What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder where a patient has repeated breathing interruptions during sleep which in turn cause the choking sound as the body struggles to take in air. These interruptions occur when the upper airway and airflow are blocked during sleep. Patients can experience these interruptions many times each night and can be caused by structural abnormalities or brain malfunctions. Whenever breathing stops, your body’s oxygen intake is affected, and this can have serious consequences. Sleep apnea affects millions of Americans, but few do anything about it.
While occasional snoring, say when the person has some congestion, can be an annoyance, sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder. There are various iterations of sleep apnea and various treatments to solve the problem. At Clear Lake Dental Care, we have extensive experience treating sleep apnea. Instead of living with sleep apnea, let us treat it, and you can sleep with the assurance that sleep apnea is not damaging your health.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
Patients that are suffering from sleep apnea can feel sleepy during the day and often lose focus. These symptoms can cause driving and work-related accidents. In addition, patients with sleep apnea can display one or more of the following symptoms:
- Loud snoring
- Abrupt awakenings from sleep
- Awakening with shortness of breath
- Episodes of breathing cessation witnessed by another person
- Waking up with a headache in the morning
- Waking up with a dry mouth or a sore throat
- Difficulty staying asleep
- Attention problems
types of sleep apnea
There are different types of sleep apnea a patient can be diagnosed with. Each type is defined by the causes and include:
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): Occurs when muscles in the throat relax, blocking airflow.
- Central sleep apnea (CSA): This is caused when the brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
- Upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS): This syndrome differs from OSA in that there aren’t pauses or decreases in breathing. Patients with UARS simply require greater effort in breathing to get past obstructions.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome: This sleep apnea is categorized as a person having both OSA and CSA.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea. OSA occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax. These muscles support all of the surrounding tissues such as the tonsils and the side walls of the throat. When the muscles relax, the airway narrows or closes. Your brain senses this inability to breathe and briefly wakes you from sleep to reopen the airway. These lapses in sleep can be so brief you don’t even remember them. These actions can involve a snorting, choking, or gasping sound and can repeat the pattern up to 30 times per hour all night.
Sleep Apnea and snoring usually go hand and hand with each other and is one of the many symptoms of it. Snoring is when a sound is created from vibrations of the soft palate that happen when you breathe, partially obstructing sleep. Usually a harmless condition, it can indicate rising health concerns. If the snoring becomes loud and Habitual, it can disrupt sleep, especially if you have a partner sleeping with you. Snoring is most common in men and older people, usually from being overweight.
The first step in diagnosing snoring is determining if it is an isolated problem or is related to other critical medical conditions. Usually, a doctor will perform a physical examination and review your symptoms. Next, a CT scan or X-ray will be performed to view the width of an oral and nasal passage to detect anomalies. Individuals may need to seek a sleep specialist to confirm a diagnosis of sleep apnea. If you do in fact have sleep apnea, we are here to help.
If snoring is a persistent problem you would like to get rid of, there are several treatment options, Ranging from surgical intervention to home remedies. Snoring mostly can be treated by changing your lifestyle with some medications you can acquire from your pharmacist that can be an efficient combo to treat it. Some of these methods include:
- Losing weight
- Sleeping on your side or stomach
- Nasal strips and dilators
- Medications to help with a decongestant
- Quit smoking
In some cases, you may need nasal sprays or additional methods of treatment. If these problems persist and you are also experiencing severe sleep apnea, corrective surgery is most likely the next step.
What Factors Can Increase My Risk of Sleep Apnea?
Since each form of sleep apnea is different they can come with slightly different risk factors. For central sleep apnea, people are more at risk if they are older, have heart disorders, are using narcotic pain medication, or have suffered a stroke. The following factors increase a patient’s risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea.
- Obesity: People who are obese have four times the risk of sleep apnea. Fat deposits around the upper airway can add to obstruction.
- Neck circumference: People with thicker necks often have narrower airways. For men, this is 17 inches or larger and for women with 15 inches or larger.
- Men: Men are twice as likely to have sleep apnea.
- Age: Sleep apnea is more common in older adults.
- Narrowed airway: Some people simply have a naturally narrow throat or have enlarged tonsils or adenoids.
- Family history: Sleep apnea runs in families.
- Smoking: Smokers are three times more likely to have OSA.
- Alcohol or sedatives: These substances relax the throat muscles.
How We treat sleep apnea
At Clear Lake Dental Care, our treatments for sleep apnea start with lifestyle changes such as losing weight, limiting alcohol consumption, or quitting smoking. From there, we progress to oral appliance therapy, SomnoDent. Patients that are experiencing severe cases may require surgery as they are in danger of developing serious medical conditions such as high blood pressure and heart problems.
What is oral appliance therapy?
Oral appliance therapy uses what is akin to a sports mouth guard or an orthodontic retainer. Worn only during sleep, the oral appliance supports the jaw in a forward position to help maintain an open upper airway. In contrast to the mask and tubes necessary with CPAP and other breathing devices, oral appliance therapy may be easier for patients to tolerate which is why we utilize it in our office.
What is SomnoDent?
SomnoDent is our oral appliance of choice at Clear Lake Dental Care. This appliance should be worn while sleeping to move the jaw forward to a comfortable position. This allows the jaw and tissues to relax, giving you a good nights sleep. The SomnoDent is made from impressions of your teeth so they are custom-fit to you. With this sleep appliance, you are still able to open your jaw fully, drink, and even speak clearly.
Sleep Apnea Surgery
Surgery is usually only an option if a patient’s severe sleep apnea is endangering their life. At Clear Lake Dental Care, we first exhaust all other treatment options before surgery. For the vast majority of patients, we find a solution for their sleep apnea without the need for surgery.
The Impact of Sleep Apnea on Your Family Life
If you suffer from sleep apnea, it can greatly affect your relationship with your significant other. Sharing a bedroom can be a challenge since it is a very personal space. Problems can occur when one of the people sharing that room has their sleep affected by their partner. Treating your sleep apnea will put an end to these troublesome problems like snoring.
Learning about a condition that you may have is often the catalyst to seeking out treatment. The symptoms of sleep apnea are usually viewed by those suffering from them as bothersome rather than serious. We are here to tell you that sleep apnea is a serious condition and needs to be treated immediately. If you let us help you treat your sleep apnea, we can restore your health back to normal and remove the worry of living with this potentially life-threatening condition.
Side Effects of Untreated Sleep Apnea
Continuing to let sleep apnea disturb your sleep will put you in danger of developing one or more medical problems that sleep apnea contributes to. Many of these medical problems can be life-threatening if nothing is done about them. If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in a number of health problems including:
- Depression and anxiety
- Heart failure
- Irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
Schedule a Consultation
Your snoring may be more than a passing problem! At Clear Lake Dental Care, we are experts in diagnosing and treating sleep apnea. If you have symptoms such as morning headaches, excessive daytime sleepiness, or any others listed above, please give us a call at 281-557-8097 to schedule an appointment. We want to get you on the path to a good night’s sleep!