All About Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a condition that causes sleep disturbances and may contribute to serious health issues. Experts estimate millions of people suffer from it, but many do not realize they have a problem until it becomes severe. Sleep apnea symptoms can be very similar to the symptoms of other sleep disorders. A home sleep study is the best way to get an accurate diagnosis.
Dr. Landry has been a qualified sleep medicine dentist since 2004 and a holistic general dentist since 1981. We work with you to provide education, diagnosis, and treatment options based on your unique circumstances. Let us help you eliminate headaches in the morning, tired afternoons, snoring at night, and halted breathing while you sleep. Our office is comfortable and relaxing, and everyone receives Five-Star service. We believe everyone deserves a good night’s sleep and the best quality of life possible. Call us today!
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What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by significant pauses in breathing during sleep. Although all adults experience some of these stops, called apneas, during their sleep cycle, sleep apnea becomes a clinical issue when these pauses occur too frequently or last too long. Most cases of sleep apnea are caused by blockages in the airway. The soft tissue in the throat, soft palate, or tongue can obstruct the airway when the body relaxes during sleep. Breathing stops temporarily until a lack of oxygen causes the body to stir and shift positions.
Sleep apnea can cause dozens or even hundreds of “micro-wake” episodes during the night. Most sufferers are not aware of these periods of wakefulness. They often last only a few seconds. Still, this is enough to disrupt the sleep cycle and reduce sleep quality. Once sleep apnea develops, it tends to worsen over time. Although lifestyle factors contribute to sleep apnea, symptoms rarely subside without the right treatment.
Why Treat Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is one of the most severe sleep-related disorders. It often develops without any apparent signs. Sufferers may feel tired during the day but have no idea why. Sleep apnea can cause other serious symptoms, including:
- Reduced energy and sleepiness during the day
- Short- and long-term memory impairment
- Difficulty responding to stress and regulating negative emotions
It is possible to have sleep apnea for years without knowing it. When sleep apnea goes untreated, major bodily systems can be compromised. Sufferers are more likely to experience reduced organ performance or even organ failure. They are more vulnerable to viral and bacterial infection and might develop an immune disorder. The most challenging part of managing sleep apnea is figuring out that you have it.
That said, there is hope. When you visit Dr. Landry and our team at HS Apnea, the right treatment is selected, and intervention is highly effective. Symptoms can be eliminated and sleep quality restored. Over time, the health effects of sleep apnea can subside. The first step is to see our highly qualified specialist and get a home sleep study done.
Most of the symptoms of sleep apnea are hard to distinguish from those of other sleep disorders. In some cases, people with severe sleep apnea may think they are just “getting older.” The majority of people first suspect sleep apnea when a bedroom partner tells them they have been snoring. Snoring is caused by the vibration of soft tissue in the airway as a sleeper breathes. It becomes more intense over time as the obstruction gets larger. Other warning signs include:
- Morning headaches caused by low oxygen levels in the blood
- Snoring, which may increase in volume and intensity over time
- Awareness of “tossing and turning” or brief periods of alertness
- Persistent daytime drowsiness even after eight hours of sleep
For sleep apnea sufferers, snoring can be so loud that it sometimes wakes them up. They may also experience an occasional sore throat as a result of the mouth falling open throughout the night. Opening the mouth is one way the body tries to compensate for breathing difficulty.
Risks of Sleep Apnea
As sleep apnea continues over the months, it causes significant stress on the body. All organs and body systems must work harder to operate on reduced rest. This increased strain makes the sleep apnea sufferer more likely to have serious health complications in the future. People with untreated sleep apnea are susceptible to kidney and liver failure, immune disorders, and cardiovascular events. Sleep is essential in regulating blood pressure, so sleep apnea makes hypertension (high blood pressure) more likely. That in turn, can lead to heart attack and stroke.
Quality of life is a crucial issue for sleep apnea sufferers. Difficulty concentrating and remembering details can make many tasks harder. Sufferers are also at an enhanced risk of serious accidents. Workplace and automotive accidents both become more likely. The dangers of sleep apnea can be every bit as intense as any other chronic health condition. Prompt treatment is essential in limiting the damage and maintaining health.
