In case you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that causes repeated episodes of obstructions of the upper airway while you sleep, you should become acquainted with the two most commonly used treatments, CPAP and dental appliances, or so-called mouth guards.
CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)
CPAP machines blow air with constant pressure down your throat at night to keep your airways open while you are asleep. The CPAP machines are pretty small and lightweight. They are also very quiet. They have three main parts:
- Mask that fits over your nose, or both, your nose and mouth, and the mask is held in place with straps during your sleep.
- Motor which blows the air.
- Large tube (a cannula) that connects the motor and the mask.
Your doctor will explain to you what is the right pressure to use and how to set it on the machine.
What these machines do for you is they keep your airways open while you sleep, ease your snoring, and improve the quality of your sleep in general. They help with daytime sleepiness too.
There are a few different models and you can choose a mask that is comfortable enough for you.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the device is pretty effective. However, you need to be consistent and use it every night to have the desired effect.
Of course, you might need a few nights to get used to this new device that is suddenly hooked up on your face, but as soon as you get used to it, you will most likely experience the benefits right away. You just need a little patience and you will feel much better rested and alert once you start the CPAP treatment.
We must warn you that there are some possible side-effects which are not a big deal but are worth mentioning, for example, you might have feelings of confinement from the face mask, sore or dry mouth, nasal congestion, runny nose, sinusitis, or even nosebleeds. Stomach bloating and discomfort could also trouble you. And you can be feeling discomfort in chest muscles due to the machine. In case you have some of the side-effects, you should consult your doctor. Some adjustments to the CPAP machine may make the experience more comfortable for you. Some CPAP machines have certain features such as heated humidifiers to lower some issues like drying of the airways. There are options like using a cushioned face mask, chin straps, or nasal saltwater sprays.
Given you have tried CPAP, but it hasn’t helped you, or you have mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, you can try using oral appliances. These devices have to be fitted by a dentist and you should wear them in the mouth at night.
MAD (Mandibular Advancement Device)
MAD (Mandibular advancement device) which appears as a mouth guard that athletes wear. What the hinges do is let your lower jaw ease forward, so that way it will keep your tongue and soft palate secure so your airway stays wide open when you sleep. This one is the most commonly used mouth device for sleep apnea.
Tongue Retaining Device
Tongue retaining device is a splint that helps your sleep apnea by holding the tongue in place to keep your airway open. The usage of this device is less frequent, probably because it is less comfortable in comparison to MAD, and users have a harder time getting used to it.
‘Boil and Bite’ Devices
You also have the so-called “boil and bite” devices. As their name suggests, you boil these devices and then bite into it to make it fit your mouth. The goal of these devices is to move your lower jaw forward to aid your breathing.
Before you decide which mouth device to buy, talk to your doctor and follow his advice on which one might suit you best. Mouth devices are more practical than CPAP if you tend to sleep on your back or your stomach. Also, it was noted that people feel more inclined to use their mouth devices regularly, which is not the case for CPAP. On the other side, mouth devices do have their side-effects. This could be things like experiencing altered bite, or movement of teeth, which is quite uncomfortable. You might have pain, arthritis of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), or other lighter things like dry lips, or excessive salivation.
When choosing the best treatment for sleep apnea, you need to take into account a lot of different factors. You need to have a serious look at the severity of your problem and the physical structure of your upper airway. You need to be aware of other medical problems you may have, and of course your personal preference.