Sleep apnea is no fun. It is a sleep disorder that, once diagnosed, must be treated professionally. The standard and most common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP therapy. However, CPAP—which requires the patient to wear a mask while sleeping that conducts pressurized air through the nose—is not tolerated by or effective for everyone.
According to Dr. Warren Boardman, a Bergen County, New Jersey dentist and sleep doctor, “CPAP is designed to keep the throat from collapsing during sleep, which is what causes the sleep interruptions and snoring associated with sleep apnea. However, many of my patients from New Jersey and New York come to me because they prefer not to wear the mask or want to explore alternatives to CPAP.“
Here are some other treatment options to check out for sleep apnea and snoring.
1. Sleep apnea surgery/medical interventions.
Surgical corrections for sleep apnea are meant to reduce or eliminate the extra tissue in one’s throat that collapses and blocks the airway. Surgeries range from the minimally invasive to the more complex, and may involve the tongue, upper/lower jaw, tonsils/adenoids, soft palate and uvula.
- Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) uses laser technology to shrink an enlarged and elongated uvula.
- Laser-assisted tonsil-ablation reduces the size of your tonsils.
- Tongue nerve stimulation uses an implanted neurotransmitter to stimulate the hypoglassal nerve (which controls the tongue’s movement). When switched on, it pushes the tongue forward to open up your air channels.
“Patients are well advised to check on success rates, apnea return rates, risks and side effects, and whether or not the surgery will reduce snoring,” says Dr. Boardman.
2. Lifestyle changes.
“Contributing factors to sleep apnea and snoring are being overweight, smoking, and alcohol consumption,” notes Boardman. “Therefore, engaging in a weight loss program can mitigate or eliminate sleep apnea symptoms. So can quitting smoking or cutting down on alcohol.” Why alcohol? “Alcohol relaxes the throat muscles, which cause snoring or can cause the airway to collapse, triggering sleep apnea,” explains Boardman. “In addition, chronic allergy sufferers may benefit from taking a decongestant before bedtime, in order to improve airflow through the nose and reduce snoring/sleep apnea symptoms.”
3. Alternative therapies/strategies.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy – this aims to change patterns of behavior or thinking for people who are having trouble sticking with their CPAP treatment plan or sleeping with the mask. “A behavioral sleep specialist guides the patient to eliminate the thoughts and behaviors that are causing sleep difficulties or CPAP compliance,” says Boardman.
- Positional therapy – this is for people who have sleep apnea primarily when sleeping on their back. By sleeping on their side instead, their breathing returns to normal. “This therapy may require wearing a special device around the waist or back to keep the individual on his/her side.”
- The Winx Sleep Therapy System – comprising a mouthpiece, tubing, and small console, this system applies oral pressure therapy (suction) via a gentle vacuum that is applied to the soft palate and tongue. This suction relieves obstruction of the upper airway by pulling the tissues forward.
Not sure about how these will treat your sleep apnea? At the Bergen County Center for Snoring, Sleep Apnea and CPAP Intolerance, Dr. Boardman offers a better alternative to CPAP: a non-invasive dental appliance he uses in his Ridgewood, NJ dental practice. This custom-fitted mouthpiece looks like a sports mouth guard or orthodontic appliance that is worn while you sleep. It prevents sleep apnea by holding the tongue in position or sliding your jaw forward, depending on the root cause of your condition.
“There’s no reason for anyone to suffer through the discomfort of wearing a CPAP mask at night—or waking up exhausted the next day,” says Boardman, an American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (ABDSM) Diplomate and a leading dental specialist in sleep medicine. “Whether you’re dealing with chronic snoring or interrupted sleep brought about by apnea, I can fit you with a highly effective and comfortable alternative to a CPAP mask and machine.”
Contact Dr. Boardman’s office in Ridgewood, NJ (easily accessible to NY) for a consultation about this innovative alternative to a CPAP machine—and start snoring less and sleeping better.