CPAP is considered the “gold standard” of sleep apnea treatment, but for many people the discomfort, claustrophobia, and side effects of CPAP are simply not worth it.
That’s probably why up to 83% of CPAP users are not “compliant” in using it regularly…
And many patients simply give up using CPAP altogether.
But the fact is, there are many alternatives to CPAP that sleep apnea sufferers (and doctors) simply don’t know about.
Our mission is to spread the word about these new, effective, and proven alternative treatments for sleep apnea.
♣ WHAT IS SLEEP APNEA?
The American Sleep Apnea Association’s sleep apnea definition states that “apnea” is a Greek word that means “without breath.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, sleep apnea is a condition that causes episodes of momentary breathing stoppage (the “apnea”) while you are sleeping, as well as shallow breathing (which is called “hypopnea”).
Sleep apnea comes in three different forms:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA – the most common form of sleep apnea)
- Central Sleep Apnea
- Complex Sleep Apnea (a mix of obstructive and central)
Sleep apnea disrupts your sleep as well as the sleep of anyone who shares a bed with you. The breaks in your breathing may last a few seconds or a few minutes. Regular breathing typically re-starts with a loud snorting or choking noise. A vicious cycle is repeated all night long.
Your bed partner is usually more aware than you of your breaks in breathing. Generally, you will experience more than 5 episodes each hour (in severe cases, up to 100 episodes an hour).
Sleep apnea often escapes proper diagnosis. It cannot be detected by a blood test. In addition, you might not exhibit the breathing symptoms when you make a visit to your doctor’s office. However, you could be referred to a sleep clinic where overnight testing is undertaken.
Before your initial visit to the doctor, you might like to ask your significant other to make recordings during the night so that your physician can hear for him- or herself. But be prepared to be shocked - the sounds are not pretty!
Sleep apnea noises are not your grandfather’s gentle snores. No, sir! The nightly chorus is a cacophony of sounds that include:
- Short, abrupt snorts
- Drawn out, extended buzzing that sounds like a forest of electric saws going full tilt
- A rattle that is akin to the worn-out engine of an old car trying desperately to ascend a steep hill - and failing miserably
In addition, the noises are sometimes accompanied by leg twitches, jerks and spasms. This may be linked to central sleep apnea, whereby brain signals are being sent to the wrong muscles.
With all the twitching, heavy breathing and breathing lulls, some partners can be forgiven for thinking that the sleep apnea sufferer is enjoying some kind of wild sleep sex. It is nothing so devious. In reality, the sounds and twitches are just symptoms of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a relatively common condition, so do not be alarmed if you are a sufferer. You are certainly not alone!
The bad news is that the disorder is chronic, which means it is not going to stop anytime soon, and will likely last forever if not treated properly.
♣ TYPES OF SLEEP APNEA
Two main types of sleep apnea exist. They are:
1) Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (also known as “OSA”) is the more common of the two conditions.
OSA occurs when your upper airway becomes blocked, or when it collapses. As you struggle to breathe, air is squeezed past the obstruction. This causes the loud snoring noise that your bedfellow has grown to hate.
2) Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea is far less common than OSA, but is no less serious.
If you suffer from this type of sleep apnea, it means that the “breathing control center” within your brain is not functioning correctly.
With central sleep apnea, your breathing muscles do not receive the proper signals. This causes your breathing to stop for short periods of time. It might be a brief respite for your partner, but it is a potentially dangerous situation for you.
♣ SLEEP APNEA CAUSES
The cause of sleep apnea depends on the type of sleep apnea you have:
- Causes of obstructive sleep apnea are most commonly weak muscles and/or excessive flab in the upper airway, which results in your upper airway getting blocked when you sleep
- Causes of central sleep apnea are typically a malfunctioning of brain signals, which results in your brain failing to “tell” your body to breathe
There are a number of sleep apnea risk factors, including:
- Excess body weight. Being overweight makes it more likely that you have flabby tissue in your upper airway – a primary cause of obstructive sleep apnea
- Elevated blood pressure. When your body is not getting enough oxygen (due to sleep apnea), your blood pressure may rise in order to increase the flow of oxygen to the brain and heart.
