What Other Options Exist for Treating Sleep Apnea Apart from CPAP Therapy?

What Other Options Exist for Treating Sleep Apnea Apart from CPAP Therapy?

Dec 01, 2023

For those suffering from sleep apnea in San Diego, CA, using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is often the first-line treatment recommended by doctors. However, some people find CPAP therapy cumbersome and uncomfortable. The good news is there are alternative options beyond just CPAP machines. In this blog post, we’ll explore other ways to treat sleep apnea without CPAP potentially.

What Are the Non-CPAP Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea?

In the case of mild or moderate sleep apnea, there are a few non-CPAP sleep solutions to consider:

Oral appliances – Custom-fit dental devices like mandibular advancement devices (MADs) can help keep your airway open while you sleep. These mouthpieces lift your lower jaw slightly to prevent the tongue and tissues from collapsing and obstructing breathing. Sleep apnea dentists in San Diego can fit you for these oral appliances.

Positional therapy – When one sleeps on their back, it may exacerbate sleep apnea for certain individuals. Positional therapy aims to train you to sleep in other positions, like on your side. Special pillows, wearable devices, and other position trainers can help.

Lifestyle changes – Factors like being overweight and smoking can worsen apnea. Losing weight, quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol before bedtime, and managing chronic nasal congestion can reduce apnea severity.

Alternative therapy – Some complementary approaches like yoga, singing exercises, and acupuncture may relieve some sleep apnea sufferers. More research is needed, but they are non-invasive options to try.

How Do Oral Appliances Work in Sleep Apnea Treatment?

Custom-made oral appliances offered by sleep apnea dentists aid in breathing when you sleep by keeping your airway open. There are two primary categories of oral devices:

Mandibular advancement devices (MADs) resemble mouthguards in appearance and function, fitting over the upper and lower teeth. In order to keep the tongue and soft tissues from blocking your airway, they are made to gently pull your lower jaw forward. This aids in preventing any blockage of the airway from occurring.

Tongue-retaining devices (TRDs) use suction or pressure to hold the tongue forward during sleep. This prevents it from falling backward and obstructing airflow. TRDs fit over only your upper teeth.

Oral appliance therapy is not a cure, but it can significantly reduce apnea events for some patients. Follow-up visits to adjust the mouthpiece help optimize comfort and effectiveness.

Are Lifestyle Changes Effective in Managing Sleep Apnea Symptoms?

While not standalone treatments, healthy lifestyle modifications can make a difference in sleep apnea symptoms:

Losing excess weight – Carrying extra weight, especially around the neck, can narrow your throat muscles and worsen apnea. Even a 10-15% body weight loss can open breathing passageways.

Quitting smoking – Smoking causes inflammation in the upper airway, increasing collapsibility. Kicking the habit can improve apnea within months.

Limiting evening alcohol – Alcohol and sedatives relax throat muscles, making them more prone to collapse at night. It’s best to avoid these as sleep aids.

Managing nasal congestion – Blocked nasal passages from allergies or anatomical factors worsen airflow. Treatments like nasal strips, sprays, or corrective surgery may help.

While not standalone cures, these positive lifestyle changes can reduce the number of apnea events for milder cases. Adopting healthier habits leads to better sleep overall.

Alternative Therapies: Acupuncture, Yoga, and Their Role in Sleep Apnea

Some sleep apnea sufferers look to complementary and alternative medicine options to find relief without machines or devices:

Acupuncture – Fine needles are inserted at specific pressure points in the body to affect the flow of energy. Some early research indicates acupuncture may reduce some patients’ daytime sleepiness and apnea events. More studies are needed.

Singing exercises – Special vocal exercises called didgeridoo playing and myofunctional therapy aim to strengthen throat and tongue muscles. This may decrease the collapsibility of the airway during sleep.

Positional therapy – Yoga positions like the “lion pose” also strengthen throat muscles. Certain yoga routines also promote positional therapy for apnea.

Weight loss – Yoga and other exercises like swimming can aid weight loss efforts, potentially reducing apnea severity.

While not scientifically proven treatments, these alternative options are relatively safe for mild apnea cases. Consult your sleep doctor in San Diego before beginning any new therapy.

Positional Therapy: Can Changing Sleep Positions Help with Sleep Apnea?

For some people, sleep apnea symptoms worsen when sleeping on the back. Positional therapy aims to retrain yourself to sleep in other positions, like on the side. This may open up the airway and improve breathing. Options include:

  • Pajamas with tennis balls sewn onto the back – This deters lying on your back.
  • Wedge pillows or elevation devices – These prop up the torso to discourage back sleeping.
  • Wearable position trainers – These devices monitor sleep and provide feedback to change positions.

Positional therapy takes consistency and commitment to change habitual sleeping postures. It may not work for all types of apnea. Discuss options with a sleep specialist in San Diego to see if it could benefit you.


Those with sleep apnea have several alternatives beyond just CPAP machines. Consult experienced providers like the Center for Oral Health & Sleep Apnea Treatment for customized non-CPAP solutions. With approaches ranging from oral appliances and lifestyle changes to position training and alternative therapies, you can find the right option to improve sleep and breathe easier at night.