alternatives-to-cpapCPAP is considered by many sleep doctors to be the “gold standard” of sleep apnea treatment. In many documentaries about sleep apnea, it is represented as the only nonsurgical treatment. Sleep apnea is a good treatment option, and it works well for many people. It is, however, not for everyone, and it is not the only sleep apnea treatment available.

This page can help you understand CPAP and alternative treatments for sleep apnea, but the best way to learn which of these alternatives is for you is to talk to a sleep dentist in person about your sleep apnea. Please call 720-317-2700 or email Dr. Paul A. Hamersky today to schedule an appointment at his office in Denver or Highlands Ranch.

What Is CPAP

CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. CPAP treats sleep apnea by pumping pressurized air into your throat and lungs to help keep your airway open and supply air to your body.

CPAP consists of an air pump, some type of mask, and tubes that connect the pump to the mask. CPAP air pumps have become smaller and quieter over the years. The tubing for CPAP machines can be large and bulky, and may reduce your mobility at night. CPAP face masks come in several different varieties. They may have nose pieces that slip into your nose. They may also be a nose-only mask. They may come as a full nose-and-mouth mask, or as two separate inputs for your nose and mouth.

CPAP Advantages

For appropriate candidates, CPAP is the most effective sleep apnea treatment available. When used properly and regularly, it can virtually eliminate even severe sleep apnea, and is the only nonsurgical treatment recommended for severe sleep apnea. CPAP is also the only treatment currently available for central sleep apnea.

Why CPAP Isn’t for Everyone

Despite its advantages, CPAP is not the best treatment for everyone. CPAP has many disadvantages, including:

  • Nose and throat irritation
  • Skin irritation due to mask
  • Dryness of the airway
  • Increased sinus infection risk
  • Inability to sleep due to limited mobility
  • Sensation of smothering

These minor irritations combine to create the largest disadvantage of CPAP: CPAP intolerance. People who have CPAP intolerance are unable to adjust to their CPAP machine, and either do not use it regularly or do not use it for the recommended amount of time each night.

Some studies have shown that CPAP compliance may be as low as 50% in some groups. Other studies define “good” compliance as just 4+ hours per night on 70% of nights. When people do not use CPAP, they essentially have no sleep apnea treatment.

Oral Appliance Therapy

Oral appliance therapy is a more comfortable and convenient sleep apnea treatment. It consists of a simple mouthpiece that you put in before going to sleep. There are many different sleep apnea appliances that can be used to target specific anatomical causes of your obstructive sleep apnea.

Do not confuse these with over-the-counter snoring appliances that are ineffective against snoring and have no effect on your sleep apnea.


Sleep apnea surgery can be very effective in some cases. However, because surgery has significant risks, which are elevated in sleep apnea sufferers, may be painful, and may require up to several months of recovery time, surgery is recommended only as a last resort.

Lifestyle Modification

Lifestyle modification may be recommended for people who have mild sleep apnea, or as an adjunct to other sleep apnea treatments, such as oral appliance therapy. By losing weight, changing your sleep position, and reducing alcohol consumption in the evening, you may be able to reduce your sleep apnea.

No Treatment?

Some people may opt to forego sleep apnea treatment, but this is not recommended. Sleep apnea is associated with numerous dangers, ranging from psychological problems to heart conditions to workplace injuries and car accidents. Sleep apnea may increase your risk of early death by five times or more, according to recent studies. If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you need to find a good treatment option.

To learn more about your sleep apnea treatment options and CPAP alternatives, please contact Dr. Paul A. Hamersky, helping patients in Denver and Douglas County. Please call 720-317-2700 today!