- Enlarged adenoids and tonsils. Adenoids are a blob of soft tissue behind the nose; tonsils are the blobs of tissue on either side of the top of your throat. If any of these blobs becomes swollen they will obstruct the flow of air into your airway.
- Diabetes. Numerous studies have found a correlation between sleep apnea and insulin resistance, suggesting that OSA may contribute to the development of diabetes.
- Consuming alcoholic beverages (especially bedtime drinking). Alcohol acts as a muscle relaxant. This means alcohol may cause the muscles in your upper airway to relax – and close during sleep.
- Smoking. Smoking can cause an inflammation of the tissue in the upper airway, causing your airway to close while you sleep.
- Hypothyroidism. Low levels of thyroid hormones can lead to changes in the upper airway, including changes to the muscles of the throat and enlargement of the tongue.
- Allergies. Nasal allergies can block the nasal passage, restricting the flow of air into your body.
- Having a large neck circumference. Males with neck measurements of 17 inches or more, and females with neck measurements of 16 inches or more, are more likely to develop sleep apnea. This is because a thicker neck may indicate an excess of fatty tissue in the upper airway.
♣ SLEEP APNEA SYMPTOMS
There are a handful of tell-tale sleep apnea signs. The main symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea are:
- Frequently occurring episodes of loud snoring, mixed with quiet periods (when breathing stops) lasting 10 seconds or more. This can happen more than 100 times each night.
- Constant tiredness and daytime drowsiness/sleeping
- Memory and concentration difficulties
- Frequent headaches: especially in the mornings
- Lack of a social life because of extreme fatigue
- Depression and mood changes
- Weight gain due to lack of energy for exercise
- High blood pressure
- Impotence or erectile dysfunction in men
♣ SLEEP APNEA SIDE EFFECTS
- Coronary artery disease
- Congestive heart failure
- Heart attack
- Brain damage: In clinical research that used MRI to study the brain’s cerebral cortex (that is, the “gray matter) it was discovered that this area of the brain is quite a bit smaller in sleep apnea sufferers.
The cerebral cortex is involved in cardiovascular activity, breathing, memory, concentration and a whole host of other neurological functions. Having less gray matter equates to brain damage.
- Elevated glucose levels: If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, it could mean that your glucose/blood sugar and insulin levels are higher than they should be.
Abnormal levels of blood sugar negatively impact the way in which the body processes glucose. This could lead to insulin resistance and potential diabetes.
- Nocturia: This is a need for frequent urinating during the night.
- Acid reflux
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD in children: Children who suffer from untreated sleep apnea are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.
- Sleep deprived partners: Bedmates of sleep apnea sufferers are usually kept awake by loud snoring and sporadic jerking each night. If your partner is grumpy and glares at you with puffy, red eyes in the mornings, more than likely it is due to your disruptive sleep apnea. (Related: read our guide on the best earplugs for sleeping.)
- Insomnia: in addition to your partner having a hard time sleeping, many sleep apnea sufferers themselves suffer from insomnia (check out our article "How to fix insomnia" for tips specifically for sleep apnea).
- Non-health-related effects,like job loss and other loss of income: It's an unfortunate fact that some people who suffer from sleep apnea are so debilitated by the condition that they experience sleep apnea disability. There are also additional costs borne by the condition (like the cost of sleep studies and equipment), and not all treatments are covered by sleep apnea insurance.
(At this point, you might need a picker-upper! Take a moment to get some inspiration from celebrities with sleep apnea.)
♣ HOW TO DIAGNOSE SLEEP APNEA
Before looking into selecting the best sleep apnea treatment, you’ll need to know for sure if you have the condition. There are a number sleep apnea tests that can show you how to diagnose sleep apnea:
♠ Sleep Apnea Quiz
A sleep apnea quiz should be your first step in determining if you have the condition. These sleep apnea online tests can help you answer the question “do I have sleep apnea?”
