Sleep Apnea: Now, Rest for the Weary

Are feeling tired, stressed out, and moody due to difficulty sleeping?

You maybe affected by a serious and increasingly diagnosed condition called Sleep Apnea. This is a condition in which breathing stops for periods of 10 seconds or longer. These interruptions can prevent you from experiencing the deep sleep that makes people feel rested. In many situations, non-surgical dental appliances have proven more effective than surgery for sleep apnea patients. I’ve taken continuing education courses with the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine which specializes in treating patients with sleep apnea and uses some of the most advanced treatments to help patients with their condition.

What is Sleep Apnea?

When a sleeping person stops breathing for 10 or more seconds, they have “apnea.” OSAS, or obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, is one type of sleep apnea and tends to be the most common. It is approximatly 85% of the cases. In OSAS, breathing is interrupted by a physical block to airflow despite respiratory effort, and snoring is common. Lack of adequate breath during sleep reduces airflow, causing the brain to tell the body to wake up and breathe. In some cases, individuals with sleep apnea only experience a lighter stage of sleep, while other times, inflicted individuals wake completely.

Problem and Issues?

There are many factors that can contribute to airway blockage, from the size of passages and oral or airway structures, to swelling of passageways or position of the tongue. Sleep apnea can be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure, arrhythmia, diabetes, and sleep deprived driving accidents. Disrupted deep sleep can also affect mood, health, and cause daytime sleepiness. In many situations, the added stress brought on by the lack of sleep and fatigue can cause lack of concentration, loss of memory, and accidents in the workplace or while driving. Many health professionals believe that this condition can increase your risk of premature death.

Sleep apnea not only affects the individual inflicted with the condition but it can also affect your partner as well. The sleep apnea patient’s snores can disturb a sleeping partner’s rest, too. The lack of sleep can increase the irritability among couples living together. Also, the increased stressed brought on by sleep apnea can add tension to a relationship as well.

Non-Surgical Sleep Apnea Solutions

Because OSAS is a serious medical condition, it must be diagnosed by a medical doctor. For mild to moderate cases of OSAS, non-surgical therapies may alleviate the problem. A nasal mask (CPAP) can deliver air to keep nasal passages open during sleep. Even more effective, patients are able to avoid surgery by wearing dental appliance. The dental appliance typically repositions the tongue or mandible (lower jawbone). A Swedish study showed that the anterior mandibular positioning dental device (AMP) is actually more effective than surgical therapies for mild to moderate cases of sleep apnea. Although health risks are rare, recent studies done by the American Academy of Dental Sleep (AADS), show that over time, patients using AMP devices are more likely to develop TMJ syndrome. Your health care physician and specially trained dentists,  such as myself, will work closely together to monitor the response of your teeth and jaw to oral appliance therapy.

According to experts, sleep apnea is an under-diagnosed condition.  Men are more likely to experience sleep apnea than women. If you believe that you or your partner is suffering from sleep apnea you should contact Dr. Heher and your physician immediately.  Common signs can be your partner saying you snore or stop breathing while asleep, or if you experiencing daytime sleepiness. Remember a sleep apnea device can improve your quality of life.

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