resolve the issue without undergoing elaborate treatments.

Moreover, certain lifestyle habits put a person at a greater risk of developing sleep apnea. Correcting these could relieve symptoms, such as losing weight, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol intake.

Weight Gain. While weight gain is not always the cause of sleep apnea, it is linked to breathing difficulties and sleep problems. Often overweight people have excess fat on their neck that can block airways and cause difficulty breathing during sleep.

The increased fat distribution in the neck and waist contributes to the development of sleep apnea and other sleep disorders. In addition, Mayo Clinic observes that an increased neck circumference can narrow the airway, which can cause snoring and sleep apnea.

According to sleep specialist Chadwick Denman, DDS, of Sleep Cycle Center, “more tissue can be found on or around the throat as a person gains weight. This makes apnea events more common. Because the extra weight makes it more likely, that the tissues in the soft palate will collapse, causing an apnea event”.

Thankfully it is straightforward to do sleep apnea exercises for breathing and to relieve the symptoms. These exercises help you maintain a strong throat and jawbone and reduce obstructions in the throat.

Alcohol Intake. Alcohol affects sleeping, and nighttime consumption of alcohol increases your risk of breathing difficulty while you sleep. Health researchers found a link between alcohol consumption in chronic apnea events.

In an article published in the American Journal of Managed Care, researchers found that alcohol intake reduces oxygen saturation. A low oxygen saturation level is linked to severe snoring and sleeping disorder.

Smoking. Cigarette smoke contains chemicals that irritate and trigger swelling in the nose and throat, which reduces the space for normal airflow. Observational studies demonstrated a link between smoking and severe obstructive sleep apnea, where investigators found a higher smoking prevalence in patients with OSA symptoms than non-smokers.

Positional Therapy

Sleeping on your back may worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea due to the effect of gravity. Lying on your back may cause the soft tissues of the palate and the lower jaw to fall back and block the airway.

Sleep specialists recommend positional therapy to treat positional sleep apnea, noting that sleep apnea symptoms arise in people who sleep on their backs.

With positional therapy, the sleeper wears a special device around the waist to help keep them from sleeping on their side. The device comes with a “vibrotactile feedback” technology that gently vibrates when the sleeper starts to roll over. The vibration alerts the sleeper to change position even without waking up.

Sleeping on your back is not the best if you snore, have sleep apnea, or both. Try sleeping on your side or stomach. If you can’t sleep in those positions, try sleeping on your back with your head elevated more than normal.

Oral appliances

This device is fitted to your mouth that moves your jaw forward. It helps to keep your airway open, but it is not as effective as a CPAP machine.

Sleep specialists recommend the use of different oral appliances to treat sleep apnea. These appliances work by holding the jaw in a forward position, which helps to keep the airway open during sleep.

Oral appliances are usually custom-made for each individual and can be adjusted to ensure they are comfortable and effective. Many people find oral appliances are an effective treatment for sleep apnea and are often much more comfortable than CPAP machines.

However, don’t stop using CPAP therapy without talking to your doctor first. They can help you decide if it is safe for you to try CPAP machine alternatives. Most importantly, get a diagnosis and proper treatment for sleep apnea to avoid complications.

Bariatric Surgery as a Treatment for Sleep Apnea

Bariatric surgery is one treatment option for sleep apnea, with a remission rate of 80 to 85%. Most patients lose 50 to 80% of their excess body weight within 18 to 24 months after surgery. The reduced fat tissue around the upper airway following weight loss can eliminate or reduce the upper airway collapse that occurs with OSA.

A bariatric operation can be an effective treatment for sleep apnea for several reasons. First, it can reduce the patient’s weight, which can, in turn, reduce the severity of sleep apnea.

Second, it helps to improve the function of the upper airway muscles, which can also help to reduce the severity of sleep apnea. Finally, this type of surgery can help increase the amount of oxygen available to the brain during sleep, which can help improve overall sleep quality and reduce the risks associated with sleep apnea.

This surgery can help you lose weight and improve your sleep apnea symptoms. Talk to your doctor about your sleep apnea treatment options before deciding.

BIPAP for Sleep Apnea

BiPAP therapy is similar to CPAP treatment. In addition to the single pressure, BiPAP employs two pressures: inhalation pressure and exhalation pressure.

BiPAP has been commonly used to treat insomnia when patients also experience lung issues, such as COPD and other respiratory ailments. Historically, the medication also worked for sleep apnea patients who could not tolerate the use of CPAP. Your sleep expert will tell you whether the BiPAP is the right fit for you.

Alternatives to CPAP FAQs

How can I treat sleep apnea at home without CPAP?

You can treat sleep apnea at home without CPAP in several ways. One way is to use a mouthpiece specifically designed to help keep your airway open while you sleep.

Another way is to sleep on your side instead of your back. This position can help prevent the collapse of your airway. You can also try using nasal strips or a humidifier to keep your airway moist and clear.

Finally, avoiding alcohol and smoking can also help reduce sleep apnea symptoms. If you are having difficulty managing your sleep apnea without CPAP, it is essential to talk to your doctor about other treatment options that may be available.

