Sleep apnea is a condition where breathing stops and starts during sleep. The main treatment is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask. However, there are maskless options that people may use.
Maskless treatments aim to reduce the occurrence of sleep apnea. These treatments include:
- lifestyle changes and strategies
- position therapy
- oral appliances
Maskless treatments do not aim to cure sleep apnea, and not all of these options are viable for everyone.
However, some people are unable to tolerate masked, or CPAP, treatment. Others may prefer to seek alternative methods. Almost
In these cases, it is better for a person to use maskless treatment than to go without treatment.
This article discusses four maskless sleep apnea treatment options.
Learn more about the top CPAP machines for side sleepers here.
Some lifestyle changes and strategies may decrease the severity of sleep apnea symptoms. These include:
- weight loss in people with overweight or obesity
- avoiding alcohol, benzodiazepines, certain antidepressants, and opioids
- addressing any underlying health conditions, like heart and lung conditions and nasal obstructions
A person can speak with a healthcare professional about which lifestyle strategies may work for them. People should not start or stop taking any medication without a doctor’s advice.
Weight loss is a key lifestyle strategy for people with sleep apnea and overweight or obesity. There is a
However, weight loss may not be suitable or effective for everyone. A person can speak with a doctor for guidance on how to lose weight safely and sustainably.
Alcohol may increase the frequency and duration of sleep apnea episodes, particularly during the first hour of sleep. This is when alcohol levels in the blood are highest.
Consuming alcohol reduces respiratory activity in the genioglossus muscles, which are responsible for controlling the tongue. Any alcohol in the blood will have an effect, but the risk is more significant with chronic heavy alcohol use.
Position therapy is a second-line sleep apnea treatment. It
Methods in position therapy may include:
- placing an item, such as a tennis ball, on the person’s back to prevent them from turning over
- using a pillow that positions the body
- using an alarm that vibrates if the person turns over
This type of therapy may affect a person’s quality of sleep, but there is
There are three main types of oral appliances:
- soft palate lifters
- tongue retaining devices
- mandibular attachment devices (MADs)
MADs are the
Side effects of MADs tend to be mild and short lasting. They may include:
- dry mouth
- gum irritation
- high salivation levels
- tooth pain
- tender muscles
- temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain
- myofascial pain
Oral appliances are generally best for people with mild to moderate sleep apnea and who have a teeth structure that can comfortably accommodate an oral appliance.
Surgery is another second-line option for certain people with sleep apnea. Types of surgery depend on which body part is obstructing a person’s breathing, such as the:
- nasal passage
- redundant tissues in the middle of the throat
- bones of the skull or face
Potential side effects of surgery depend on the procedure. In some cases, surgery for sleep apnea
Effective treatment for sleep apnea varies between people. None of the alternative treatments highlighted above are as effective as CPAP therapy, which is the
However, maskless treatments can be beneficial for people who cannot use CPAP machines.
Not all treatments are suitable for every person. A doctor can offer treatment advice that is specific to each individual with sleep apnea.
The most effective treatment for sleep apnea is a CPAP mask. However, people often find that CPAP treatment is uncomfortable. Many people do not continue CPAP treatment in the long term.
Maskless options may benefit people who cannot use CPAP machines. These options include lifestyle changes and strategies, position therapy, oral appliances, and surgery.
However, not all treatments are appropriate for everyone. A person can speak with a doctor for individual advice.