Typically with these quizzes, you provide answers to a set of questions. Each answer is worth a set number of points. The total number of points that you accrue will show either a high or low probability that you are suffering from sleep apnea.
We have reviews of the best online sleep apnea quizzes here.
♠ Sleep Apnea Test At Home
If the sleep apnea quiz suggests you have sleep apnea, it’s not guaranteed that you actually have the condition.
To be more certain, you need to either do at sleep apnea test at home or stay overnight in a sleep center for a sleep study (which we cover in the next section).
At Home Sleep Apnea Kits – What Do They Involve?
1) To use the device, you simply attach the sensors to certain parts of your body at bedtime. You might also have to press a button on the machine, or keep a sleep log.
2) You will remove the sensors upon waking up the next morning.
3) After that, you will return the device to the sleep center. The sleep team will interpret the data and come up with your “score”.
Within a number of days or weeks, a sleep doctor will contact you to talk about the results.
Your doctor may arrange for you to use at-home sleep apnea test equipment, or you can purchase at home sleep apnea kits online. To read our review of the best home test kits for sleep apnea, please click here.
Increasingly, self-administered home studies are proving to be a viable alternative to studies undertaken in sleep centers. If you feel you might not be able to sleep overnight in a sleep center, a home study might be just right for you. It is certainly less costly.
♠ Sleep Study
According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, an overnight sleep study that is undertaken in a sleep lab is the most definitive means by which a diagnosis of sleep apnea can be made.
The sleep study typically records the activity that occurs over six hours of sleep. The procedure in totally painless and there are no needles involved.
The components of a sleep study include:
- An electroencephalogram/EEG to measure brain waves
- An electroculogram/EOG to measure chin and eye movements in response to various stages of sleep
- An electrocardiogram/EKG to measure your heart rate and rhythm
- Monitoring of the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in your blood
- Monitoring and recording of leg movements
The test is officially known as a polysomnography. The test usually performed by a registered polysomnographic technologist.
The most important data from a sleep study is the apnea-hypopnea index/AHI. As mentioned previously, “apnea” means a complete stoppage of breath, while “hypopnea” means that a breath is constricted, or a “shallow”.
The AHI indicates the total apneas and hypopneas that the sleeper experiences during the course of each 60 minutes. How many apneas and hypopneas you have determines the severity of your sleep apnea:
- An AHI between 5 and 15 is classed under mild obstructive sleep apnea
- An AHI between 15 and 30 is classed under moderate OSA
- An AHI over 30 is classed under severe OSA
♣ SLEEP APNEA TREATMENTS
Did you know there are many proven, natural treatments for sleep apnea that you can do at home?
Due to the influence of CPAP manufacturers on doctors’ recommendations, many of these remedies have not been widely known…until now!
Below we’ve summarized the best natural remedies for sleep apnea, treatments that have shown success in clinical trials in eliminating or minimizing the condition. We also summarize the best sleep apnea devices and surgical procedures for sleep apnea:
■ HOME REMEDIES FOR SLEEP APNEA
● Mouth and Throat (“Orofacial”) Exercises
Research has proven that by regularly and consistently exercising your mouth, jaw and throat muscles, sleep apnea exercises are an effective method that can cure (or significantly reduce) apnea in as little as three months.
Many researchers are convinced of the effectiveness of this treatment (but family doctors are taking some time to catch up!)
● Singing Therapy
Inexpensive and fun, singing exercises for sleep apnea work to dramatically lessen your OSA.
Through singing, you can effectively your strengthen airway muscles so they don’t collapse during sleep. There are no drugs involved and no side effects: just sing some songs and tighten up those throat muscles!
● Didgeridoo Therapy
The “didgeridoo” is an ancient Australian wind instrument invented by aboriginal people. It’s played by blowing into the end of a small hollowed-out log.
