Sleep apnea is a serious condition that is estimated to affect as many as one in 10 American adults. Associated with other chronic debilitating diseases like hypertension and diabetes, sleep apnea is a silent killer. Fortunately, it is almost always treatable, and in some cases, the treatment might be easier than you’ve been led to believe. To get a better idea of your risk for Sleep apnea, take the Sleep Apnea Risk Assessment.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder that manifests itself during sleep and causes repeated starting and stopping of normal breathing. It may present in one of two forms.
● Obstructive sleep apnea is by far the more common form of the disease. As the name suggests, its essential feature is an obstructing of the airways, usually caused by relaxation and collapsing of the soft tissues of the throat.
● Central sleep apnea is far less common and is the result of poor communication between the brain and the muscles responsible for your breathing.
When the muscles of the throat abnormally relax, as in obstructive sleep apnea, the airway closes, and the supply of air (and oxygen) to the brain is temporarily interrupted. When the brain detects a lack of oxygen, it wakes you up to restore breathing. This brief period of waking is often subconscious, so a patient has no memory of it.
A patient who suffers from sleep apnea is likely to awaken multiple times in a night as his or her brain attempts to restore breathing and the associated supply of fresh oxygen. Alternating periods of not breathing and waking up may occur up to once every minute or two, which means that the patient is unable to get a good night’s rest.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
Loud snoring is the classic hallmark of sleep apnea, but this potentially deadly disease usually presents with more than simple snoring. The most common symptoms of sleep apnea include:
● Loud snoring
● Feeling sleepy and unrested during the day, even after a full night of sleep
● Periods of not breathing
● Suddenly waking up accompanied by gasping
Sleep apnea sufferers may also experience difficulty paying attention, insomnia, depression, and irritability. In some cases, lifestyle choices may help reduce or eliminate sleep apnea. Left untreated, sleep apnea risks may include high blood pressure, diabetes, fatigue, and liver problems.
How is sleep apnea treated?
For years, the gold standard in sleep apnea treatment has been the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. This is a bedside machine that connects to a mask you wear while you sleep. The machine delivers air to the patient at a slightly elevated pressure, which helps keep the airway open and prevent sleep apnea.
While CPAP is usually effective, many patients give up on it because it is so cumbersome and uncomfortable. And what good is a treatment you won’t use? Thankfully, an experienced neuromuscular dentist may be able to treat your sleep apnea through less invasive therapies.
The most common sleep apnea treatment that Dr. Huefner offers is a custom oral appliance to be worn at night. Similar to a mouth guard, this device promotes alignment of your bite in a position that helps keep airways open. Many patients who have not found success with CPAP therapies find wearing an oral appliance to be considerably more comfortable.
Sleep apnea is a common disorder that, left untreated, can be deadly. But an experienced sleep apnea dentist may be able to relieve your symptoms and return you to a good night’s sleep. Please contact Orange County dentist Dr. Norman Huefner today at 949-491-9071 to arrange an appointment with our sleep apnea professionals.