Do you ever wake up from a full night’s sleep and still feel tired? Maybe you find yourself gasping for breath during the night or battle insomnia. The fact is, you may actually have sleep apnea which, according to the National Sleep Foundation, impacts 18 million American adults. Sleep apnea can occur in all age groups and potentially lead to serious health disorders. Some of these include cardiac issues, stroke, hormonal issues, high blood pressure, headaches, fatigue, and difficulty focusing.
The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This is caused by the muscles in the throat relaxing when you sleep. Between 80% and 90% of those with OSA go undiagnosed. For proper diagnosis of sleep apnea, a sleep study should be conducted.
Snoring is often thought of as the major symptom of sleep apnea, and while it often accompanies OSA, there are a variety of other symptoms that should not be ignored, such as: daytime sleepiness or feeling tired, dry mouth or sore throat upon waking, morning headaches, temporarily not breathing, waking with shortness of breath, and insomnia.
If you smoke, have nasal congestion, use substances to help you relax, or have family history, you are at greater risk for OSA. While as mentioned this can occur in all ages, if you are older and male, your risks are increased.
By accurately diagnosing OSA early, an effective treatment plan can improve your quality of life and help avoid life-threatening complications. Diagnosis of OSA involves a sleep study, and many patients have relied upon studies conducted in a laboratory setting. But some do not sleep as well in the lab as they do in their own bed and environment. Although special equipment is required, studies can be conducted from the comfort of your home through the use of advanced technology, and then analyzed by a sleep specialist. You simply have an easy-to-use, lightweight, portable monitor that collects information such as airflow, breathing effort, and blood oxygen levels.
Once the monitor is returned, the analysis begins. During a follow-up visit, a review of the results takes place along with a discussion of treatments tailored to your needs.
OSA is often treated by wearing a sleep machine when you sleep. The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine forces air through the nose and mouth to keep the throat from collapsing during sleep. While many advances have been made in the design of face masks and the noise made by the CPAP machine, about 60% of those diagnosed with sleep apnea don’t wear their machine. This is because of complaints that the machine and mask are uncomfortable, bulky, and loud. Due to the use of CPAP to treat sleep apnea, many people avoid being diagnosed. Not wearing your CPAP or avoiding diagnoses increases the risk for your overall health.
However, depending on the findings of your sleep study, improvement could be as simple as orthodontic treatment, lifestyle changes, or an oral appliance therapy instead of a CPAP. The oral appliance is a dental appliance that is customized to keep your throat open by repositioning your jaw or tongue to prevent airway obstruction.
This therapy is considered the gold standard for the treatment of mild to moderate OSA. These custom-made appliances have been used for many years to relieve sleep apnea – with phenomenal results. The vast majority of patients no longer have any need for CPAP and feel rested when they wake up.
Dr. Edmond Suh
Owner of Supremia Dentistry, located at 1711 S. Main St. in Wake Forest.