When you blow into a didgeridoo, the muscles of the airway are exercised and made stronger. Research shows that 25 minutes a day of didgeridoo for sleep apnea can lessen sleep apnea symptoms in as little as 3 months.
● Positional Therapy
Positional therapy for sleep apnea involves sleeping on your side instead of on your back. Making the change produces a marked improvement in mild and moderate obstructive sleep apnea.
● Herbal Remedies
Research studies have demonstrated the power of some herbs for sleep apnea, including essential oils for sleep apnea. In addition, teas such as lavender and chamomile are used as sedatives to calm the nervous system for better quality sleep.
● Yoga Breathing Exercises
The breathing exercises used in the practice of yoga can be utilized to effectively ease sleep apnea symptoms. Yoga for sleep apnea works by making the diaphragm stronger, increasing your intake of oxygen.
There are many other health-related benefits of yoga exercises, including stress relief and weight loss.
● Sleep Hygiene
Sleep “hygiene” doesn’t mean you need to be cleaner! It refers to the daily habits you have related to sleep.
Specific sleep hygiene tips include trying to get up at the same time each morning and going to bed at the same time each night, avoiding daytime naps, and other techniques to keep your circadian rhythm in balance.
● Buteyko Breathing Technique
Do you believe that word-of-mouth recommendations are best? Well, many people swear by the Buteyko breathing technique for sleep apnea as a cure (we've received many emails here at Apnea Treatment Center).
Proper breathing is an art, and this technique teaches you to breathe in the correct manner. The improved breathing technique that you practice during your waking hours will carry over to your nighttime sleep. This will result in a noticeable reduction or elimination of sleep apnea.
● Acupuncture Therapy
Research that has been published in reputable scientific journals demonstrates the viability of acupuncture as an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.
Acupuncture for sleep apnea works by stimulating the upper airway, keeping it open while you sleep. The result: no more sleep apnea!
● Weight Loss
Losing weight is extremely important in the fight against sleep apnea. Excess fat in the neck and abdomen area will be reduced, thus taking pressure off the airway and the respiratory muscles. If you’re overweight, weight loss for sleep apnea is a must. If you'd like to learn more about losing weight, make sure to check out our guide to sleep apnea diet.
● Foods to Eat/Foods to Avoid
Certain foods can cause or worsen sleep apnea, and there are also foods that help sleep apnea. You should avoid bananas as well as fast foods and heavily processed foods. A Mediterranean diet that incorporates lots of leafy green vegetables, olive oil and avocados helps to reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea.
● Allergy Treatment & Nasal Irrigation
According to a study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, daytime drowsiness and nighttime nasal congestion are reduced when allergies are properly treated. This translates into improved sleep.
Nasal irrigation is useful for unblocking noses and fighting infections. Many people swear that a daily rinse of their nasal passages helps to alleviate sleep apnea. Commercial kits for nasal irrigation are readily available.
● Lifestyle Changes: Stop smoking and drinking alcohol
Many small lifestyle changes can make a big difference to your sleep apnea.
For example, if you smoke or drink alcoholic beverages, those substances will negatively impact your lung and respiratory functions. As such, they can cause or worsen your sleep apnea.
■ SLEEP APNEA DEVICES
Aside from CPAP equipment, there are many sleep apnea devices available for purchase online or through your dentist (many of these also function as anti snoring devices). Here are the most popular and effective:
♠ Nasal Strips
Band-Aid-like nasal strips for sleep apnea are available over-the-counter or online. A nasal strip is placed across the nose to decongest the nasal passages and aid breathing.
♠ Sleep Apnea Pillows
There are two main types of sleep apnea pillows:
1. Sleep apnea position pillows are designed to reduce - or completely eliminate - sleep apnea symptoms by keeping your head and neck in the optimal position while you sleep (i.e. positioning your head and neck so your airway stays open).
