Have you ever woken up feeling tired? Have you ever fallen asleep while driving? Even if you went to sleep early last night? Do you snore? Sleep apnea could be playing a role. There are countless undiagnosed and untreated cases of sleep apnea in our society which have been linked to car accidents and machinery accidents from sufferers of sleep apnea, causing operator error.
There Are Three Basic Types of Sleep Apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea. It is a disorder in which a person periodically pauses breathing during sleep ,usually an average of 10 seconds. This is usually associated with a reduction in blood oxygen saturation, which can lead to drowsy and excessive sleepiness during the day. Obstructive sleep apnea can also endanger your cardiovascular system. This is the only type of sleep apnea that can be treated by our highly skilled prosthodontists.
Central Sleep Apnea is when a person’s brain “forgets” to signal the chest muscles to breathe during sleep. This variation of sleep apnea requires medication prescribed by your physician.
Mixed Sleep Apnea is a combination of the preceding two types, and is the most difficult type of sleep apnea to diagnose and treat.
The Dangers of Sleep Apnea
Depending on the type and severity of your sleep apnea, it could spell some very dangerous health effects, and could even be life-threatening. The main effects of sleep apnea are daytime drowsiness (sleep deprivation) and oxygen deprivation. Depriving your brain of oxygen while sleeping is particularly dangerous and can result in heart disease, high blood pressure, sexual dysfunction, and learning and memory problems. Some sufferers of sleep apnea report short term memory loss, as a result of oxygen deprivation during sleep.
Sleep apnea, a lack of oxygen, carries a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure, arrhythmias, diabetes, and sleep deprived driving accidents. Stroke is associated with obstructive sleep apnea as well, as sufferers have a 30 percent higher risk of heart attack or premature death than those unaffected. Risk factors can often be managed easily without major medical intervention. Being overweight or obese, nasal congestion or blockage and relaxed tongue/throat muscles often contribute to sleep apnea. Avoiding the intake of relaxants like alcohol or sedatives can play an important role in reducing the occurrence of sleep apnea.
With obstructive sleep apnea, the airway can become obstructed at several sites. The upper airway can be obstructed by excess tissue in the airway, large tonsils, a large tongue and/or a retruded lower jaw. Usually, the airway muscles are relaxing and collapsing during sleep in this case. Nasal congestion or blockages (as a deviated septum large turbinate and collapsed nostrils can cause your throat and tongue muscles to contract at night. Ask your partner to observe you sleep if you are in doubt, and keep a sleep diary every night, recording when you fall asleep, when you wake up, if you recall any trouble breathing during the night and how refreshed you feel when you wake. Speak with a sleep specialist to have a sleep test.
Treatments For Sleep Apnea
What can be done about sleep apnea – and how can your dentist play a role? The first step is diagnosis. Sleep apnea is diagnosed with a “sleep study”. An individual with sleep apnea is rarely aware of having difficulty breathing, even upon awakening, and is recognized as a problem by others witnessing the individual during episodes or is suspected because of its effects on the body. Symptoms may be present for years without identification, during which time the sufferer may become conditioned to the daytime sleepiness and fatigue associated with significant levels of sleep disturbance.
Once a breathing problem during sleep has been established, there are two main routes of therapy for mild or moderate sleep apnea. The first is Oral Appliance Therapy, to reposition your lower jaw into a forward and downward position, opening up your throat. This appliance is custom made for you by Dr. Courey or Dr. Zagami.
There are several designs from a simple diagnostic one to more sophisticate double jaw design. Dr. Courey or Dr. Zagami will determine which would fit you better and restore a restful night’s sleep.
Behavioral modifications may also be advised to treat obstructive sleep apnea, after it has been diagnosed. Besides losing weight and sleeping on your side and controlling your allergies, a properly designed dental appliance can help you get healthier sleep. Your bed partner might get more peaceful sleep as well!
For more severe cases, the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device can help, which ’splints’ the patient’s airway open during sleep by means of forcing pressurized air into the throat. The CPAP machine assists only inhaling, whereas a BiPAP machine assists with both inhaling and exhaling and is used in more severe cases. Home remedies to treat sleep apnea include lose weight, treating allergy to decrease the volume of inflamed soft tissue of the airway, using a humidifier (in conjunction with the CPAP machine), trying a saline nasal spray before sleep.
Snoring & Sleep Apnea
What are the causes and treatments of snoring? Snoring is defined as the vibration of respiratory structures and the resulting sound, due to obstructed air movement during breathing while sleeping. In some cases the sound may be soft, but in most cases, rather unpleasant. The structures involved during vibration, which creates subsequent noises, are the uvula and soft palate. The irregular airflow can be caused by any part of airway. Blockage of these passages can be due any of the following:
- Inflamed or enlarged glands
- "Floppy" soft tissues
- A large or set back tongue
- A small or receded lower jaw
- An obstruction of the nasal passageway
These physical attributes can be hereditary or from environmental influences like smoking, alcohol, medications, allergy, asthma and upper respiratory infection. Snoring can also be a symptom of sleep apnea. While snoring is caused by a narrow airway, sleep apnea is a true breathing obstruction, which awakens the sleeper to begin breathing again. It can occur frequently and can lead to sleep deprivation with further health repercussions.
Remedies for Snoring
Snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea, but snoring by itself does not involve the cessation of breathing. Besides diagnosing what causes snoring, non-invasive and self-regulatory approaches to control snoring can be a good start. These approaches might include:
- Losing weight in order to decrease fatty tissues which restrict the airway
- Sleeping with one's head elevated and sleeping on one's side to prevent the gravitational collapse of the airway
- Limiting alcohol consumption, smoking and medication intake to prevent dilated, dehydrated, inflamed or floppy tissues
- Clearing of the nasal passage because a stuffy nose can make inhalation difficult, creating a vacuum in your throat drawing movements the soft tissues
Nasal decongestants or nasal strips can also be effective in opening up the nasal passage; when combined with a snore guard under a health professional's care, this can be very effective in treating mild to moderate snoring.
About Snore Guards
There are several designs of snore guards to aid in suppressing snoring, from a simple diagnostic bite plate to a fixed or adjustable double jaw device which repositions your lower jaw or tongue forward and downward which opens the airway at your throat. The dental specialists at Specialized Dentistry of New Jersey can help you with fitting a snore guard. If you suffer from severe snoring combined with sleep apnea, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is often used.
In most severe cases, a surgical approach might be advised. Surgical treatments like UPPP (Uvulopalatopharyngoplaty) and TAP (Thermal Ablation Palatoplasty) can relieve physical blockages to the breathing pathway. A pillar procedure (palatal implantation) can stiffen and cease vibration of the soft palate to stop snoring.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sleep Apnea
Contact Specialized Dentistry of New Jersey for a Consultation
Specialized Dentistry of New Jersey (SDNJ) provides dental appliances for sleep apnea in Manalapan, NJ. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.
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