Sleep apnea is a severely under-diagnosed disorder that prevents adults and children alike from getting adequate oxygen and sleep.
Some symptoms of sleep apnea include drowsiness, unrefreshing sleep, depression, constant fatigue, feelings of stress, cognitive impairment, high blood pressure, frequent awakenings, and chronic pain. It is important to note that sleep disordered breathing may or may not be accompanied by snoring. Sleep apnea has also been shown to cause nighttime teeth grinding.
If you, your partner, or another family member has trouble with any of these, it could be a sign of sleep apnea.
What Is Sleep Apnea, and What Causes It?
Sleep disordered breathing includes a conglomeration of breathing problems that range from small airway dimensional reduction changes to complete airway obstruction. Sleep apnea literally means lack of airflow when you sleep. This happens when your tongue and neck muscles relax during sleep and collapse over the airway. When the airway is occluded, air does not flow freely or is obstructed. Best case scenario is the patient gets reduced oxygen and worst case is there is no oxygen received. The extra effort and work to breath during sleep does not allow for restful, rejuvenating deep sleep.
Patients with sleep apnea, or total obstruction of the airway, cycle through destructive pattern of sleeping and waking throughout the night. As airways become obstructed, patients may begin to snore. Then, as the airway becomes blocked completely, oxygen levels in the blood drop, prompting the brain to send out emergency distress signals to wake up and breath. Because most patients do not wake up completely, most are unaware of their breathing deficiencies and have not been diagnosed.
Nonsurgical Sleep Apnea Therapies
The traditional method of treating sleep disordered breathing, or obstructive sleep apnea, involves a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). This machine blasts air down the airway thus preventing the collapse of the airway. However, many patients have difficulty sleeping with air blowing in their nose and mouth. There are many negative aspects with the CPAP.
Another effective treatment option for sleep disordered breathing includes a dental appliance that holds the airway open. Oral appliance therapy maintains an open airway by pulling the lower jaw downward and forward. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (the organization which grants board certification for sleep physicians) recommends oral appliance therapy as a first line treatment for mild and moderate sleep apnea, and for those who cannot tolerate CPAP. These custom-made dental result in open airways that allow patients to breathe easily and get the much-needed rest they deserve.
Does someone in your family struggle with sleep apnea? Is snoring from your bed partner keeping you up all night? Dr. Michael Nugent can help to effectively treat sleep apnea and the symptoms that accompany it. Call our office today at 832-487-0547 and let us help you get your life back.