Topics of Interest
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is very common and if left untreated can cause individuals to stop breathing during their sleep for a minute or more. Each time this happens the brain will wake a person up for a moment in order to get them breathing again, which results in sleep being interrupted frequently and leaving the individual tired throughout the day.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
If your bed partner notices that you snore or gasp for air regularly while sleeping, you may have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Not everyone who snores has OSA, however everyone who has OSA does snore. OSA is a condition in which people stop breathing for short periods, several times if not hundreds of times per night. Sleep apnea effects 13-17% of all adult Americans. Undetected sleep apnea is serious and can lead to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and even death. Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea can take 10 to 15 years off one's life.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Causes
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is caused by a blockage of the upper airway. It may be related to the tongue being too small, muscle weakness around the throat, or fat around the airway caused by excessive weight gain which leads to the collapse of the airway during sleep. Waking up activates the body's fight-or flight response causing increased heart rate, heart stress and high blood pressure.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Symptoms
- If you are told by your bed partner that you snore or gasp for air during your sleep.
- If you are tired and un-rested after sleep and need to take frequent naps.
- If you have hard-to-treat blood pressure.
- If you are obese and/or have a collar size larger than 16 inches for women or 17 inches for men.
- If you wake up with a dry or sore throat.
- If you are irritable in the morning or have morning headaches.
- If your legs feel twitchy at night.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Diagnosis
OSA can only be properly diagnosed by a board-certified M.D. in sleep medicine. This is done either through spending a night in a sleep lab connected to wires and monitors or by a home sleep test. In our office, we have home sleep testing monitors which you can wear to bed in your own home. When you bring the testing unit back to our office, we will upload the data stored in the unit to a board-certified sleep physician who will diagnose if you have sleep apnea. The physician will also determine how severe the sleep apnea is and prescribe what treatment options would be appropriate. Treatment options include dental, medical or surgical.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatment Alternatives
Until recently, the recommended solution was to pump air into the blocked passage by the use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. It's appearance has been described like being a bulky jet pilots mask to something resembling a Darth Vader's mask. It's cumbersome, noisy and uncomfortable, but it will keep you alive. The problem is that most people use the mask on an inconsistent basis, which provides only limited value and still puts the patient at risk. Recent advancement in a specialized custom dental fabricated mouth guard provides a more comfortable solution. This small mouthpiece that rests inside the sleeper's mouth moves the jaw forward creating suction to open the throats airway. Research hasn't yet proven that treatment can reverse Obstructive Sleep Apnea, but does decrease or eliminate many of the bad outcomes.