There are a number of sleep apnea devices to choose from that are designed to allow a person to breathe easier during their hours of rest and they can actually also help people suffering from other types of medical conditions, such as heart failure, lung disease and different types of respiratory disorders. Currently, there are more than eighteen-million Americans that have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, which is a condition where a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. A physician can recommend sleep apnea devices as a form of sleep therapy treatment. Among some of the most common devices used for this condition are BIPAP and CPAP machines, specially designed pillows known as sleep apnea pillows or CPAP pillows, and mouth appliances.
The goal of sleep apnea devices is to increase the amount of airflow a person receives in their lungs. The airflow is locked when the muscles around a person’s throat and tongue relax, causing a blockage that air is unable to get through. For more severe cases and sleep disorders, sleep apnea devices such as the BIPAP or CPAP machines are usually recommended.
Lower Cost Sleep Apnea Devices
Mouth appliances come in over the counter and custom made varieties, all of which are meant to be worn during the hours of rest. The oral devices such as mandibular advancement devices and tongue retaining devices, also known as TRDs, are fitted by a dental professional.
The mandibular advancement device, also known as MAD, looks like the mouth guards that are used for sports. These devices will snap over the lower and upper dental arches. Hinges on the model make it possible for the jaw to be eased forward. By repositioning the jaw in this manner the soft palate and tongue will be stabilized, preventing airway obstruction.
Tongue retaining sleep apnea devices are designed sort of like a splint and the primary goal is to hold the tongue in place, in order to allow the airway to remain open. The TRD is not as widely prescribed as the mandibular advancement device, as most patients will often need a significant amount of time to get used to this device. The most common complaint for the TRD is how uncomfortable these devices are, causing the user to lose sleep.
Widely available online, over the counter boil and bite sleep apnea devices are very affordable and involve the user placing the device in hot water, then biting down on it, in order to customize it. The aim of the boil and bite mouthpiece is to position the lower jaw forward, thus improving the airflow. Reports show that these devices do not work quite as well as the custom made devices provided by dentists.
Pillows that are designed to be used alone or with CPAP or BIPAP machines are some of the top selling sleep apnea devices and can also be found online. These pillows come in a variety of styles and designs, including the wedge shape, which is used to elevate the upper body.
According to the ASAA, when a person sleeps on their back with their back elevated from the waist up, it can help considerably to prevent the collapsing of the airway, and will in turn, reduce apnea episodes. The sleep association recommends using models that are made of foam, as opposed to softer models.
The apnea pillows that are designed to be used in conjunction with a BIPAP or CPAP device are designed to position the user’s neck so that the airway will remain open. These pillows are intended for added comfort and can also help to reduce the pressure from the CPAP mask and also keep the masking from moving out of place.
Sleep Apnea Studies: Which Devices for Sleep Apnea are the Most Effective?
A small study that took place in 2011 showed that the use of these pillows did in fact help to improve comfort and promote sleep. The study also showed that people using these apnea pillows were more likely to use their airflow treatment devices every night than individuals who didn’t use these pillows.
Experts have found that fifty percent of people that suffer from sleep apnea experience the majority of their breathing issues while sleeping on their backs. In order to prevent a person from sleeping on their back, some physicians have suggested putting a tennis ball inside a sock and pinning the sock to the back of the individual’s shirt. In 2009, a study of this technique showed it did help to prevent some people from sleeping on their back. Thirty-eight percent of users, out of fifty people that volunteered for the study stated that they continued to use this trick for more than six months, or until they become used to not lying on their back.
CPAP Machines and Accessories
A CPAP machine will use a snugly fitting mask that fits over the user’s mouth and nose. The mask has several straps used to hold the mask in place and the machine will administer a specific amount of air pressure, which is determined by the user’s physician. The pressure delivered is meant to keep the airway open and unobstructed. Over the past several years, these machines have become light weight, quiet and very small. Some of the common side effects that are experienced when using these sleep apnea devices include skin irritation, bruising from the mask, nasal congestion and dry mouth.