Many people will snore occasionally, but sleep apnea is quite different. The most common form of sleep apnea is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and is a sleep disorder estimated to affect more than 18 million people in the United States. There are two other forms of sleep apnea which are central sleep apnea and complex sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is caused by the brain’s failure to tell the body to breathe. Complex sleep apnea is a combination of central sleep apnea and OSA.
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?
People with OSA will snore heavily but their snoring is frequently interrupted as they cease breathing for several seconds at a time (apnea means “without breath”). Often breathing will restart with a loud snort or gasp and these episodes can occur multiple times each night. While OSA may seem annoying it is far from being harmless. When sleep is interrupted sometimes hundreds of times a night, it prevents deep REM sleep. Sufferers may be unaware they have OSA but may realize they don’t feel as well rested and as mentally sharp as they should do.
What Are the Symptoms of OSA?
People with OSA frequently feel excessively sleepy during the daytime which can be very dangerous if they need to drive or operate heavy machinery. They may also suffer from mood swings and irritability, and anxiety and depression. There is an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and liver problems. Other symptoms include gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) and night sweats. Other symptoms include waking up frequently to go to the bathroom, having insomnia, or waking up in the morning with a dry mouth or sore throat.
What Causes OSA?
As you fall asleep the throat muscles relax and your breathing causes these tissues vibrate, causing that characteristic snoring sound. When the muscles relax, the tissues in your throat can begin to partially or completely obstruct your airway. Your airway can also become blocked as your tongue relaxes, falling backwards and preventing breathing.
How Can I Tell If I Have Sleep Apnea?
The biggest symptom of sleep apnea is feeling extremely fatigued and sleepy during the day because normal snoring doesn’t tend to interfere with sleep quality. It is also useful asking your sleeping partner or you could record your sleep. If you think you have OSA then we strongly suggest you make an appointment to come and see us for sleep apnea treatment at the Smile Boutique Group.
How Is OSA Treated?
There are two ways to treat sleep apnea, either by using oral appliance therapy or with CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure).
Oral Appliance Therapy
We can prescribe a custom-made oral appliance that is easy to use and non-invasive and which is suitable for mild to moderate OSA. It works by comfortably repositioning your lower jaw into a slightly forward position so that during sleep your tongue cannot collapse backwards and your airway is kept open. Our dentist can select the most suitable design and the oral appliance will be custom-fitted for your mouth. Oral appliance therapy is very effective, and the appliance is quite similar in size to an orthodontic retainer or sports mouthguard.
With CPAP, users wear a small mask which is connected by a tube to a bedside machine. This continually pumps pressurized air during sleep, and which ensures the airway remains open. It is a very successful treatment, but some people find it difficult to use and the machines can be awkward when traveling. As a result, many people have been prescribed this treatment will fail to regularly use their machine. If this applies to you then it’s worth discussing the suitability of oral appliance therapy with our dentist. Sleep apnea can be life-threatening so if you think you may have this condition then we strongly urge you to visit the Smile Boutique Group. We can help you enjoy a peaceful and truly restorative night’s sleep.