SERVING MESA, PHOENIX, Gilbert, TEMPE ARIZONA
Sleep. It is an integral aspect of our health and general sense of wellness. For many people, snoring prevents them from feeling rested after a full night’s sleep. When sleep is continually disrupted by snoring, it can be advantageous to explore the potential that something bigger may be happening. Sometimes, the loud snoring that occurs each night is actually sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea is a common sleep disorder in which breathing ceases for several seconds, multiple times during the course of a night’s sleep. There are two primary types of sleep apnea that adults suffer from:
Central sleep apnea – caused by miscommunication between the brain and breathing muscles
Obstructive sleep apnea – caused by airway blockage from soft tissue and other factors
Apnea is a term that describes a pause in breathing. These pauses can occur hundreds of times in a given night. Each pause in breathing can last seconds. Whether caused by an interruption in brain messaging or by a physical obstruction in the airway, every apnea episode shares one thing in common: oxygen deprivation.
When snoring turns to apnea and breathing stops, the oxygen levels in the brain and blood rapidly decline. As a result, adrenaline is produced. The purpose of adrenaline is to flood the body with its stimulating chemical so breathing resumes. Breathing does resume thanks to adrenaline, but another apnea episode may occur within minutes.
Who is most commonly affected by Sleep Apnea?
More than 18 million American adults have sleep apnea. Children can also experience this condition, though statistics are unclear regarding the number of children who may be affected. Research suggests that there may be a genetic factor to sleep apnea, seeing that obstructive sleep apnea can be seen in multiple members of the same family. Older individuals may be more commonly affected by obstructive sleep apnea due to the degradation of muscle tone that occurs with age. Physical factors can also contribute to sleep apnea. These include having large tonsils or a large tongue, large neck size, and obesity.
Signs of Sleep Apnea
Signs of sleep apnea may be noticed while a person sleeps or during their waking hours. Indications of apnea episodes include snoring that is often loud and disruptive to others. Snoring stops momentarily, and then resumes after a choking or gasping sound.
Additional signs of sleep apnea include:
- A sensation of restless sleep
- Intense daytime sleepiness; difficulty staying awake
- Morning headaches or sore throat
- Difficulty concentrating; brain fog
- Sexual dysfunction
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
It is best to bring these symptoms to the attention of your physician. Patients can take make tests to determine if they are suffering from sleep apnea, and swift diagnosis can help prevent serious problems further down the road.
Is snoring always related to Sleep Apnea?
Snoring is one of the biggest indicators of sleep apnea. However, while just about every person who has sleep apnea snores, not every person who snores has sleep apnea. A thorough health history, physical exam, and sleep study is needed to accurately diagnose sleep apnea.
Types of Sleep Apnea
There are two primary types of sleep apnea: central and obstructive. A third, mixed sleep apnea, is a combination of the two primary types but is not nearly as common. Dr. LeSueur, Dr. Glenn LeSueur, & Dr. Dodaro offer non-invasive sleep apnea treatments for the obstructive form of this potentially deadly condition.
Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea occurs when signals between the brain and respiratory system are interrupted. This type of sleep apnea is commonly associated with other medical conditions such as heart failure and stroke, though it may also be drug induced or related to high altitude.
Because central sleep apnea stems from the nervous system, treating it requires more complex therapy.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea, commonly called OSA, is the most common type of this disorder. OSA occurs when airways become obstructed by soft tissue or over-relaxation of the throat muscles. Risk factors for OSA include obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol use, and narcotics. However, this condition may also be linked to sex, age, and genetic predisposition.
Treating OSA requires keeping airways open during sleep – something that can often be accomplished with noninvasive treatments such as oral appliances worn while sleeping. These devices are customized to fit comfortably in the mouth and work to keep the tongue and palate optimally positioned for unobstructed airflow. During your obstructive sleep apnea consultation at our Mesa, Arizona office we can help you determine if this particular treatment option is best for your needs.
