What is Sleep Apnea?
Do you constantly feel drained of your energy during the day? Does your sleep partner complain that your snoring is so disruptive to their sleep that they have to go into another room? Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing pattern repeatedly stops and starts throughout the night.
There are three different forms of sleep apnea– obstructive, central, and complex– however, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), is the most common form where the throat muscles relax during sleep and create an obstruction that blocks the breathing airway.
The brain quickly recognizes your inability to breathe and briefly awakens you so you can return to a normal breathing pattern. This pattern may occur up to 30 times or more every hour throughout the night, preventing you from achieving a substantial night’s sleep.
Common Signs of Sleep Apnea
Oftentimes, the arousal from a sleep apnea episode is so brief that many sufferers don’t even remember it and aren’t even aware of their condition at all. Most patients only seek to diagnose their sleep apnea because their sleep partner is worried about their reoccurring gasping for air or raucous snoring.
Along with interrupted breathing at night and snoring, other common symptoms to look out for include:
- Irritability and mood swings
- Lack of energy and motivation
- Choking during sleep
- Impaired memory
- Frequent urination at night
Oral Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Other oral symptoms of sleep apnea that you may notice and will need to see Dr. Sheehan for include:
- Tongue thrusting or scalloped tongue
- Grinding or clenching of the teeth
- Worn down teeth
- Acid erosion of the teeth
- Large tonsils or an elongated uvula
- Mandibular Tori
- TMD or myofascial pain
Causes of Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is caused by a blockage in the airway due to relaxation of the muscles in the back of your throat. There are several factors that may increase your risk of sleep apnea, including being male and aged 40 or older. Additional risk factors include:
- Excess weight
- Narrow airway
- Large neck circumference
- Family history
- Nasal congestion
- Medical conditions
- Smoking and use of alcohol
- Certain medications
Potential Health Risks
Sleep apnea is found most common in older patients and males. However, it doesn’t only affect them. When left untreated, OSA can negatively impact your overall health and has been linked to increasing the risk of various diseases or health conditions.
These potential health complications include:
- Heart disease
- Irregular heartbeats
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Kidney disease
- Erectile dysfunction
- High cholesterol
How to Diagnose Your Sleep Apnea
The only way to properly identify your sleep disorder is by receiving an official diagnosis with a sleep study provided by a local physician. You can also visit us at Oakland Family Dental and we’ll make sure you get the diagnosis and treatment you need.
Dr. Sheehan may be the first to recognize signs of your sleep apnea and she can provide you with a proper sleep screening. If we think you’re at high risk of having sleep apnea, we’ll advise you to have a sleep test done by a board-certified sleep doctor.
We’ll work closely with your medical team to get you the treatment you need, so contact Dr. Sheehan today to get started. She can also discuss with you the various financial options that will help cover your treatment.
Why Patients Don’t Like CPAP
A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is typically the first prescribed treatment for patients once they’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea. It’s a machine that works by delivering a steady flow of air through a tube and mask that’s worn each night.
Although highly-effective for many, as many as four in five people don’t use their machine for the required amount of time or completely stop using their CPAP. Many complain the mask is bulky, noisy, claustrophobic, and restricting to their sleep.
There are several minor and short-term side effects of CPAP therapy but should subside within a few days after stopping use. Some of these include:
- Sore or dry mouth
- Feeling of claustrophobia from mask
- Nasal congestion, runny nose, sinusitis, or nosebleeds
- Irritation or sores around the nose
- Stomach bloating and discomfort
- Discomfort in chest muscles
Without the use of an effective treatment, the risks can be life-threatening. Luckily, CPAP therapy isn’t the only option. If you only use this treatment method occasionally or don’t use it at all, Dr. Sheehan offers comfortable, effective alternatives to CPAP.
Oral Appliances⎼Easy, Quiet & Convenient
Many patients find relief for snoring and sleep apnea using our customized oral appliance. This small device works by gently shifting your jaw forward while you sleep. Oral appliances clear any obstruction in your airway, allowing you to breathe freely throughout the night.
Oral appliances are commonly used to treat snoring, mild-to-moderate obstructive sleep apnea, and several facial pain issues. Similar to a sports mouthguard, oral appliances are custom-made to fit comfortably in your mouth. They’re convenient, easy-to-use, comfortable, silent, and portable.
