Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing or instances of abnormally low breathing, during sleep. If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you know it’s more than your sleep that is affected by your snoring.
Disruptions in sleep can be caused by a variety of issues, from teeth grinding (bruxism) to night terrors. When a person suffers from difficulty in sleeping with no obvious cause, it is referred to as insomnia. Additional health issues may also include:
- Heart problems
- High blood pressure
While you sleep, your throat relaxes. This relaxation allows the tongue and soft palate to collapse and block your airway. Eventually, your airflow stops. When your oxygen level drops, your brain moves out of deep sleep and signals you to wake up. The airway contracts, opens and the obstruction in your throat clears. Airflow starts again, usually with a loud gasp. You fall back into a deep sleep and the process starts all over again.
It’s the combination of low oxygen levels and interrupted sleep that is the major contributor to most of the problems associated with sleep apnea. Estimates are if left untreated sleep apnea can shorten the average life span by 5 to 10 years.
Treatments for sleep disorders generally can be grouped into four categories:
- behavioral/ psychotherapeutic treatments
- other somatic treatments
Many people who suffer from sleep apnea will be told to wear a CPAP (continuing positive airway pressure) machine, designed to create a continuum of positive airway pressure while you sleep. Unfortunately, the CPAP mask is uncomfortable which often results in discontinued use.
SO, WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE TREATMENT?
To help those with sleep apnea we recommend a snore appliance (oral appliance therapy). The oral appliance is a custom-made mouthpiece that shifts the lower jaw forward, opening up the airway. OAT is usually successful in patients with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. Professionally fitted, it prevents the tongue, soft palate and the jaw from blocking your airway while you sleep, thus reducing snoring and the dangerous effects of sleep apnea.
If you or someone you know are having issues with snoring please make an appointment with our dentist for help.
Novy Scheinfeld, DDS, PC
ZoAnna Bock, MS, DMD
Hanna Orland, DMD
290 Carpenter Drive, 200A
Atlanta (Sandy Springs), GA 30328
3781 Chamblee Dunwoody Road
Chamblee, GA 30341
 Hirshkowitz, Max (2004). “Chapter 10, Neuropsychiatric Aspects of Sleep and Sleep Disorders (pp 315-340)”. In Stuart C. Yudofsky and Robert E. Hales, editors (Google Books preview includes entire chapter 10). Essentials of neuropsychiatry and clinical neurosciences (4 ed.). Arlington, Virginia, USA: American Psychiatric Publishing. Retrieved 2009-12-06. “…insomnia is a symptom. It is neither a disease nor a specific condition. (from p. 322)”
- Sleep apnea-dementia link revealed in new study (cbsnews.com)
- CPAP Machine And MAD Mouthpiece Best For Obstructive Sleep Apnea (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Screening for Sleep Apnea (everydayhealth.com)
- What You Need to Know About Sleep Apnea (everydayhealth.com)