2. CPAP pillows are made specifically to allow CPAP users to sleep comfortably with their masks. These pillows are often irregularly-shaped and include "cut-outs" that allow you to sleep with a CPAP mask and hose. Depending on the position you sleep in with your CPAP equipment, you'll want to check out the CPAP pillows for side sleepers, or get a CPAP pillow for stomach sleepers.
♠ Bumper Belts
Bumper belts are sleep apnea positional belts that prevent you from sleeping on your back (which is a major cause of obstructive sleep apnea). These can be highly effective. Prescribed by many doctors, the belts successfully treat positional obstructive sleep apnea.
♠ Chin Straps
According to a study published at the website for the National Institute of Health, a chin strap for sleep apnea resulted in an improvement of severe OSA. The chinstrap was found to out-perform the CPAP machine. You can either purchase or make your own chin strap.
♠ Mouth-Guards/Mouthpieces (Purchased Online)
You can purchase a variety of sleep apnea mouth guards and mouthpieces online. They are very much like the mouth guards worn by athletes. While you sleep, the mouth guard holds your lower jaw in proper alignment to keep your airway free and allow easier breathing.
♠ Oral Appliances (Fitted By Your Dentist)
Your dentist can take an impression of your mouth to create a custom mouth guard that will be fitted by the dentist. The device has hinges for ease of jaw movement.
The dental appliance will stabilize your soft palate and tongue so as to facilitate an open airway and easy breathing.
♠ Provent Therapy
Provent Therapy is FDA-approved for the treatment of sleep apnea. This therapy uses disposable micro-valves that are placed over each nostril at nighttime. They prevent collapse of the airway and help you to breathe much more easily.
♠ Winx Sleep Therapy System
The Winx Sleep Therapy System comprises a console, a tube and a flexible mouthpiece. The system draws the soft palate of the mouth forward so as to stabilize the tongue and keep the airway open.
Winx eliminates the need for a mask, making it easier to sleep in any position. However, Winx must be prescribed by a physician.
■ SLEEP APNEA SURGERY
♦ Upper Airway Stimulation (Inspire)
The Inspire therapy consists of a surgically-implanted device that monitors the pattern of your breathing during sleep. When needed, it stimulates your main airway muscles so as to keep the airway open.
Studies have concluded that tonsillectomy is a safe and effective surgery for the treatment of sleep apnea. Other clinical research found that overweight children who underwent the surgery for OSA became obese very rapidly.
UPPP stands for uvulopalatopharyngoplasty. This procedure has been widely used for more than 25 years. During surgery, excess tissue is removed from both the pharynx and the soft palate.
Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty/LAUP has been found to be effective in treating general snoring, and may also help sleep apnea.
♦ Pillar Procedure
The Pillar procedure, or soft palate implant, alleviates mild sleep apnea. The procedure uses three polyester rods that are placed into the soft palate. This causes an inflammatory response that stiffens the soft palate. Ultimately, apnea and snoring are reduced.
♦ Mandibular Maxillary Advancement
This is a three- to four-hour surgery in which the upper and lower jaws are moved forward to create a larger airway.
♦ Hyoid Advancement
The hyoid is a very small neck bone that connects the pharynx and the muscles of the base of the tongue. By surgically re-positioning the hyoid, the airway becomes expanded and less likely to collapse.
♦ Radiofrequency Ablation
Radiofrequency ablation is a temperature-controlled procedure that reduces the volume of the tissue in the soft palate. It has helped patients with mild to moderate OSA.
♦ Tongue Advancement
This highly invasive procedure involves moving one of the chief tongue muscles to a more forward position so that the tongue does not fall backward while you sleep. The procedure is very successful.
This surgical technique is generally used on very obese or very sick patients. During the procedure, a passageway is created so that air takes a direct route to the lungs from the trachea in the neck.
Your septum separates the two nostrils of your nose. Septoplasty is the surgical procedure that straightens out a bent septum (the "wall" between your nostrils) so that the flow of air does not become blocked.