Types of Sleep Apnea
Most sleep apnea patients have one type of apnea or the other. Obstructive sleep apnea is by far the most common. Even if you are otherwise healthy, obstructive sleep apnea risk increases with age. That’s one reason it is essential to see a sleep dentist like Dr. Landry and identify the specific type you may have.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) - Obstructive sleep apnea is sleep apnea caused by a blockage in the airway. In most cases, the blockage is caused by the sufferer’s anatomy and becomes more pronounced over time. It is more noticeable when sleeping on one’s back than on one’s side.
Central Sleep Apnea - Central sleep apnea is a general term for sleep apnea caused by problems in the central nervous systems. In central sleep apnea, failure to communicate the right electrical signals from the brain to the body during sleep causes delayed or arrested breathing.
Mixed or Hybrid Sleep Apnea - Mixed sleep apnea is a complex condition where a sufferer has symptoms of both obstructive and central sleep apnea. Treatment usually focuses on obstructive elements first. Care can then progress to address the central sleep apnea, which may respond to certain medications.
The Home Sleep Study Kit for Convenience and Accuracy
Getting an accurate diagnosis of sleep apnea is an essential first step toward wellness. When you suspect sleep apnea, the most efficient way to confirm the issue is with a home sleep study kit. Using the information from a home sleep study kit, Dr. Landry can tell you about your sleep patterns and whether they are consistent with sleep apnea.
The sleep study kit consists of special equipment you can use at home to gather data about your body while you sleep. The specifics vary, but generally, there is a small recording device that will attach to your body through a few simple connective points. As you sleep, the device records a great deal of information about your body such as heart rate, blood pressure, breathing frequency and depth, and sleep phase. To obtain a diagnosis, you will usually use the device every night for about seven days.
The evidence gathered during a home sleep study is usually enough to determine if you have sleep apnea. Additional tests can be used in the future to ensure that a course of treatment is working. Before you take your sleep study kit home, we will review how to use it. Simply sleep the way you usually do, and the machine will do the rest.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
At the beginning of treatment, Dr. Landry may recommend lifestyle changes to combat sleep apnea. The most straightforward cases of sleep apnea respond to adjustments in the way you sleep each night. Sleeping on your side instead of on your back can reduce symptoms. Elevating your head with additional pillows may help, especially if you suffer from sinus problems. Some people have lifestyle factors that may contribute to sleep apnea. Drinking alcohol before bed can cause the muscles of the throat to relax more than usual during sleep, making obstruction in the airway more likely. Smoking is also correlated with higher sleep apnea risk.
Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help with sleep apnea management. Most people who develop sleep apnea, however, will need treatment to get healthy sleep at night. There are surgical and non-surgical options for sleep apnea treatment. In some cases, excess soft tissue can be removed from the airway to resolve the blockage and restore regular sleep quality. However, not all patients have sleep apnea factors that respond to surgery. Plus, many people want to avoid surgery if at all possible. Luckily, non-surgical treatment for sleep apnea is common and useful and provides excellent results.
An oral appliance is a wearable device you put into your mouth at night. Most oral appliances focus on opening the airway by adjusting the position of the jaw during sleep. Some of them place the tongue in a healthier position or influence both the jaw and tongue. Many oral appliances are designed especially for the specific patient based on digital images of the mouth, teeth, tongue, and jaw. Once the right oral device is selected, it rarely needs to be adjusted or replaced unless it wears out over time.
We Specialize in Sleep Apnea Appliances
Most people get complete relief from sleep apnea with an oral appliance. An oral appliance is an excellent alternative to Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy, where a mask worn over the nose and mouth provides a constant stream of moving air to keep the airway open. Patients cite convenience and ease of use as reasons why they prefer oral appliance therapy.
Dr. Landry designs custom oral appliances to help you breathe without apnea events. Once treatment begins, restorative sleep can help your body heal from adverse effects, so you can live longer and enjoy a better quality of life. Call us today and schedule a consultation!
CALL US: (281) 612-3153 REQUEST APPOINTMENT