Do you feel excessively tired during the day? Is your loved one’s snoring keeping you up at night? You may be suffering from sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs during sleep when the tissues of the airway close fully or partially and interfere with breathing. Those suffering from sleep apnea may experience snoring, shallow breaths, or breathing pauses throughout the night, resulting in oxygen deprivation. When your breathing pauses or becomes shallow, you’ll often move out of deep sleep and into light sleep. As a result, the quality of your sleep is poor, which makes you tired during the day.
Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes, and may occur up to 30 times or more per hour. Most importantly, oxygen deprivation due to sleep apnea can have serious effects on your health.
Most people who have sleep apnea don’t know they have it because it only occurs during sleep. A family member or bed partner might be the first to notice the signs of sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in people who are overweight, but it can affect anyone. In fact, research has found that 93% of women and 82% of men with moderate Sleep Apnea have never been clinically diagnosed.
What are the Dangers of Not Treating Sleep Apnea?
The continuous oxygen deprivation caused by sleep apnea can lead to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, heart attack, palpitations or arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats), stroke, obesity, diabetes and even sudden death. In addition, the sleep deprivation and daytime fatigue caused by sleep apnea increase the chances of work-related injuries and automobile accidents.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy uses a machine to help a person who has obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) breathe more easily during sleep. A CPAP machine uses a regulated air pressure, mechanically generated, to blow open or force air through your airway so it doesn’t collapse while you sleep.
While a CPAP machine is very effective at treating sleep apnea, there are drawbacks. The CPAP is bulky, uncomfortable, noisy, and inconvenient. CPAP machines are not easy to travel with, and many people do not like sleeping with a mask on their face. In addition, partners of CPAP users can also be disturbed by the noise of the machine.
Other side effects that may occur with CPAP therapy include: dry nose and sore throat, nosebleeds, nasal congestion, skin irritation, and abdominal blating.
As a result, many people do not tolerate a CPAP breathing machine and prefer an oral appliance that can be custom made by their dentist.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliance therapy (OAT) physically opens the airway by repositioning and strengthening the structures that form the airway so that the individual can breathe in a normal manner.
Oral appliances are similar to orthodontic retainers and mouth guards but they are specifically designed to prevent the collapse of the airway during sleep by repositioning and stabilizing the mandible (lower jaw), the jaw muscles, the tongue, soft palate and/or uvula. The most common appliance prescribed by certified sleep apnea doctors is a Mandibular Advancement Device, which brings the lower jaw forward using the upper jaw as an anchor. This appliance serves to bring the tongue forward, tighten the pharyngeal walls and the soft palate, and open the airway, allowing you to breathe better.
Many patients prefer Oral Appliance Therapy to CPAP Therapy, because people like sleeping without the hose, mask and compressor. Many patients who do not object to CPAP still prefer oral appliances for travel and feel they allow the return of intimacy to their bedrooms.