♦ Nasal Valve Surgery with Rhinoplasty
Nasal valve surgery with rhinoplasty is a routine treatment for any kind of nasal obstruction that starts at the outside of the nose.
This surgical procedure removes bone and soft tissue to open up your nasal passages and clear airway obstructions.
Like septoplasty, turbinoplasty also straightens your nasal septum. It is a fairly straightforward procedure that does not leave any bruising or swelling. The outward appearance of your nose will remain unchanged, but breathing will be much easier.
♦ Bariatric Surgery
Obesity is both a primary cause of - and a precipitating factor in - sleep apnea. While bariatric surgery for sleep apnea can lead to massive weight loss, research has found that the surgery does not lead to a significant improvement in obstructive sleep apnea.
Apnea Treatment Center is the #1 site on the Web on how to cure sleep apnea naturally without CPAP - but we would be remiss if we didn't cover CPAP therapy, because it's the most common treatment for sleep apnea.
While CPAP is a bitter pill to swallow for many sleep apneics (due to its many side effects), it can also be a life-saver - if you're comfortable sleeping with a mask on your face and you don't experience the drawbacks.
In fact, while there are many sleep apnea sufferers who can't live with CPAP, there are an equal number who couldn't live without it.
So with that in mind, if you're interested in getting the most from your CPAP equipment, we've created a number of guides that we hope will help you:
♦ What is CPAP?
A quick description of how CPAP works.
♦ Types of CPAP Equipment
Did you know there are three different types of "PAP" (positive airway pressure) machine? We explain the difference and which you should choose.
♦ Pros & Cons of Using CPAP Equipment
At this point you probably know that there are quite a few drawbacks to CPAP - but there are also some life-saving benefits. Click here to learn the pros and cons.
♦ Can You Buy CPAP Over the Counter?
This is a common question among people who don't have health insurance. In this guide we cover how to buy a CPAP machine online.
♦ CPAP Masks: Beginner's Guide
The type of CPAP mask you choose will depend on a handful of factors, most importantly your sleeping position. This article is a great beginner's guide to CPAP masks.
♦ Best CPAP Masks
If you've decided to buy a CPAP mask and want to find the best prices online, we have a guide to help you find the best CPAP mask.
♦ Best CPAP Pillows
Regular pillows aren't made for sleeping with CPAP equipment, and finding the right pillow can be a bummer. That's why we created this guide to the best CPAP pillow.
♦ Best CPAP Chin Strap
One big challenge faced by people who "mouth-breathe" is keeping their mouth closed while they're sleeping (to state the obvious, CPAP doesn't work if you don't keep it in your mouth!). So in this guide we cover our recommendations for the best CPAP chin strap.
♦ CPAP Machine Cleaning and Disinfecting
You might be surprised at the amount of toxic and disgusting germs that build up inside a CPAP mask, tube, and machine (or maybe not?). In this guide we tell you all about CPAP machine cleaning and disinfecting as well as the best CPAP disinfectant.
♦ How to Clean Your CPAP Mask
This is a step-by-step tutorial on how to clean your CPAP mask. Not sexy - but necessary!
♦ How to Clean Your CPAP Hose
Just like the previous guide - but for CPAP hoses!
♦ CPAP Cleaners
Even though you can clean your entire CPAP by hand, if you have the money we strongly recommend investing in an automatic CPAP cleaner like the SoClean CPAP Cleaner and Sanitizing Machine. Trust us - once you try it, you'll never want to wash your equipment by hand again!
♦ CPAP Battery Backups
Do you like traveling and/or camping? Then you'll probably need a CPAP battery backup. This is a very practical guide to a surprisingly handy piece of equipment.
♦ CPAP Hose Holders
Last but not least! The neglected CPAP hose holder. You'll be glad we pointed you to this handy little tool!
To read the article related to this video please click this link: The Pros and Cons of Using CPAP