What is Sleep Apnea?
Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea. However, many people snore without experiencing sleep disorders.
Snoring is a sign of a partial upper-airway obstruction. During snoring the inability to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide upsets the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. The brain senses the low level of oxygen and increased levels of carbon dioxide and sends a signal to resume breathing and causes an arousal. The frequent arousals inhibit the normal sleep cycle and result in fragmented sleep. This makes you feel very sleepy during the day and most people complain of very unrefreshing sleep at night.
What’s Happening During Obstructive Sleep Apnea
OSA is caused by a blockage of the airway during sleep, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes, often causing snoring. During snoring the inability to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide upsets the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. The brain senses the low level of oxygen and increased levels of carbon dioxide. It sends a signal to resume breathing and cause an arousal. The frequent arousals inhibit the normal sleep cycle and result in fragmented sleep. This makes the patient feel very sleepy during the day and complain of a feeling unrested.
In central sleep apnea, the airway is not blocked, but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. Mixed apnea, as the name implies, is a combination of the obstructive and central sleep apnea. With each apnea event, the brain briefly arouses people to resume breathing. Again, sleep is extremely fragmented and of poor quality with both central and mixed sleep apnea.
Obstructed breathing is very noticeable to a bed partner: the sudden cessation of a partner's breathing is quite alarming. Once aroused from deep sleep, people with sleep apnea may snore, gasp, or choke. Often these symptoms wake the sleeper, the bed partner, or both.
Risk Factors for Obstructed Sleep Apnea and Health Consequences
Risk factors include being male, overweight, and over the age of forty, but sleep apnea can strike anyone at any age, even children. Sleep apnea can occur in thin people as well. A lack of awareness by the public and healthcare professionals leaves most people undiagnosed and untreated.
Further risk factors include obesity, hypertension, cardiac arrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, and hypothyroidism. The most common cause for sleep apnea in children is tonsillar hypertrophy.
CPAP Therapy for Sleep Apnea
Many medical professionals treat sleep apnea and other sleep disorders with CPAP therapy, or “continuous positive airway pressure.” Patients who use this treatment option will utilize a CPAP machine that helps them breathe more easily while they sleep, allowing them to get the air they need while resting, allowing a more restful sleep. A person can connect to this machine by wearing a mask that covers the mouth and nose or by using prongs that fit directly into the nose.
CPAP is an effective sleep apnea treatment option, but is not always the most comfortable option available.
Alternative Options for CPAP Sleep Apnea Treatment
An oral appliance repositions your lower jaw, while you sleep, keeping your airway open preventing you from having sleep apnea and snoring.
Oral appliance therapy minimizes the risks and complications associated with sleep apnea without being hooked to a noisy machine. This treatment method is effective and comfortable.
There are many different oral appliance styles available, allowing each individual patient to be fitted with the device that works best for his or her own condition. Most oral appliances that are fitted for sleep apnea help to move the lower jaw forward into place, aligning the mouth properly and treating the sleep apnea condition. In some cases, the appliance is designed to prevent the tongue from rolling too far back into the throat. – Add image of oral appliance example(s)
The oral appliances are more comfortable than a CPAP machine. Many patients find that they fall asleep more easily while wearing the oral appliance. In addition, these appliances are effective at treating mild, moderate and severe sleep apnea, so they help patients to improve their health and achieve a more restful night's sleep.
The Center for Sleep & TMJ Disorders is based in Fairfield, Connecticut, and offers oral appliances to treat sleep apnea. Patients who are suffering from the symptoms of sleep apnea or who have been diagnosed with this serious medical condition can work with a qualified dental professional to find out their CPAP alternatives.