Sleep Apnea is a sleeping disorder where the airway collapses periodically during sleep, preventing the brain from receiving enough oxygen. There are three types of sleep apnea, but Obstructive Sleep Apnea is by far the most common, and is caused by the muscles in the throat relaxing and collapsing during sleep. Each time this happens, the brain wakes up the sleeper enough to continue breathing, which decreases sleep quality. Sleep Apnea is fairly common; it is estimated that one in fifteen people suffer from this disorder. The majority of sleep apnea sufferers are undiagnosed and untreated. Middle aged men are particularly vulnerable to sleep apnea, and as many as a quarter of middle aged men have an undiagnosed case of sleep apnea.
What are the symptoms and effects of Sleep Apnea?
There are a variety of symptoms which can help diagnose sleep apnea. The most common is snoring, which happens as a result of the airway closing. Other symptoms include insomnia and sleepiness during the day (especially while driving). Waking up with a sore throat, dry throat, or a headache is also indicative of sleep apnea. Waking up multiple times during the night, especially if accompanied by a shortness of breath or choking sensation, is a strong indicator of sleep apnea. However, these symptoms do not occur in every sleep apnea case. The only way to be sure of whether or not sleep apnea is a problem is to be tested in an overnight sleep study.
Sleep apnea has a variety of negative effects on general health. Sleep apnea causes sleep to be less restful, leading to effects similar to sleep deprivation. Sleep apnea has also been linked to memory problems, shorter attention spans, and mood swings. During a sleep apnea event where the airway is blocked, the brain releases adrenaline and sugars into the blood stream. This has been linked to an increased chance of diabetes and a 4.8 times higher chance of cancer. There is also evidence suggesting sleep apnea may lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
What are the treatment options for Sleep Apnea?
There are several treatment options available for sleep apnea. The traditional treatment is a CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure device. CPAP devices are worn over the face as a mask during sleep, and keep the throat open by pushing a small amount of air down it at all times. However, some patients find the mask or the noise from the air compressor hard to sleep with.
Another option is an oral appliance. An oral appliance is similar to a mouth-guard, but worn only at night to prevent sleep apnea. This FDA approved medical device positions the lower jaw slightly forward of where it usually rests, which prevents snoring and airway collapse. The small oral device is fully adjustable, and most patients report that it is a far more comfortable solution than CPAP. We measure our Weston patients for these appliances.The appliance is then custom made at the manufacturing facility.It is adjusted in our Weston dental office to insure a comfortable fit.Best of all, our Weston dental office is a part of the Chase Dental SleepCare system so that we are able to bill a patient’s medical insurance carrier which often reimburses for oral appliances to treat sleep apnea.We also advise our Weston area dental patients to return for regular checks to insure that there have not been any changes to the jaw that might require adjustments of their oral appliance.So if you or a family member believe you have sleep apnea, please call our office to schedule a no charge consultation appointment.