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Alternative Treatments for Sleep Apnea

Sonia Nair Nov 18, 2018
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that is often treated by using devices like CPAP, which are uncomfortable for some people. In such cases, alternative treatments can prove effective and comfortable for the affected individual.
Sleep apnea is a grave sleep disorder, in which breathing stops intermittently for brief periods of time, during sleep. The condition is classified into three types - obstructive, central, and complex. Obstructive type is caused by some physical blockage of airflow to the lungs, like relaxed throat muscles.
Central sleep apnea is the result of failure on the part of the brain to send required signals to control breathing. Complex sleep apnea is considered a combination of both central and obstructive types. According to some studies, almost 85% of the reported cases account for obstructive sleep apnea, followed by complex and central sleep apnea.

Conventional Treatment

Moderate to severe cases of sleep apnea require treatment to avoid complications, like congestive heart failure. The most common treatment method is to use a device called CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). A CPAP device keeps the air passage open with a flow of pressurized air to the airways of the affected person.
BiPAP (Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure) is a device used for the treatment of sleep apnea. Unlike CPAP, which takes care of inhalation only; a BiPAP controls both inhalation and exhalation, and adjusts the air pressure automatically.
Oral appliance therapy, is another option mainly used in people with mild to moderate sleep apnea. This involves an oral appliance, which is to be used to ensure an unobstructed airflow.
Some people suffering from sleep apnea may not show any improvement, even after using these devices. In such cases, surgery is recommended, in order to open up the airway. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, maxillomandibular advancement, and tracheostomy are commonly suggested. In other words, conventional treatment involves use of these devices or surgeries.

Alternative Treatment

Alternative treatments for sleep apnea are found to be beneficial to control the condition, but there's no scientific evidence to prove the efficacy. They can be used in conjunction with conventional treatment methods. Alternative treatments are ideal for those with mild sleep apnea and doctors don't prescribe any treatment other than some lifestyle changes.
Most people affected by sleep apnea are found to be obese. In case of obese people, soft tissues are formed around the neck, causing breathing difficulties. Hence, this disorder can be controlled to some extent, by shedding the extra pounds through regular exercise and diet control.
Breathing exercises are beneficial in case of sleep apnea. Practicing 'pranayama', a breathing technique in 'yoga', is found to be helpful to a great extent.
Homeopathic medicines are also good, if taken in conjunction with the conventional treatment.
Homeopathy practitioners administer medicines according to the personality type of the patient; and in case of sleep apnea, they recommend avoidance of sugar and allergic foods. Most commonly used medicines are lachesis and homeopathic opium.
Acupuncture treatments aim to correct the imbalance which leads to sleep apnea.
It is claimed that undergoing several acupuncture sessions can bring back the patient to a normal sleeping pattern. While undergoing the treatment, the patients should refrain from consumption of caffeine. A change in lifestyle and diet is also recommended.
A herbal medicine named vervain is also found to be effective in controlling sleep apnea in some of the affected people. It is believed that, people with strong emotions are prone to this condition; and vervain, which has a calming effect, is good to control troubles related to sleep.
Strengthening the muscles of the airways can also help treat sleep apnea. Loosening of throat muscles is a reason for the blockage of the airway, which results in sleep apnea. These muscles should be made stronger to avoid sleep apnea. This can be achieved through regular singing sessions or playing a wind instrument called 'didgeridoo'.
In some cases, changing the sleeping position may also work wonders. Try to avoid sleeping on the back or on the stomach. It is always better to sleep on the sides.
It is also advisable to avoid smoking, consumption of alcohol, and use of sedatives.
If you experience any symptom of sleep apnea, consult your health care immediately. You may try the alternative treatment options, along with the conventional treatment. However, alternative treatments for sleep apnea should be tried only with the consent of your doctor.
Disclaimer: This is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.