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Are there alternative treatments for obstructive sleep apnea?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Most people with obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when something is literally obstructing or blocking your airway while you sleep, resist the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask as treatment at first, and I totally understand why. Nobody really wants to sleep with a mask on for the rest of their life. So let's explore the natural treatment options you can try without medical assistance.

1. Do Nothing: This is an alternative many people choose. Unfortunately, doing nothing means you continue to not get enough oxygen in your blood, your arteries are taxed, your blood pressure goes up over time, and you increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. Yes, people die from sleep apnea-related conditions. Let's skip this option.

2. Diet and Exercise: Diet and exercise may be able to help ease your symptoms, especially exercise 4-5 hours before bed, weight loss, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol, but it's almost impossible to beat sleep apnea with these lifestyle changes alone. Without enough quality sleep, it's hard to even imagine mustering up the energy for either one. What's more, sleep deprivation has been shown to inhibit your ability to lose weight, even if you're eating and exercising right. So what else?

3. Positional Therapy: Some people experience sleep obstruction more frequently while sleeping on their back. Sleeping on your side may ease symptoms, especially if you have mild sleep apnea. To encourage side-sleeping, use pillows or try dropping a tennis ball in a sock and pinning it to the back of your pajama top.

I encourage you to try options two and three above, but don't be frustrated if you don't get great results. Sleep apnea is a serious condition. And it's time to seriously consider medically proven solutions.

Depending on the cause of your obstructive sleep apnea, you may seek to treat it with lifestyle changes. For example, losing weight and not smoking or drinking alcohol may help. Not sleeping on your back might also help. Your dentist may be able to make an oral appliance to wear at night, or you may benefit from CPAP.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.