Additional Alternatives to CPAP
At Oakland Family Dental, we’ll do everything in our power to determine a solution that works best for you and treat your sleep apnea. There are a number of treatments and lifestyle changes that can help reduce snoring and sleep apnea symptoms.
We recommend these successful techniques and CPAP alternatives:
A common risk factor associated with obstructive sleep apnea is being overweight. Losing weight can help reduce excess tissue that’s blocking the airway and diminish sleep apnea symptoms. Combining regular exercise and a nutritional, well-balanced diet has proven to be very effective. Also, quitting smoking and decreasing your alcohol intake can improve your symptoms.
Training yourself to sleep on your side, as opposed to your back, can improve breathing patterns and help alleviate your snoring and sleep apnea. Try the tennis-ball technique, where you strap a ball to your back, so whenever you try to sleep on your back, it will encourage you to move to your side.
Practicing various throat exercises while using a CPAP machine or oral appliance can significantly reduce the long-term effects of sleep apnea. Throat exercises can help stretch, tone, and strengthen your muscles along the airway. This technique makes it more difficult for your throat to close while you sleep and helps reduce symptoms.
There are a number of surgeries available for more severe cases of sleep apnea as a last treatment option. Some include nasal surgery to correct a deviated septum or maxillomandibular advancement surgery, which corrects throat obstructions that contribute to sleep apnea.
Our Top 5 Tips for Better Sleep
Many people suffer from poor sleep, even if they don’t suffer from sleep apnea. Here are some ways to help you get the restorative, healthy sleep you need to live your best life.
- Stick to a sleep schedule. Having a consistent wake-up time and bedtime every day, even on weekends, will help regulate your body’s internal clock so you can fall asleep and stay asleep every night.
- Limit your daytime naps. Taking long naps can interfere with sleeping at night. Limit yourself to a nap of 30-minute or less, not too late in the day. If you do this and you’re still having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, eliminate daytime naps.
- Exercise every day. Exercise not only promotes better sleep, but it can also help reduce sleep apnea symptoms over time. Being too active just before bedtime can make it difficult to sleep, however, so get your activity earlier in the day.
- Follow a bedtime routine. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine to help your body and mind prepare for sleep. Taking a warm bath, listening to relaxing music, or doing some restorative yoga can all help you wind down. And avoid eating heavy meals and the use of stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine, for a few hours before bedtime.
- Create a relaxing environment. Your bedroom should be designed in a way that encourages sleep. This typically means cool, dark, and quiet. Also, avoid the use of light-emitting screens, including TVs, cellphones, tablets, and the like, just before bedtime.
Get the Treatment You Need
If you suffer from sleep apnea and have trouble wearing a CPAP, give us a call at (248) 674-0384 or fill out a contact form below. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have or if you’d like, we can schedule your consultation with Dr. Sheehan. She’ll make sure you get the right treatment for your condition so you can get the restful sleep you need.
Frequently Asked Questions
Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blockage in the airway, preventing you from breathing properly. There are several factors that can cause an obstruction, such as obesity, genetics, and physical blockages, like a small airway or enlarged tonsils.
Anyone can suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, despite their body weight. The sleep disorder can develop in all ages and genders, but is most commonly found in older men.
If you think you suffer from sleep apnea, it’s important not to worry. Dr. Sheehan will examine your symptoms and provide you with a proper sleep screening. If she thinks you’re at high risk for sleep apnea, we’ll arrange a sleep test performed by a board-certified sleep doctor to get an official diagnosis for your condition.
Once you’ve been diagnosed, Dr. Sheehan will sit down with you to discuss your treatment options and determine the best solution for you.
A sleep study, also known as a polysomnogram, is when a patient is monitored by a certified sleep specialist to determine whether they suffer from a sleep disorder. It’s typically completed in a special overnight lab, but a sleep study can also be done in the comfort of your own home.
If you don’t treat your sleep apnea, you are at higher risk of developing serious health consequences. Untreated sleep apnea has been linked to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and more. It’s crucial to seek treatment following your diagnosis to ensure a healthy, long life.