The goal of all sleep apnea treatment is to get more airflow to your lungs. Many devices can help that happen. Among the most common options are CPAP machines, mouth appliances, and specially designed pillows.
Here’s a look at what's available -- from made-to-order appliances to do-it-yourself methods -- and how they work.
Mouth Devices for Sleep Apnea
You can get these custom made or buy them over the counter. Whatever type you choose, you’ll need to see a dentist to have it fitted.
- Mandibular advancement device (MAD). This looks like a mouth guard that athletes wear. It snaps over your top and bottom teeth. Hinges let your lower jaw ease forward, which keeps your tongue and soft palate stable so your airway stays open while you’re asleep.
- Tongue retaining device. This is sort of like a splint that holds your tongue in place to keep your airway open. Doctors don’t prescribe it as often as the MAD. It can be harder to get used to and less comfortable.
You can also buy a “boil and bite'' device over the counter or online. You heat it in hot water, then bite into it to make it fit your mouth. The aim is to move your lower jaw forward and improve airflow, so your breathing won’t get interrupted as often. These devices may not work as well as the ones that are custom-made. Researchers in Europe studied the use of custom-made and ''boil and bite" devices in 35 people with mild sleep apnea. Only the custom-made ones reduced the average number of apnea problems per hour.
Before you buy a mouth device, talk to your doctor about which one would be best for you.
Do a quick online search, and you’ll find many types of pillows to help relieve sleep apnea, designed for use with a CPAP machine or without. They come in different styles, including a wedge shape, which aims to raise your upper body.
According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, sleeping on your back with your body elevated from the waist up may help keep your airway from collapsing and, in turn, improve your condition. Use foam wedges, not soft pillows.