5 Alternatives to CPAP Machines for Sleep Apnea

Doctor discussing alternative treatments for sleep apnea with patient

From the cause of obstruction to the patient’s sleeping habits, every case of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is unique. But there’s one thing about OSA that’s too often the same and that’s the treatment plan. 

The vast majority of people diagnosed with OSA are recommended CPAP therapy. One study reviewed the medical records of over 600 patients with OSA and found that all of them had been prescribed CPAP. While this treatment option can work well, it doesn’t work for everyone. In fact, around 50% of CPAP users abandon their machines and leave their sleep apnea untreated, which is a dangerous decision.

Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with OSA and don’t want to use CPAP or you’re already struggling with therapy, there’s an alternative treatment for your sleep apnea. Read on to learn about the different options so you can find the most comfortable and effective therapy for your needs and preferences.

Comparing Alternative Treatments for Sleep Apnea

Table comparing alternatives to CPAP machines for sleep apnea

  1. Lifestyle Changes
  2. Positional Therapy
  3. Oral Appliances
  4. Oral Surgery
  5. PAP: A New CPAP Alternative

1. Lifestyle Changes

This is a great alternative to CPAP machines for your sleep apnea if:

  • You’re carrying some extra weight, especially around your neck area
  • You’ve been meaning to cut back on alcohol
  • You’re a smoker and you want to quit

Lifestyle changes can improve OSA and help you sleep better at night without the need for CPAP. By getting more exercise and losing weight, you can reduce the buildup of fat tissue around the throat and base of the tongue, which can cause obstruction. Cutting back on alcohol before you sleep prevents your airway muscles from over-relaxing, while quitting smoking can reduce the swelling of your airway.

This may not be the best sleep apnea option for you if:

  • You’re suffering from moderate to severe OSA
  • You’re at high risk of health issues and need fast and dependable results from your treatment

While changing your lifestyle will help with your overall health, this may not be enough to treat urgent and severe cases of sleep apnea. Your doctor may suggest medical weight loss or bariatric surgery, but these alternative treatments for sleep apnea are riskier and more invasive than simple lifestyle changes or PAP therapy.

2. Positional Therapy

This is a great alternative to CPAP machines for your sleep apnea if:

  • Your snoring and sleep apnea are worse when you’re on your back
  • You’re looking for a non-invasive treatment option

Your snoring and sleep apnea are often worse when you’re on your back. That’s because gravity causes your lower jaw, tongue, and uvula to fall into your airway. Positional therapists can recommend wearable devices, belts, pillows, or adjustable bed settings to keep you off your back and help reduce your sleep apnea. 

This may not be the best sleep apnea option for you if:

  • You’re suffering from moderate to severe OSA
  • You need a long-term sleep apnea therapy
  • You don’t like wearing devices while sleeping
  • You travel frequently and need a portable treatment

Positional therapy has a low long-term adherence rate. The devices can be bulky, which makes them annoying to wear while you sleep and difficult to take with you on trips. While this therapy can encourage you to sleep on your side and reduce your snoring, it may not be enough to treat your sleep apnea fully. This is especially true if you’re dealing with a more severe case of OSA. 

3. Oral Appliances

This is a great alternative to CPAP machines for your sleep apnea if:

  • You have mild OSA
  • Snoring is one of your symptoms of OSA
  • You’re looking for an easy and portable treatment

Oral appliances are used to keep your throat open, which can also prevent snoring. After working with a sleep dentist to custom-fit your device, treatment is as easy as putting in your appliance every night before sleep. Unlike CPAP machines, oral devices are small and travel-friendly, which makes them ideal if you’re always on the go. 

This may not be the best sleep apnea option for you if:

  • Your sleep apnea is moderate to severe (sleep apnea tends to progress over time)
  • You don’t want or are unable to sleep with an oral appliance device without it coming out during the night
  • You want to avoid any pain, permanent dislocation, or damage to your jaw

Oral devices aren’t always comfortable to wear. If you use a mandibular advancement device (MAD), you may also experience pain or damage to your jaw. If you’re thinking “no pain, no gain,” think again. Oral devices can cause discomfort and offer limited results if your sleep apnea is moderate to severe or progresses over time.

4. Oral Surgery

This is an alternative to CPAP machines for your sleep apnea if:

  • You have tried and failed CPAP
  • Your OSA is very severe and needs immediate action
  • Your OSA is caused by excess tissue in the throat area
  • Your OSA could be treated by repositioning your jaw

There are different types of surgery for sleep apnea depending on the cause of the obstruction in your airway. You may have tissue removed from the back of your mouth or the upper and lower parts of your jaw brought forward. An impulse generator can also be implanted in your chest to stimulate the nerve that controls your tongue to keep it in the least obstructive position. 

This may not be the best sleep apnea option for you if:

  • You want to avoid an invasive procedure
  • You haven’t tried any other alternative treatments for sleep apnea

Surgery is the most invasive alternative to CPAP machines for sleep apnea and carries the most risk. Unless your doctor recommends this treatment for your sleep apnea needs, you may want to try other options first.

5. PAP: A New CPAP Alternative

There is a new and innovative way to deliver PAP, or positive airway pressure. This new CPAP alternative eliminates some of the features that make CPAP intolerable, while providing effective therapy for patients who suffer from mild, moderate, or severe sleep apnea.  

Instead of using continuous rushing air to create pressure, the Somnera® System regulates pressure with a patented SmartValve™ located in the mask. Somnera’s airflow is approximately 75% less than traditional CPAP, so you don’t need to use a large device with a loud humidifier, tight mask, and bulky hose to treat your OSA. The small, sleek device is ideal for use at home, while traveling, and with an active lifestyle. This sleep apnea option is an excellent alternative if you are newly diagnosed and want to get started with a simple, easy and effective treatment, or if you haven’t responded well to CPAP. 

To see how you can reclaim your night, learn more about the Somnera experience from a former CPAP-user here