Sleep Apnea: What Are Your Options?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder that causes brief and repeated interruptions to your breathing throughout the night. OSA occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax and restrict the airway from opening.
Untreated OSA can lead to an array of consequences, including:
- Unfulfilling sleep
- Heart disease
- Mood swings
- Memory problems
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the causes, symptoms, and treatments available for people who suffer from sleep apnea.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea affects more than 18 million American adults, but it can affect children as well. In fact, OSA occurs in all age groups and both sexes.
While that may make it sound like everyone is equally at risk of developing sleep apnea, there are a few factors that increase the likelihood. Certain racial and ethnic groups appear to be at an increased risk of OSA, including African-Americans, Pacific-Islanders, and Hispanics.
Other risk factors include being overweight, having too small or too large oral structures (E.g., small upper airway or a large tongue), having a large neck size, or excessive smoking or drinking. OSA can run in families as well, exploring a possible genetic association.
If you’d like to speak with a trained sleep specialist, Dr. Regina Dailey has practiced sleep apnea dentistry for over 33 years. She currently treats patients in Ann Arbor, MI, and would love to answer any questions you might have about sleep disorders.
How Do I Know If I Have Sleep Apnea?
Loud, excessive snoring is one of the symptoms most commonly associated with OSA, but not everyone who snores has the disorder. Although, if your snoring keeps your partner up at night, or you wake abruptly on a regular basis, you should be evaluated by a health professional.
Other signs or symptoms include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sexual dysfunction
- Falling asleep at work/while driving
However, it’s possible to have sleep apnea and not experience these symptoms. The only way to know for certain if you suffer from OSA is to consult a sleep specialist and complete a sleep study.
If you live near Charleston, SC, Dr. Matt Dillard offers sleep apnea solutions and will help you get the diagnosis and treatment that you deserve. Contact Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of the Lowcountry today!
How Can You Get The Sleep You Deserve?
As we discussed in the previous section, if you believe that you have sleep apnea, the best thing to do is consult your doctor. It’s also important to bring information regarding your medical history, sleeping habits, and fatigue levels. This will allow your doctor to provide a better diagnosis and ensure that the treatment you’re prescribed is effective.
Treatment options vary depending on the severity of your sleep apnea. The most common types of treatment include:
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
- Oral Appliance Therapy
- Upper Airway Surgery
- Positional Therapy
- Upper Airway stimulation Device
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
The most common sleep apnea treatment is a continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP). CPAP is a mask that sits over the nose and/or mouth and gently pushes air through the airway, keeping it open.
While CPAP is a highly effective approach, about half of its users report issues with comfort, restriction, and noisiness that lead to them switching treatment options.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Dental appliances, or mandibular advancement devices, are an excellent solution for patients with mild to moderate OSA. They work by repositioning the lower jaw and tongue so that your airway isn’t restricted while you sleep.
Dentists and sleep specialists can custom-fit these oral appliances to your smile, which guarantees a comfortable fit. Another reason people love this option compared to CPAP is that it’s silent.
If you want more information about oral appliance therapy, Dr. Mark Katz is a Board-Certified sleep specialist who has devoted his life to studying and treating sleep apnea. Reach out to Orthodontics & Dental Sleep Medicine in Greensboro, NC today.
Upper Airway Surgery
If nothing else works, your doctor may suggest upper airway surgery to help with OSA and snoring. Surgery is typically only an option after the sleep apnea fails to respond to alternative treatments, including CPAP.
While there are a few types of surgery that can correct sleep apnea, the most common is uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP). UPPP involves removing some of the soft tissue from the back of the throat and palate to increase the width of the airway.
Sleep apnea treatments don’t have to involve surgery or masks that cover your mouth or nose. For patients with mild sleep apnea, sometimes simply adjusting how they sleep is enough to make a significant impact.
Positional therapy is recommended if sleep apnea primarily occurs when you sleep on your back. In that case, rotating to your side should allow you to sleep without interruption.
Upper Airway Stimulation Device
An upper airway stimulation device is a relatively new solution for sleep apnea. It looks like a heart pacemaker and monitors your breathing while you sleep. If you experience an apnea episode, the device stimulates the nerve that controls the tongue, moving it forward and opening your throat.
Contact A Specialist
With so many options available to treat sleep apnea, nobody should have to suffer. If you’re snoring keeps your partner up at night or you can’t get a fulfilling night’s rest, the best thing you can do is find a local sleep specialist and schedule a consultation. This is the first step to getting you the sleep you deserve.
For anyone who’s located near Salem, OR, Dr. Michelle Aldrich has the right training and experience to relieve your snoring and sleep apnea symptoms. As a Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine, she’s considered a leading source for sleep apnea information. Contact Riverbend Sleep to get the rest you deserve!