It is important to know the differences between these two types of sleep treatments. They may appear to serve the same purpose – to help you stop snoring – but as you will find out, there are subtle differences.
Snoring Appliances are mainly used to treat snoring, while CPAP machines are used to treat sleep apnea. So, what’s the difference? If you have sleep apnea, can you use an appliance?
Snoring Appliances and Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is caused by the lack of breath as a result of the closing and collapsing of the throat tissues while you sleep. When this happens, breathing ceases and your brain has to alert and wake you up so you can physically tense your neck muscles and breathe again. This can happen several or even dozens or hundreds of times a night, making you tired and groggy during the day, every day.
A snoring mouthpiece or dental appliance won’t normally help with this, because with regular snoring, your throat narrows due to the relaxation of your jaw and tongue, but rarely closes. This narrowing causes the tissues in your throat to vibrate, causing you to snore. A dental appliance helps adjust your jaw and tongue to keep your passageways open.
Other devices, such as a snoring chin strap, keeps your mouth closed during sleep. If you have sleep apnea, this could be extremely dangerous, due to your inability to gasp for breath.
Except for specially-designed mouthpieces used for sleep apnea, regular appliances don’t help. For that, you need a CPAP machine.
CPAP Machines and Sleep apnea
The role of a CPAP machine is to provide constant air pressure in the upper airway (throat and nasal cavity), to keep the throat tissues open and compliment the normal breathing process. In order to do this, you need a mask to fit tight onto your face.
A medical checkup from a sleep specialist is required to find out what you are suffering from, so that proper treatment can be administered. CPAP machines can cost several hundred or even over a thousand dollars, and are normally covered by your health insurance.
CPAP Machines at a glance.
CPAP stands for “Continuous Positive Airway Pressure.” It is the recommended treatment for people suffering from sleep apnea.
They work by providing air pressure in the air passage so that the throat tissues do not collapse causing an obstruction.
The machine has 3 parts:
- A mask: this covers your mouth and mouth
- A tube: this joins the mask to the machine. Air passes through this channel.
- The device itself: this is a portable machine that is placed beside the bed. It has regulators that control the air pressure entering the body. Air pressure may vary depending on the severity of the patient.
Concerns and changes that may arise while using CPAP machines:
- Sore throat.
- Nasal discomfort (e.g. blockages, sneezing).
- Skin irritation around the mask area.
- Vivid dreams (likely because you are sleeping more deeply, though some people complain of too much dreaming!)
Snoring Mouthpieces at a Glance
Snoring appliances are also called oral appliances or dental devices. They are devices that are normally fitted by a dentist.
They are often used by those people who are intolerant of CPAP machines or who have been found to have mild sleep apnea. In the vast majority of cases, though, they are used by people to prevent snoring.
Oral appliances help to keep the air passage open. This is achieved by restructuring the lower jaw, the tongue and the back of the throat tissues so that they do not collapse and cause a narrowing of the air passage.
There are two ways of doing this:
- Mandibular Adjustment Device: Works by pulling the lower jaw forward when you are asleep.
- Tongue Retaining Device: Brings the tongue forward so that the back of the tongue does not collapse during the relaxation leading to an obstruction.
Both types need some time to get used to, and common complaints include dry mouth, jaw or tongue soreness, general discomfort and ineffectiveness.
It is best to find out what type of snorer you are first, then find a type of device that’s right for you. If you have sleep apnea, a CPAP machine may be your best choice. Whatever the outcome, the result should be restful and quiet sleep!