woman sleeping with cpap machineCPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) can be a life-saving treatment, if people use it. However, CPAP comes with many side effects that make it unpleasant to use. This makes people sleep without CPAP, choosing untreated sleep apnea over their treatment.

Understanding these side effects can help you understand how to deal with them and when to seek CPAP alternatives in Denver.

Gassiness is one unpleasant side effect of CPAP that many people struggle with. Here’s what causes it, and some tricks that might help you avoid it. However, if gassy feelings are making you skip using your CPAP, talk to Denver sleep dentist Dr. Kevin Berry today. You might benefit from a CPAP alternative like oral appliance therapy.

Why CPAP Makes You Gassy

CPAP works by forcing air down your throat. This air pressure keeps your airway open so it doesn’t collapse. Meanwhile, it forces air into your lungs, so that even if your brain isn’t breathing, your body is still getting air. This is why most doctors prescribe CPAP in Denver, even though it has side effects.

However, when air is being forced down your throat, it might not all go into your lungs. Instead, a significant amount of the air can go into your stomach. This is called “aerophagia,” which means “air-eating” or “air-swallowing.” It affects about half of all CPAP users.

The air that accumulates in your stomach overnight can make you gassy, which leads to:

  • Burping
  • Flatulence
  • Bloating
  • Discomfort
  • Nausea

You might experience symptoms in the morning, or they could cause you to wake up at night. Symptoms might pass fairly quickly, or they could last for hours as the air continues to pass through your system.

This and other side effects make many people stop using CPAP. However, you shouldn’t simply accept untreated sleep apnea in Denver.

Methods for Reducing Aerophagia

There are many potential methods for reducing the amount of air you swallow. You can potentially reduce aerophagia by:

  • Improving mask fit
  • Trying a different mask style
  • Getting treatment for GERD
  • Change your sleeping position
  • Upgraded to BiPAP

If these fail, you should consider switching to oral appliance therapy by talking to Denver sleep dentist Dr. Berry.

Get Your Mask Refitted

Mask fit is one of the most common barriers to getting effective, comfortable treatment with CPAP. If your mask doesn’t fit properly, you might try turning up the air pressure to see if it helps you sleep better. The higher pressure, though, could lead to more air swallowing. Getting a good mask fit can help you get better results with lower air pressure, and that leads to less air swallowing.

Try a Different Mask Style

CPAP masks come in many varieties, and if you choose the wrong one, it can make it hard to get good results. For some people, the problem with CPAP is that air pressure forces air into the stomach. Other people, though, gulp outside air when using CPAP. If you currently have a nose-only mask, try one that covers the mouth, and if you have a mask that covers the mouth, consider switching to a nose-only mask.

Treat GERD (If you Have It)

Several studies indicate that there might be a link between GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and aerophagia. People with GERD are more likely to experience aerophagia. Some researchers speculate that the link is a weak esophageal sphincter (valve). The esophageal sphincter is supposed to keep acid in the stomach and air out. GERD occurs when your valve is letting acid out at night, so it makes sense that it might also be letting air in.

Some people report that getting treatment for GERD helps reduce aerophagia, but many people taking GERD medications still have aerophagia.

Sleep in a Different Position

As with snoring, aerophagia is worse when you sleep on your back. Try sleeping on your side. This might have the additional benefit of reducing  your sleep apnea. If side sleeping doesn’t work, try sleeping propped up. This can narrow your esophagus, making it harder for air to push in.

Try Advanced CPAP Like BiPAP

Normal CPAP uses a continuous stream of pressurized air–it’s right there in the name! This can lead to some problems since when you exhale, you have to fight against the air pressure forcing its way in. This increases the pressure in your airway, possibly enough to push air past your esophageal sphincter.

BiPAP stands for Bi-level positive airway pressure, though it also goes by other names coined by equipment manufacturers. The principle is that it uses two levels of pressure, a higher one for when you are inhaling, and a lower pressure when you exhale. This could make it easier and more comfortable to use–and it might reduce aerophagia.

Try Oral Appliance Therapy in Denver

If gassiness is making CPAP so unpleasant that you aren’t using it, you must seek another treatment option. Unused CPAP means untreated sleep apnea, which can be deadly. If you’ve tried the strategies above–or if you’ve tried all the ones you’re willing to try–it’s time to look for a CPAP alternative.

Oral appliance therapy is a CPAP alternative that is comfortable, easy to use, highly effective, and covered by insurance. It doesn’t use air pressure, so it won’t force air into your digestive tract. No aerophagia means no gassiness.

Denver sleep dentist Dr. Kevin Berry can help you understand whether oral appliance therapy is a good fit for you. Please call (303) 691-0267 or use our online form for an appointment at the Colorado TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center in Denver, near the intersection of I-25 and Colorado Boulevard.