Risk Factors for Obstructive Sleep Apnea
The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive, which occurs when airways become blocked, preventing proper airflow. This condition is more common in men who are over the age of 60 and have a family history of the disorder. However, women see an increased risk following menopause. Physical factors including having a thicker neck circumference or a naturally narrow airway also increase your risks for sleep apnea.
While patients cannot change their genetic risk factors for sleep apnea, they can control many of the things that increase risks for this condition. This includes things such as:
- Being overweight
- Using alcohol or sedatives
If you are increasing your risks through behavioral choices, lifestyle changes may be necessary to effectively treat your condition.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatment
Our Mesa sleep apnea dentists have found the oral device SomnoDent to be very effective in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. This device is custom-made to fit comfortably in your mouth and is capable of keeping both muscles and soft tissue in place during sleep to help ensure optimal airflow. Independent studies have found SomnoDent to provide 91% treatment efficacy and it is well-tolerated by 96% of obstructive sleep apnea patients. Alone, however, it may not be fully effective at treating all cases.
Nearly all of the risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea are lifestyle choices. As such, treatment can either be aided or obstructed by the choices you continue to make. Depending on your lifestyle, proper treatment of this disorder may require additional steps like:
- No longer smoking
- Not using sedatives
- Not drinking alcohol
Additional steps that patients may need to take to fully restore a healthy night’s sleep include:
- Weight loss
- At least three hours of exercise weekly
- A healthy diet
During your treatment consultation, we can discuss these methods in greater detail to help ensure all steps are being taken to protect your health and happiness through targeted obstructive sleep apnea treatments.
How does CPAP compare to SomnoDent?
CPAP therapy uses Continuous Positive Airway Pressure to keep the airway open. The positive force of air delivered via a small air compressor and mask that fits over the nose and mouth acts against the weight of relaxed muscles that would otherwise obstruct air flow. CPAP has been the treatment of choice among medical professionals for several years. However, oral appliance therapy has demonstrated effectiveness that could rival that of CPAP. Furthermore, studies also suggest that patient compliance is higher among those who use an oral appliance vs. CPAP.
CPAP therapy requires that one wear a mask over a large portion of the face. This can create feelings of claustrophobia and also embarrassment. Forced air may be gentle, but many patients complain of uncomfortable side effects such as stomach discomfort, a sore throat, or eye irritation. CPAP also requires equipment; the mask, a long hose, and a bedside air compressor. This setup can be inconvenient in instances of travel.
SomnoDent is a custom-made appliance that fits entirely inside the mouth. It is customized to fit comfortably. Patients should be able to drink water while their appliance is inserted if they wish; that’s how comfortable and discreet it is. The purpose of the SomnoDent appliance is to gently position the lower jaw forward. This minor repositioning moves the tongue and other soft tissues out of the way so air flow can continue. More than a dozen studies have been done on SomnoDent appliances. They have shown that over 90 percent of patients treated have experienced an improvement in sleep quality.
Can Sleep Apnea go away by itself?
Central sleep apnea is unlikely to go away spontaneously. Obstructive sleep apnea also will not go away on its own. However, patients may see a marked improvement in sleep if their condition relates to weight or lifestyle habits like taking sleeping pills or consuming alcohol before bed. Many doctors recommend attending to lifestyle and general health as a way of decreasing obstructive sleep apnea.
Can Sleep Apnea be a sign of other health conditions?
Typically, sleep apnea is a risk factor for other health conditions, not a result of another problem. Untreated sleep apnea is a contributing cause for potentially serious medical issues such as heart arrhythmia, stroke, high blood pressure, weight gain, and type 2 diabetes.
Schedule a consultation
If you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, please contact Dr. LeSueur, Dr. Glenn LeSueur, and Dr. Dodaro online or by calling our Mesa office at (480) 834-6991 to schedule a treatment consultation today.