With sleep apnea, breathing stops completely and frequently during sleep. This condition disrupts the natural sleep pattern, causing sufferers to cough or gasp as they wake abruptly from rest. When left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, fatigue, abnormal liver function, stroke, or even heart failure. Commonly, a CPAP is prescribed, but many patients look for a CPAP alternative.
Once sleep apnea has been diagnosed, a doctor may recommend using a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to keep the airway open during sleep. CPAP consists of a motor, and a tube that connects to a facemask. The unit delivers a continuous flow of air and keeps the airway from collapsing during sleep.
Those that use a CPAP may need time to adjust to wearing a mask during sleep. Ambient noise of the motor, insufficient fit of the facemask, or irritation from the mask can cause the need for a CPAP alternative. In some cases, the machine causes discomfort in the chest and stomach. Patients who have also noted an increase in dry mouth or nose bleeds may need a CPAP alternative.
If a patient is having difficulty using a CPAP machine, the doctor may recommend alternative treatments. Addressing certain environmental factors may lessen or eliminate sleep apnea:
In certain cases, a mouth guard may be an effective CPAP alternative. A custom fitted oral appliance worn while sleeping can keep the airway open by adjusting the angle of the lower jaw. Some mouth guards feature a splint to keep the tongue from obstructing airflow, as well.