Is CPAP Forever? The Future of Sleep Apnea Treatment

Many patients find the idea of having to wear a mask to sleep every night to be daunting. Fortunately, the field of sleep medicine is changing quickly, in ways that are making treatment more accessible, convenient, and patient-friendly. Most excitingly, better and more comfortable treatment options are being developed that could replace CPAP entirely–even as soon as the next couple years. 

Advancing Sleep Medicine with Alternatives to PAP

PAP is the current gold standard for sleep apnea treatment, but it’s not the way of the future. 

Compliance and the Current State of CPAP

Right now, PAP (positive airway pressure) therapy is the most effective way to treat sleep apnea. PAP treatment is almost 100% effective (when used), and has been shown to reverse many of the damaging health effects of sleep apnea. So far, it sounds like the ideal treatment, right? 

Unfortunately, noncompliance is a huge issue for PAP treatment. People who don’t use PAP machines make up a large chunk of those diagnosed with sleep apnea. Many patients find their mask to be uncomfortable or cumbersome; some don’t even start treatment, and others just stop using it as time goes on. For whatever reason, there is little question that a patient who is unable to tolerate their PAP machine is not receiving effective treatment for their sleep disorder.

Ultimately, the nature of PAP therapy and the need to use it consistently every night are an obstacle to getting patients the effective long-term care they need. 

A Lifespan Prediction for PAP Treatment

PAP treatment will soon be eclipsed by other, more practical sleep apnea treatments. It is possible that in as few as 2-3 years, PAP will no longer be the sleep apnea treatment of choice. 

One of the most promising developing sleep apnea treatments is Inspire Upper Airway Stimulation. Inspire involves using pacemaker technology to stimulate the throat muscles, causing them to contract and keeping the tissue from collapsing into the airway. A pulse generator is surgically implanted in the body. When the device senses that the patient is breathing in, it sends an electrical signal to the throat muscle, causing it to pull up and backwards, opening the airway.

Unlike PAP, Inspire requires no external equipment, no uncomfortable mask or air leaks, and no voluntary compliance. Patients just need to go to sleep and the device will automatically prevent apneas. 

Dental devices are also becoming a more effective and viable sleep apnea treatment. They are less cumbersome than a PAP machine, and they don’t require surgery. 

As these patient-friendly options are further developed and become more widespread, it is very likely that they will take over for PAP as the most effective sleep apnea treatment. 

What does this mean for current sleep apnea patients? 

Does this mean that it’s time to cast off your CPAP machine? Not yet. 
Right now, PAP therapy is the best treatment option–and it is absolutely a better option than leaving your sleep apnea untreated. Sleep apnea is a very serious sleep disorder that seriously degrades your health, putting you at an increased risk of conditions like heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and even death. Using the machine is an important and responsible part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, in the same way that exercising, eating well, and not smoking are vital health habits.

The bottom line

Sleep apnea is dangerous, and if left untreated, it can even be deadly. Let’s worry about getting you through the next two to three years safely and healthily. Then, we can look around and see how therapy has changed. Hopefully by then, there will be even more comfortable and effective options. 

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  1. Mel Pama Reply

    I’m afraid that those completely assisted muscles will atrophy over time and then you will need it forever just like an iron lung machine has to be removed before a certain period of time or else the patient will be stuck with it forever.

  2. Jim Shannon Reply

    It’s not the gold standard, but the old standard. An out dated technology from the early 90’s.

  3. cedarvalleycardiovascular Reply

    thanks for the blogs too useful

  4. Sleepfixr Reply

    CPAP is going no where. Inspire is already full of complications from surgeries that are not reversible.

  5. Mark Dixon Reply

    I was diagnosed w mild sleep apnea ~10 years ago; and was prescribed CPAP tc.
    (I was frequently falling asleep on my ride home from work. The CPAP ended this problem immediately)
    I had a stroke recently and my PCP ordered another sleep study, because of potential neuro issues from the stroke.
    That study showed low oxygen levels at times; BUT NO APNEAS!
    I’m doing a take-home test this weekend; but what if that also shows no apneas?
    Will my Medicare insurance no longer support equipment replacement?

  6. Robert D Reply

    It would have been nice if this article was dated because I don’t know when it was originally posted.

    • Jill A Swedlow Reply

      DITTO! The internal option is now being advertised on TV, as of 4-4-21

  7. Wellness Website Reply

    Awesome work. thank you!!

  8. Tim Mayville Reply

    You could get into a position where, you can’t turn the device back in, you can’t get a Dr. to work with you on getting you another device and, be stuck without using the device – due to chip shortages – But, the Insurance Co. loves billing it, the supply companies will hound you to death, you can’t get the medical staff to agree on getting the dead or “death machine” out of your home, without waiting on a Chinese made device – likely under slave labor – to actually get built and mailed to your home – Yes, your home.

    Trying to send it back to where you picked it up, will not take it, calling the Dr. will yield in you being told, there is no way they’ll remove you from it.

    I’d surmise that, if the Dr. wanted to, they could push to have you committed with this insistence on getting off the bad device and on a new one, only they don’t want to be held responsible for your death if it really is that bad.

    Did this device cause some of the newer issues you will likely have? Probably so but, you’ll play hell getting it out of your house.

    Put it in a box, and write on it, do not use! (monkey’s paw)..

    Don’t worry, it’s able to watch you, even if its not online and, there are plenty of places willing to keep being paid on this extorsion plan where you not only don’t have much say; You’re a bad person and obviously want to kill yourself, if you decide you want off this roller coaster.

    Run from this, I didn’t and now wish the hell would end.

  9. Claude Atkinson Michael Adams Reply

    Many patients find their mask to be uncomfortable or cumbersome; some don’t even start treatment, and others just stop using it as time goes on.

  10. Privacy Guides Reply

    Truly, this article is really one of the very best in the history of articles. I am a antique ’Article’ collector and I sometimes read some new articles if I find them interesting. And I found this one pretty fascinating and it should go into my collection. Very good work!

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