Other Treatments for Sleep Apnea

Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure (CPAP) Devices

CPAP pushes air into the airway while you sleep. This helps to keep tissue in the throat out of the way of airflow. There are several different CPAP options:

  • Some use a mask that fits over the mouth and nose. Others may use a mask that only sit over the nose.
  • Some machines may give regular pressure all night. There may be a difference with the pressure on inhale and exhale. Other machines will monitor breathing during the night. Pressure may only be added if there is a change in breathing.

It is important to have the masks fitted properly. It is uncomfortable if not fitted right. CPAP can dry out the nose and/or mouth. It can also irritate the skin and leave you with a headache. They are also bulky will need to be tight. It will take some time to get used to CPAP. The benefits of CPAP for those with sleep apnea far outweigh problems.

Oropharyngeal Exercises

Exercises may help to tighten tissue around the throat. This may be enough to pull tissue away from the airway. The exercises may include the tongue, roof of mouth, and muscles of the face and neck. A brief routine will need to be done daily. For some, this is enough to improve sleep and decrease snoring.

Dental and Orthodontic Devices

Several dental devices are available to treat sleep apnea. These devices put the tongue in a better position. It may help pull soft tissue away from the airway. The tongue may be held down or thrust forward. A device may also thrust the lower jaw forward. They may be more comfortable than CPAP devices. However, they are only effective as a treatment for mild to moderate sleep apnea.


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How is sleep apnea treated? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-apnea. Accessed January 14, 2019.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated November 28, 2018. Accessed January 14, 2019.
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1/11/2016 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance Update http://www.dynamed...: Ieto V, Kayamori F, Montes MI, et al. Effects of oropharyngeal exercises on snoring: a randomized trial. Chest. 2015;148(3):683-691.
Last reviewed December 2018 by Marcie L. Sidman, MD
Last Updated: 1/14/2019

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