July 27, 2020
Are you looking for a better way to treat your obstructive sleep apnea? If so, you’re not alone.
The effects of obstructive sleep apnea can not only prevent you from leading a healthy and productive life, they are potentially very damaging to your overall health. Obstructive sleep apnea has several related complications, including high blood pressure (hypertension), a stroke, a heart attack, diabetes, and an abnormal heart rhythm. Additionally, if left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can increase the risk of heart-related illness and death.[*]
All of those undesirable complications helps explain why more than 30,000 Americans each month are searching for effective solutions in an effort to fix the problem. Currently, the most common treatment for sufferers is to use a Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure (CPAP) machine, which assists in keeping your air passages open while you sleep.[*] However, many obstructive sleep apnea sufferers continue to look for alternative solutions as CPAP machines can come with a whole list of unwanted side effects.
How a CPAP Machine Prevents Obstructive Sleep Apnea
A CPAP machine delivers a steady jet of air through tubing and a mask into your airway, creating enough pressure to hold your airway open. By preventing your airway from closing while you’re asleep, a CPAP machine can help obstructive sleep apnea sufferers sleep better and experience less symptoms.[*]
Obstructive sleep apnea sufferers may need to try different masks and machines to find one that fits appropriately and delivers the correct amount of air pressure. Masks that don’t fit and improper air pressure levels can make using the machine uncomfortable and ineffective.[*]
An important factor for sufferers to understand is that a CPAP machine is a treatment and not a cure. After finding a device that fits properly and has the proper air pressure level, users will find relief only while using the machine. If users stop using their machine, their symptoms will most likely return.
While many obstructive sleep apnea sufferers find relief with a CPAP machine, here are some of the more common side effects of using the device.[*]
- It Can Be Difficult to Fall Asleep
Sleeping with a mask over your nose and mouth can be an intrusive and uncomfortable experience, making it difficult to get used to. Therefore, it’s a good idea to try on several different masks to find the one that best fits the shape of your face.
- It Can Be Hard to Find the Right Shape and Size
Some people may find it difficult to find a mask that fits the shape of their face properly. Wearing a mask that doesn’t have a good fit can lead to more unwanted side effects, such as skin irritations and sores.
- It Can Be Difficult Tolerating Forced Air
Some machines may deliver forced air with too much pressure, which can distract you from sleeping and worsen your symptoms. Be sure to try different machines with different pressure levels to find the one that works best for you.
- It Can Cause a Dry and Stuffy Nose
A mask that doesn’t fit properly can allow air to escape, which can dry out your nose and create congestion. A nasal rinse and a moisturizing solution before and after using the CPAP machine can help reduce and eliminate these problems.
- It Can Cause Feelings of Claustrophobia
Some users may experience claustrophobic reactions while wearing the mask, leading them to abandon their CPAP as a treatment. If this is the case, you can try wearing the mask on its own while doing an activity like watching TV. This may allow you to become more comfortable wearing it.
- It Can Be Noisy
A CPAP machine can create unwanted noises from both the machine and the mask, which can make it difficult to fall asleep. Again, it’s important to test and find a CPAP machine that works for you and a mask that fits properly.
Another common complication to consider when using a CPAP machine is congestion.[*]
Additionally, a CPAP machine can also be the source of congestion. Firstly, the air from the machine may act as an irritant and cause dryness and congestion in some users. Secondly, a CPAP machine suddenly allows many obstructive sleep apnea sufferers who are typically mouthbreathers to breathe through their noses, which can introduce dust and allergens into the nasal passage.
Add in the fact that to purchase an average CPAP can cost hundreds of dollars, many obstructive sleep apnea sufferers may not be able to afford the treatment unless they have the proper insurance coverage.[*]
As you can see, a CPAP machine might not be for everyone. For these reasons, many people are looking for effective alternatives to using a CPAP machine to treat obstructive sleep apnea.
6 Factors That Put You At More Risk For Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs during sleep when your throat and tongue muscles are so relaxed that they cause the soft tissue to block the airway. This happens repeatedly during sleep and causes a sufferer to stop and start breathing several times, disrupting sleep and contributing to potentially serious complications.
1. Excess weight
One of the most common factors associated with obstructive sleep apnea is excess weight and obesity. It’s believed that fatty deposits around the upper airway contribute to blocking the airflow. However, not everyone who has obstructive sleep apnea is overweight.
Obstructive sleep apnea has shown to be more common in men than in women. This may have something to do with differences in obesity, upper airway anatomy, breathing control, hormones, and aging.
3. Alcohol Use
Consuming alcohol may contribute to obstructive sleep apnea. Alcohol has the ability to relax the muscles in your throat, which makes it easier for your airway to collapse. Even people who don’t have sleep apnea can have problems breathing while they’re sleeping as a result of alcohol.
4. Chronic nasal congestion
People with chronic nasal congestion are much more likely to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, probably as a result of narrowed or blocked airways.
5. High blood pressure
High blood pressure is another commonly associated factor in people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.
6. A Naturally Narrowed airway
Sufferers may naturally have narrow airways or enlarged tonsils or adenoids that may block the airway.
5 Alternative Ways To Treat And Stop Obstructive Sleep Apnea From Happening
If you’re looking for an alternative to a CPAP machine, you’re in luck. For some people, something as simple as changing your sleeping position may prevent you from experiencing symptoms. For others, an oral appliance may work to keep their airway open so they can breathe properly.[*][*][*][*]
Here are some more natural treatments for obstructive sleep apnea that don’t involve using a CPAP:
1. Make Lifestyle Changes
Making certain lifestyle changes can also help decrease your risk of experiencing obstructive sleep apnea.
- Avoid alcohol - Alcohol may relax the muscles in your throat when you sleep, making it more likely for your airway to collapse.
- Exercise often - Exercise not only helps you lose weight, it also positively impacts the quality and duration of your sleep.
- Relieve congestion - Congestion can be a major contributor to breathing problems while sleeping.
- Don’t smoke - Smoking can increase irritation and inflammation in the airways making it more difficult to breathe.
2. Undergo a Weight Management Program
Weight loss can greatly contribute to the reduction and possible elimination of obstructive sleep apnea in many sufferers. With less weight, there will be less pressure around your airway, helping it to remain clear and functioning properly.
3. Try Positional Therapy
Sleeping on your side can help keep your airway open and reduces your chances of experiencing obstructive sleep apnea. There are some devices and home remedies that you can wear to bed to prevent you from laying on your back.
4. Wear An Oral/Dental Appliance
Wearing a dental device, such as a mouth guard, can help align the jaw in order to keep the airway open. A tongue stabilizing device can be used to hold the tongue in place while you sleep, preventing it from blocking the airway.
5. Get Surgery for Sleep Apnea
Nasal and/or oral surgery may be necessary to fix problems that may be causing the airway to become blocked, such as congestion, a deviated septum, a soft palate, or a problem with the jaw or tongue.