Obstructive sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder that affects the patient’s ability to breathe normally while they are asleep. Throughout the night, breathing can repeatedly stop and start, making it difficult to get restful and restorative sleep.
Without treatment, sleep apnea can lead to fatigue, grogginess, irritability, poor reflexes, and difficulty concentrating. Other serious health complications can also arise, including heart problems and high blood pressure.
Signs of Sleep Apnea
People with sleep apnea experience restless sleep that is interrupted by pauses in breathing. They may snore loudly throughout the night, choke or gasp, and wake up feeling fatigued even if they have slept a full 8 hours. Waking up with dry mouth or a morning headache may also be indications that there is a problem.
Medical complications of Sleep Apnea
Complications associated with sleep apnea include daytime fatigue, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart problems, metabolic syndrome, and liver problems. It is important to seek medical treatment if you think that you might have sleep apnea, to avoid these potentially serious medical issues.
Sleep Apnea Treatments
Sleep apnea can be treated with breathing devices, oral appliances, lifestyle changes, or surgery.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is the most common treatment for moderate to severe sleep apnea. A CPAP machine is worn while you sleep as a full or partial mask, and delivers constant, steady air pressure that prevents your throat from collapsing when you inhale. It also decreases snoring.
These machines are an effective treatment for sleep apnea, but some people have a hard time adjusting to breathing forced air, or to wearing a mask while sleeping. Often, discomfort with the device can be alleviated by adjusting the size and style of the mask.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliances are an effective and easy to use alternative to CPAP machines for people with mild to moderate sleep apnea.
At Smile Dental Center, we will design a special oral appliance that is uniquely fitted to your mouth. The appliance will gently reposition your jaw and/or tongue while you sleep, to help alleviate symptoms and keep your airway open throughout the night.
Surgery might be necessary to correct sleep apnea if the condition is caused by a deviated septum, enlarged tonsils, or other medical issues that narrow the width of your airway. Surgery can correct these conditions, widening the airway and making it easier to breathe at night.
There are also some minimally invasive procedures that reduce or stiffen the soft tissue at the back of the airway and palate. These surgeries reduce snoring, and might make it easier to breathe for patients with obstructive apnea.
Some people are able to reduce their sleep apnea symptoms by making lifestyle adjustments. Sleeping on your side can help, as can propping your head up at night. Opening your nasal passages can also alleviate symptoms, such as by using a spray or nasal strips.
Smoking, drinking alcohol, and using sleep aids before bed can all make the condition worse. Being overweight also increases your risk of developing sleep apnea. If possible, try to sleep at a consistent time each night, and exercise regularly to help reduce symptoms.
Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that can have a negative impact on many aspects of your life. We can help you find a solution that works, to get a better, more restful night’s sleep.