CPAP Alternatives for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

A dark haired man standing in front of a white background holding up a CPAP mask and staring at the camera with a look of dread.

Is there an alternative treatment for obstructive sleep apnea other than a CPAP? If you have sleep apnea, chances are you are familiar with a CPAP machine. The device along with a face mask is the most commonly recommended treatment for anyone diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. But what do you do when you can’t, won’t, or don’t get used to sleeping with a mask? What are your options? Thankfully, we’re here to take a look at some safe and effective CPAP Alternatives.

Research and Conclusions

It’s not uncommon for sleep apnea sufferers to have a difficult time tolerating their CPAP machine. As a result, continued compliance regarding a CPAP is generally a downward slope. Researchers have performed numerous studies in order to find effective alternate treatments that meet patient needs while avoiding the attributes they struggle with.

Patients often state that they are unable to get used to the mask and have tried using little nose inserts, but still do not use their CPAP machine as regularly as possible. Others claim that the noise of the CPAP equipment is too loud, making it difficult for them to use it like they should. Others claim that they use their CPAP machine only when they are truly exhausted or recall to do so. The greatest barrier to CPAP success is inconsistency and constant usage. What are your choices as a result?

CPAP Alternatives

You are certainly not alone if you suffer from sleep apnea. The typical therapy for OSA is a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. The machine uses a mask and an attached hose that are worn at night. You are in the minority if you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and are using your CPAP machine without difficulty. There are alternatives for people who have difficulties using the CPAP device. Let’s take a look at the most popular ones.

  1. Positional Therapy
  2. Oral Appliance or Dental Device
  3. Acupuncture
  4. Bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP)
  5. Surgery

We’ll go through each of these to see what might be best for you.

Positional Therapy

Positional treatment has been utilized for many years and entails placing the person on their side to avoid snoring. Those who will profit from positional therapy have mild to severe sleep apnea. He or she will sleep on his or her side wearing an anti-snore shirt or a bumper belt, respectively, which will force the person to rest on their side. A tennis ball is placed in a pocket sewn onto the center back of a shirt or pajama top and then worn by an individual who snores. When the user lies down, the tennis ball prevents them from falling asleep on their back. This is similar to a bumper belt in that a big belt is worn with an associated “bumper” that prevents the user from resting on their back. The same effects can be obtained using a body pillow.

Oral Appliances or Dental Devices

If you’ve been diagnosed with OSA and do not, will not, or refuse to use a CPAP machine, you may want to contact a competent dentist like Jeffrey W. Cross, D.D.S., F.A.G.D., in Frederick, MD who can create an oral appliance or dental device that will assist you in receiving a good night’s sleep. Two of the most popular dental devices on the market are: The Tongue Retaining Device (TRD) and Mandibular Repositioning Device (MRD). They are:

  • A tongue retaining device (TRD) holds the tongue out of the way of obstructing airways.
  • The Mandibular Repositioning Device (MRD) keeps the mandible (jawbone) forward while you sleep, allowing more air to enter your lungs.

There are benefits and drawbacks to both of these technologies, so let’s take a look at them.

Disadvantages: silent, does not require electricity, and inexpensive when compared to a CPAP machine.

Disadvantages: increased saliva, may not be tolerated well, might cause discomfort or gagging.


Acupuncture has been shown in a Brazilian study to decrease sleep apnea occurrences during the night, suggesting that it may be considered normal when it comes to healthcare. It is thought that acupuncture reduces inflammation and boosts serotonin levels, resulting in a better night’s sleep.

Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP)

This is another form of CPAP that uses a mask to push oxygen into the mouth. Unlike the CPAP, which has a higher exhaling pressure setting, this machine features a lower exhaling pressure level option. This device will still necessitate the use of a mask like a CPAP, but it will make expelling against the pressure less difficult.


Finally, as a last resort, surgery may be considered to enhance your sleep. The surgeon will go in and trim or shorten the uvula, attempting to open the airway of the throat up and reduce snoring, when surgery is done.

The Dental Device Movement

More and more patients are moving to using dental devices over CPAP therapy. The compliance rate is much higher, people enjoy the portability and easy cleaning of the devices.

The most important thing when it comes to sleep apnea is finding a treatment that works for you. Untreated OSA can have significant long-term effects on your health. Thankfully, with proper treatment, many of these health consequences are reversible.

If you struggle with your CPAP therapy, there are many CPAP Alternatives available. Discuss the possibility of changing your course of treatment with your doctor or call Dr. Cross at Cross Dentistry at (301) 662-0300.

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