What are tongue retention devices?

Tongue retainers hold your tongue forward to prevent the obstructions of your air passage. People with sleep apnea use these devices to avoid apnea symptoms, but studies indicate problems with compliance. The majority of people choose mandibular advancements devices over tongue retention devices.

What is the best alternative to a CPAP machine?

Depending on your specific needs, a few alternatives to CPAP machines exist. One option is an APAP machine, which stands for Automatic Positive Airway Pressure. This machine automatically adjusts the amount of pressure it delivers based on your breathing, so you don’t have to worry about manually adjusting the settings.

Another option is a BiPAP machine, which stands for Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure. This type of machine delivers two different levels of pressure – one for inhaling and one for exhaling. This can be helpful if you have difficulty exhaling against the higher pressure produced by a CPAP machine.

Finally, there are “travel CPAPs” or “mini CPAPs,” which are smaller, more portable versions of traditional CPAP machines. These can be a good option if you must take your machine when traveling.

If you’re not sure which type of machine is right for you, talk to your doctor or sleep specialist. They can help you determine which option will best help you get the restful sleep you need.

Can a mouth breather use a nasal pillow?

This is a difficult question because it depends on the individual mouth breather. Some people may be able to use nasal pillows with no problem, while others may find that they cause discomfort or that they don’t work well with their breathing pattern.

Ultimately, it’s essential to experiment with different types of CPAP masks and Pillows to see what works best for you. Special masks may be more comfortable for you if you are a mouth breather.

Can central sleep apnea be reversed?

There is no definitive answer to this question as the treatment of central sleep apnea (CSA) will vary depending on the condition’s underlying cause. However, some forms of central sleep apnea may be reversible with treatment.

For example, if central sleep apnea is caused by a treatable medical condition such as heart failure or obesity, addressing these underlying conditions may help improve or resolve sleep apnea. In other cases, however, CSA may be a chronic condition that requires lifelong management and therapies.

Can music assist in improving the sleep quality of patients with sleep apnea?

There is some evidence that music may help improve the sleep quality of patients with sleep apnea. A small study published in the journal “Sleep and Biological Rhythms” found that patients who listened to 45 minutes of relaxing music before bedtime experienced significantly better sleep quality than those who did not listen to music. The study participants who listened to music reported feeling more rested and having less daytime fatigue.

While more research is needed to confirm these findings, the results of this study suggest that music may be a helpful addition to the treatment of sleep apnea. If you are interested in trying this approach, talk to your doctor about whether it may be right for you.

What are soft palate procedures?

Soft palate procedures are surgeries that aim to improve the function of the soft palate, the fleshy part at the back of the roof of the mouth. The soft palate is responsible for separating the nasal and oral cavities, and it also plays a role in producing certain sounds during speech. Medical professionals recommend soft palate procedures to treat cleft palate and sleep apnea.

Medical practitioners perform soft palate procedures alone or in combination with other surgeries. The specific procedure that is right for you will depend on your condition and needs.

Is nasal decongestant effective in alleviating sleep apnea symptoms?

A nasal decongestant can help reduce snoring by shrinking the swollen blood vessels in the nose. A study confirms that improving nasal patency with a decongestant could enhance sleep quality and oxygen saturation level during sleep. This process can open up the airway and make it easier to breathe.

However, talking to your doctor before using a nasal decongestant is essential. Some decongestants make sleep apnea worse, and expert recommendation is vital.

Is CPAP the only treatment for sleep apnea?

In addition, many people effectively treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Many experience life-changing advantages from CPAP. The CPAP is regarded as an essential health system in most cases. In addition to improving health, sleep apnea treatment can be beneficial.

Is positional therapy as effective as a CPAP machine?

Evidenced-based research confirms that CPAP machine apnea-hypopnea index score compared to a positional therapy. This result suggests that CPAP is more effective than positional therapy.

However, patients tolerate positional therapy better. They feel more comfortable with positional therapy, which improves their adherence to this treatment compared with CPAP.

What is orofacial therapy?

Orofacial treatment can help prevent aphasic events. Therapy is about correcting tongue positioning to keep airways open. You will learn about muscles that control your tongue, palate, and mouth.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

Sleep apnea is diagnosed through a physical examination, a medical and sleep history review, and a sleep study.

During the physical examination, your doctor will look for signs of sleep apnea, such as large tonsils, a large tongue, or a small jaw. The practitioner will ask about your medical history and whether you snore loudly.

If you have any risk factors for sleep apnea, such as being overweight or having diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease, your doctor may be more likely to suspect that you have sleep apnea.

If your doctor suspects you have sleep apnea, she may refer you to a sleep specialist for further testing.

Wrap Up

The bottom line is that there are a variety of effective treatments for sleep apnea, and CPAP is just one option. If CPAP is not working for you, talk to your doctor about other potential therapies. There is no need to suffer from sleep apnea; with proper treatment, you can get the restful sleep you need.

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