A Look Back at…Effective No-CPAP Treatments for Sleep Apnea

by | Jun 27, 2022 | Snoring / Sleep Apnea


Originally posted August 19, 2021

Sleep apnea isn’t pretty. Here’s what it sounds like:

And here’s what that struggle to breathe can look like. (The video owner has disallowed embedding, so you’ll have to check it out directly on YouTube. Don’t worry. We’ll wait for you to come back.) It’s an especially severe case of apnea – a condition in which you stop breathing for 10 seconds or more repeatedly through the night. This fellow would stop breathing over 100 times every hour. At times, his heart would stop beating.

And if that’s not enough to convince you that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is something to take seriously, consider the results of a new systematic review and meta-analysis just published in BMJ Open Respiratory Research.

The review focused on the relationship between OSA and sudden death in people both with and without sleep apnea. Twenty-two observational studies published through 2019 were included, involving more than 42,000 patients. When all was said and done, they found that people with OSA had twice the risk of sudden death than people without it.

According to news coverage of the review,

The study’s findings indicate that OSA is associated with several cardiovascular comorbidities, including hypertension, coronary artery disease, and congestive heart failure. Patients with OSA experience oxidative stress, or a lack of available oxygen to cells, which can contribute to an imbalance of antioxidants in the body. Over time, this imbalance damages cells and can speed up the aging process and lead to an array of health problems.

“Obstructive sleep apnea is a common condition that can have fatal consequences,” says coauthor John S. Oh, assistant professor in the surgery department at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. “This is something that many patients do not consider when they are diagnosed with the condition, and our research will hopefully bring more attention to its prevention and treatment.”

Yet even knowing this, many folks forgo treatment because they think their only option is CPAP, which requires sleeping in a mask or nasal pillows so that a stream of air can be used to keep the airway open and UN-obstructed. It’s effective and has been a literal lifesaver for many. Yet some have trouble tolerating it. They may also dislike the thought of depending on a machine to sleep or having to lug their equipment with them whenever they want or need to travel.

airway anatomyBut CPAP is no longer the only game in town. There are excellent, machine-free options available, like those we provide to patients here in our holistic, biological office in Arlington.

Nightlase is the newest of these. Using our Fotona laser, our doctors actually recontour the tissues around the top of your windpipe, stimulating your body’s natural ability to restructure collagen at the site. The result is a wider, less restricted airway. The results of this minimally-invasive procedure typically last for a year or more before retreatment may be needed.

In one recent study, 27 patients with OSA of different severities underwent Nightlase. Success was measured by changes in AHI, a number that indicates how many times you stop breathing through each hour of sleep. The higher the AHI, the more severe the OSA.

By the end of the study, all patients had lower AHI scores, with an average improvement of 66.3%. More than three-quarters of them showed improvement of 50% or more.

Oral appliances have proven similarly effective, especially in mild to moderate cases. (Roughly 80% of all sleep apnea cases are mild to moderate.) The results are typically as good as CPAP, which means it’s now considered a first line treatment option for OSA. Most common are nighttime devices that gently hold your jaw or tongue in a forward position so they can’t fall back and block your airway as you sleep. No matter the specific type of appliance, patients find them comfortable, lightweight, and far more portable than even the smallest CPAP machine.

Interested in finding out if one of these might be a good option for you or a loved one? Contact us today!

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