Imagine this: After years of snoring and struggling with daytime fatigue and morning headaches, you finally get a sleep test done. The doctors confirm your suspicions: You have obstructive sleep apnea. While you sleep, you repeatedly stop breathing, causing your body to go into life-or-death panic mode over and over all night — no wonder you wake up tired! Your doctor recommends a continuous positive airway pressure (or CPAP) machine to keep you breathing properly throughout the night. You try to use it as recommended, but the mask and the noise make it hard to fall asleep, you feel claustrophobic, and you wake up with a sore throat. Even though it’s effectively treating your sleep apnea, you aren’t sleeping any better. Eventually, you stop using it entirely.
Even if this isn’t your story, it’s a story that up to 83% of diagnosed sleep apnea sufferers can identify with. That’s because the majority of people with sleep apnea report that they aren’t adhering to their treatment as their doctor recommended.
CPAP Isn’t That Easy
Even though CPAP has been repeatedly proven very effective against sleep apnea, it’s only effective when it’s used regularly — and the uncomfortable machine doesn’t make that easy.
For one thing, the mask can make some people feel claustrophobic, and many struggle to fall asleep with it on their face. Plus, for people easily disturbed by sound, the noise of the machine can keep them up. But even if you can fall asleep with the mask on, the side effects don’t stop there. The airflow can dry out the mouth, nose, and throat, leading to cracked lips, nosebleeds, and sore throat. The mask itself can cause irritation on the skin where it sits, causing persistent redness, hives, or acne outbreaks. And some people even report an increase in nightmares while using the device.
Unfortunately, without treatment, these CPAP-resistant sleep apnea sufferers remain at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and all the other deadly side effects.
There Are Alternative Treatments
Thankfully, CPAP is not the only option for treating sleep apnea and, in turn, reducing your risk of associated health problems.
During an obstructive sleep apnea event, the soft tissues in the airway collapse to block breathing. This can happen for a number of reasons, from being overweight to simple genetics. CPAP treats this obstruction by forcing air through the airway. That way, the pressure of that air keeps the tissues from collapsing. An oral appliance — which is similar to an athlete’s mouthguard — can achieve this same result by instead controlling the positioning of the jaw, which in turn keeps the airway open.
For those with mild to moderate sleep apnea who struggle with CPAP, oral appliance therapy could be the answer. It’s small, silent, doesn’t require power, and is easy to travel with. If you’re in Baulkham Hills and looking for a CPAP alternative, call (02) 9686 7375 or contact us online to make an appointment with an experienced sleep dentist and learn about your options.