Alternatives to the CPAP Mask and Machine

The most often prescribed treatment for people who suffer from sleep apnea, a condition characterized by repeated, almost continuous bouts of breath cessation while sleeping, is to fit the sufferer with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask, which feeds air down the airway from a machine on the floor or a nearby table. Problem is, as many as half of all people hooked to a CPAP device complain that they can’t sleep with the mask on or with the noise emanating from the air pressure generator.

Continuous positive airway pressure works because it forces air into the breathing passages of the sufferer, who otherwise experiences bouts of breath loss when the tongue and soft palate relax and block air passage. The CPAP device forces air down both the nose and throat, preventing such breathing cessations, which can occur scores of times a night, sometimes even every hour if serious and untreated.

Sleep apnea is potentially dangerous because it can and does lead to various health problems, including hypertension, heart disease and even stroke, so you don’t want to let it go untreated.

The first step, once you suspect you have sleep apnea (because you’ve experienced the partial arousals — sudden awakenings — associated with the inability to breathe, or because someone who’s slept with or near you tells you of your problem), is to seek professional help. Generally, you should go through a sleep evaluation at home or in a lab setting to measure your breathing, blood oxygen levels and brain functionings at night. Then the attending sleep physicians and professionals can recommend a course or course of actions for you.

Non-CPAP treatments, depending on what’s causing your sleep apnea, can lead to relief that lasts for years. The Pillar Procedure, for instance, toughens your soft palate with the painless insertion of woven implants that prevent the collapse of the palate during sleep, thus lessening the chance of breath cessation.

If your sleep apnea is in any way associated with your nose, then Turbinate Ablation, which uses radio frequencies to clear and open the tissue inside your nasal passage, will help you breathe better. Though associated mostly with snoring relief, the Turbinate Ablation can also play a part in helping prevent sleep apnea symptoms.

The Palate Coblation is similar to the turbinate treatment in that it uses radio frequencies on the soft palate to form channels in the palate’s tissue. The palate then reacts by forming scar tissue, which has the beneficial effect of strengthening the soft palate and preventing it from collapsing and blocking airflow at night.

These are all fairly quick, in-office procedures, but there are also surgeries that may be recommended. The first essential step, needless to say, is that visit to your sleep professional. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, the time to get evaluated is now.

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