Snoring/ Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is a potentially dangerous condition that limits your air intake during sleep. While asleep, the muscles in the back of your throat along with your tongue collapse, blocking the airway to your lungs. This often causes you to snore, which is the sound of air passing through the constricted/blocked airway, and reduces the amount of oxygen delivered to your organs. People with sleep apnea stop breathing for short periods of time, hundreds of time per night. The lack of oxygen that results from this causes your brain to wake you up so that you can breathe. This leaves your body fatigued and unrefreshed.
Lack of good sleep causes daytime sleepiness, memory loss, morning headaches, impaired concentration, depression, irritability, and decreased sex drive. It can also lead to high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack and sudden death during sleep.
Sleep apnea is typically found in older and obese men and women. But it can be found at any age or body type. It worsens with age and weight gain and often associated with loud snoring during sleep.
Is it Just snoring or is it sleep apnea?
Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, and not everyone who has sleep apnea snores. So how can you tell the difference between normal snoring and a more serious case of sleep apnea?
The biggest telltale sign is how you feel during the day. Normal snoring doesn’t interfere with the quality of your sleep as much as sleep apnea does, so you’re less likely to suffer from extreme fatigue and sleepiness during the day.
Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can be a potentially serious disorder, so contact a doctor immediately if you spot the warning signs. Sleep apnea is diagnosed by a sleep physician who diagnoses sleep apnea using polysomnography also known as sleep study. The study measures AHI (Apnea-Hypopnea Index).
Mild sleep apnea: AHI 5-15
Moderate sleep apnea: AHI 16-30
Severe sleep apnea: AHI more than 30
Once AHI is established, the physician can recommend which treatment option is best for the patient.
Treatment of Sleep Apnea
Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure (CPAP) is the most common treatment for moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea. In many cases, you’ll experience immediate symptom relief and a huge boost in your mental and physical energy. The CPAP device is a mask-like machine that provides a constant stream of air that keeps your breathing passages open while you sleep.
Although C-PAP is one of the more popular treatments for severe obstructive sleep apnea, not all patients are able to use or feel comfortable using a C-PAP machine.
C-PAP Alternative/ Dental devices for sleep apnea
Oral appliances are most effective in the treatment of mild to moderate sleep apnea although they do provide a treatment alternative for patients with severe Obstructive sleep apnea who cannot or will not tolerate positive airway pressure therapy.
Oral appliances work by either repositioning the mandible (lower jaw) forward or by retaining the tongue in a suction cup which holds the tongue in forward position and keeps it from collapsing during sleep and obstructing airway. Oral appliances are non-invasive, custom-fitted, and easy to carry. They come in various designs but they are basically like wearing upper and lower biteguards that are connected to each other. Each patient is evaluated for what will suit him/her best.
It is very important to get Oral appliances fitted by a dentist specializing in sleep apnea, and to see the dentist on a regular basis for any dental problems that may occur. You may also need to have your dentist periodically adjust the mouthpiece to fit better.