What are the best CPAP alternatives for mouth breathers? Read our guide to find out.
Sleep apnea usually affects breathing and occurs from partial to complete airway blockage during sleep. The soft tissue at the back of the throat tends to relax as you sleep blocking the airway for those with obstructive sleep apnea. The brain jolts you awake every time it happens to restart breathing.
Obstructive sleep apnea can cause symptoms such as:
- Failing to stay asleep during the night
- Trying to catch breath when sleeping
Besides interfering with the quality of sleep, obstructive sleep apnea tends to increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, depression and high blood pressure. Most people use the CPAP machine to treat sleep apnea. The device features a mask that is worn over the nose or both the nose and the mouth.
The CPAP machine helps push air through the mouth and nose to prevent collapse of the airway as you sleep. It additionally lowers blood pressure, improves sleep quality and reduces the risk heart diseases. This device is quite effective although most users don’t use it consistently as recommended. Patients mostly ditch using the CPAP machine due to discomfort, noise and cluckiness. In some scenarios, it’s not usually helpful when it comes to treating obstructive sleep apnea.
Best CPAP Alternatives for Mouth Breathers
Here are some CPAP alternatives for mouth breathers:
Most people usually breathe through the mouth or nose. Some people dealing with obstructive sleep apnea are only able to breathe through the mouth at night. Mouth breathing happens when the nose blocks due to enlarged adenoids or tonsils, deviated septum or congestion.
Using the CPAP machine can cause dryness in the throat and nose for mouth breathers. This is one of the side effects that makes users to ditch CPAP therapy. However, you can go for a full-face CPAP mask or always wear a chin strap along with the nasal mask to solve this problem.
Another alternative is to go for CPAP machines that usually come with an in-built humidifier as it tends to increase the moisture levels to the air around you.
Other ways of relieving mouth breathing without the CPAP machine include:
- Using antihistamine, saline wash or decongestant to clear the airway before bedtime
- Use a pillow to prop up your head when you sleep
- For those with deviated septum and other structural nose problems, consult a doctor for a possible surgery
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatment
There are other CPAP alternatives for mouth breathers including:
- Nasal valve therapy
- Oral appliance
- Lifestyle changes like quitting smoking and weight loss
- Surgery to help fix any underlying cause
- BiPAP – Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure
Travelling While on CPAP Therapy
The CPAP machine can be cumbersome to carry around when travelling. Besides, you also need to keep it clean at all times. Save for buying a smaller CPAP travel machine, here are other different ways of managing obstructive sleep apnea when on the road:
- Using oral appliances – Compared to the CPAP machines, this one is lightweight, smaller and easy to clean and maintain.
- Give the nasal valve therapy a try – Provent is a new treatment for sleep apnea. It comes with a valve that typically goes into the nostrils with a tape holding it in place. When you exhale, the valve will create some resistance at the back of the throat to keep the airway open. It’s disposable and small making it ideal for travelling. However, insurance doesn’t cover this cost.
- Carry a pillow – Soft pillows don’t usually offer enough neck and head support and this can interfere with your breathing.
- Carry antihistamines and decongestants – These medications help relieve nasal congestion.
- Carry rolled-up socks or a tennis ball – Pin it at the back of your sleeping clothes to prevent you from rolling as you sleep.
- Carry the right cord – Outlet adaptors will come in handy if you are traveling overseas while the extension cord ensures ease of reach at night.
The BiPAP therapy is another CPAP alternative for mouth breathers. It almost resembles a CPAP machine as you have to use a mask to push air into the airways to prevent them from blocking. The only difference is that pressure does not change when you inhale and exhale using the CPAP machine. Those who are used to the CPAP find trouble exhaling against the pressure.
BiPAP machine features two different pressure settings. It’s a bit lower when exhaling compared to inhaling. The lower pressure makes breathing out easy especially if you experience some difficulty due to lung or heart disease.
Oral appliances are less cumbersome compared to CPAP machines. It looks like a mouthguard that people normally wear when playing sports. Most oral appliances are FDA approved for obstructive sleep apnea treatment. The device usually holds the tongue securely in place or moves the lower part of the jaw forward. It helps prevent the upper airway tissues and tongue from blocking and collapsing the airway during sleep.
Oral appliances are ideal for those with moderate to mild obstructive sleep apnea and are super effective when custom fit. Ill-fitting ones can result in jaw problems and worsen your condition. Visit a dentist for a more customized fit and regular check up to ensure it’s helping treat your OSA.
You may need surgery if the CPAP machine and alternatives are not helping. The doctor can recommend some of these procedures but it will depend on the underlying condition causing obstructive sleep apnea:
- Genioglossus advancement – The surgeon will cut the jaw bone on the lower side to move the tongue forward. This procedure will help hold the tongue in place preventing it from blocking the airway.
- Hypoglossal stimulation of the nerve – The doctor implants a device on the chest to control tongue movement by connecting it to the hypoglossal nerve. A sensor is attached to monitor your breathing during sleep. The sensor will stimulate the hypoglossal nerve to remove the tongue from the airway when you can’t breathe.
- Jaw surgery – This surgery is also known as maxillomandibular advancement. In this case, the surgeon moves the upper and lower jaw forward thereby creating more breathing space.
- Nasal surgery – This helps fix deviated septum or remove polyps if they prevent the patient from breathing through the nose easily.
- Palate implants – It can also be referred to as pillar procedure. This option is less invasive as the doctor only needs to implant small rods in your mouth’s roof. These implants usually prop up the soft palate preventing it from blocking the airway.
- Tongue reduction – You can undergo surgery to reduce the size of your tongue if it tends to block the airway.
- Removal of adenoids or tonsils – Adenoids and tonsils usually sit at the back of the throat. They need to be removed if they are too large and block the airway.
- Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UP3 or UPPP) – This is a common surgical procedure for treating obstructive sleep apnea. In this case, the surgeon gets rid of extra tissues at the top of your throat and back of the mouth to allow proper flow of air into the airway. Another option is uvulectomy to remove a section of the uvula – it’s usually in the shape of a teardrop hanging down at the throat’s back.
Fat typically settles around the throat and neck if you are overweight or have obesity. While you sleep, the extra tissue can block airflow causing obstructive sleep apnea.
Lose of weight by even a small percentage improves the symptoms of the condition or cure it completely. However, losing weight is not a child’s play. The doctor can recommend the right exercises and diet changes to help treat your OSA. You might have to undergo bariatric surgery if this doesn’t work for you.
These changes can improve the quality of your sleep at night:
- Sleeping on the side – It helps air to flow into the lungs easily
- Avoid alcohol – Taking wine or beer before bedtime relaxes the upper part of the airway muscles and makes breathing harder typically interrupting sleep.
- Exercise regularly – Aerobic activities will help you lose the excess amount of fat that makes breathing hard. Exercising also helps reduce sleep apnea severity.
- Relieve congestion – Try taking antihistamine or decongestant to open the nasal airway if it’s blocked.
- Quit smoking – Smoking cigarettes usually worsens obstructive sleep apnea as it tends to increase airway swelling.
The CPAP machine is the most common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea but there are other methods. Ask the doctor about CPAP alternatives for mouth breathers like surgery or oral appliances especially if the machine doesn’t work well for you.
Maintain healthy habits along with the sleep apnea treatment like quitting smoking, exercising regularly and losing weight for a better sleep at night.