For countless Americans, a CPAP machine is the first thing that comes to mind as soon as they hear the words “sleep apnea”.
It’s something I encounter regularly with my patients when I broach the topic of sleep apnea: “Sleep apnea? Oh, I don’t know…I don’t really love the idea of using a CPAP machine.”
The connection between sleep apnea treatment and CPAP machines is understandable – the devices have been used to treat sleep apnea for practically half a century, which means that many people have seen or heard about the technology at some point in their lives.
However, the ubiquity of the sleep apnea-CPAP machine connection also means that many Americans are unaware that newer alternatives have been developed – ones that allow for sleep apnea to be treated without a CPAP machine, surgery, or medication.
Why you can trust my information
I’ve been treating sleep apnea for more than a decade, and – along with a doctorate in dental surgery – I’ve earned a Qualified Dentist designation from the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM).
I regularly work with sleep apnea patients whose conditions range from mild to severe, guiding them from consultation and sleep testing all the way through diagnosis and treatment.
Can sleep apnea be treated naturally?
“Naturally” is a fairly broad term, but if we take it to mean, “without surgery, medication, or a specialized breathing machine” — yes, it can.
While there was once a time when surgery, medication, or CPAP therapy would have been your only options for treating sleep apnea, that’s no longer true. For many people, that change is a significant development.
While the aforementioned traditional options can be effective, they’re also potentially daunting and inconvenient. Those qualities have led many to avoid treatment and attempt to simply cope with sleep apnea instead of addressing it, which has had a negative impact on their health.
Being able to address their sleep apnea naturally without invasive procedures, the side effects of medication, or unwieldy breathing apparatuses means that these individuals will be able sleep more effectively and enjoy a higher quality of life.
Maskless sleep apnea treatment can be effective
To be clear, not every case of sleep apnea can be treated without a CPAP machine, medication, or surgery.
If you have a particularly severe case, one of those options may be the best choice for your long-term health, and in that situation, I would certainly recommend prioritizing health over comfort and convenience.
Nevertheless, for many people with sleep apnea, maskless, CPAP-free treatments are effective. For instance, treatment using a dental appliance can be just as effective as CPAP for up to 87% of people, so if you or someone you know is interested in treating sleep apnea without using the traditional options, the alternatives are absolutely worth exploring.
If sleeping on your back – otherwise known as a “supine position” – causes your airways to narrow or collapse and inhibit your natural breathing rhythm, changing to a different position through positional therapy may provide relief.
Typically, positional therapy will use a device positioned around your waist or back to shift you into a side-sleeping position. This helps you maintain clear airways and prevents you from returning to a supine position overnight.
Weight Management Therapy
Carrying an excessive amount of body weight can affect your ability to breathe, as the added tissue and weight around your throat area can cause your airways to be narrowed or blocked.
Weight management therapy helps to reduce the amount of weight and pressure on the airways, allowing them to remain open and clear during rest.
Naturally, this type of treatment is only effective for those who are overweight or obese. If your snoring and sleep apnea challenges are caused by the shape of your mouth, jaws, and airways, weight management therapy isn’t a treatment you would pursue.
In some cases, typically relatively mild ones, sleep apnea can be addressed through lifestyle and environment adjustments. That typically involves eliminating behaviors and external factors that negatively impact your airways and ability to breathe.
For instance, you may be able to address sleep apnea by stopping smoking, reducing your alcohol intake, or ensuring allergens are filtered out of the air where you sleep.
Finally, there are custom-molded dental appliances which treat sleep apnea by correcting the position of your mouth and jaws. They’re arguably the most successful method of at-home sleep apnea treatment, and are backed by a wealth of clinical research and testing.
Worn overnight, these types of dental appliances ensure that your airways remain open and unobstructed as you sleep, resulting in sleep that’s restful and free from snoring.
This option can be especially valuable for children who have sleep apnea, as the repositioning of the mouth and jaws often has the added benefit of reducing – or even eliminating – the need for orthodontic treatment during their adolescent years.
Are there any over-the-counter sleep apnea devices?
If you only have a very mild level of sleep apnea, you may find that a store-bought solution like a posture adjusting “sleep apnea pillow” is effective.
Rather than shifting your entire body position – like in positional therapy – these pillows simply adjust the position and elevation of your head to promote clear, unobstructed breathing as you sleep.
However, in my experience, these types of OTC treatments tend not to be effective if you have mild to severe sleep apnea. Should that be the case, you’ll likely find that treatments provided by, or in conjunction with, a qualified medical expert deliver better results.
Their expertise is crucial for ensuring the changes you’re making are effectively treating the underlying causes of your sleep apnea and not adversely affecting your health in unexpected ways.
What about homeopathic or natural ayurvedic sleep apnea remedies?
While I have tremendous respect for natural, integrated medicine, I’m not aware of any clinically tested homeopathic or ayurvedic treatments for sleep apnea, nor do I have enough familiarity with those fields to discuss their efficacy.
With those limitations in mind, it wouldn’t be fair for me to comment on their ability to successfully address the symptoms and underlying causes of sleep apnea.
If these are routes of treatment you’re interested in exploring, I would suggest doing plenty of research online and then consulting with a reputable local expert – just as you would with anything that impacts your health.
Treatment is only effective with proper commitment
If you have sleep apnea, there can be tremendous benefits to pursuing natural, at-home treatment.
Not only will you feel well-rested, but you’ll also be able to enjoy that feeling without the complications of surgery, the cleaning routine and nightly inconvenience of a CPAP machine, or the potential side effects of medication.
All of those benefits, however, are only realized if you follow the directions of your doctor, whether that means changing your daily habits, committing to a new sleeping position, or diligently wearing an oral appliance before you go to sleep.
Ultimately, poor compliance means poor health, and that’s something no one wants to see.
Looking to treat your sleep apnea in Urbandale or Des Moines?
If you live in Iowa – particularly the Urbandale and Des Moines areas – and would like to discuss your options for treating sleep apnea without a CPAP machine, surgery, or medication, I’d be happy to connect with you.
You may be able to enjoy healthier sleep immediately with a same-day temporary sleep appliance, so it’s certainly worth considering if you’ve noticed that poor sleep quality and low energy are affecting your daily activities.
You can schedule a consultation by calling Lawson Dentistry at (515) 278-4366 or by sending me a message online.