What is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is sleep-disordered breathing at its most severe. During an OSA episode, you’ll experience a pause in breathing due to a soft tissue blockage in your airway. Your brain will realize the lack of oxygen and excess CO2 and awaken you to resume breathing. You may not notice these awakenings, but they damage your body by raising your blood pressure, reducing oxygen to your brain, and disrupting your sleep cycle, which your body uses to restore for the next day. The constant waking causes daytime sleepiness at its mildest or sleep deprivation at its worst. Your body’s lack of oxygen at night can lead to severe health conditions. People who suffer from OSA stop breathing for 10 or more seconds, sometimes more than 100 times a night.
What Is Sleep-Disordered Breathing?
Sleep-disordered breathing is the term used to pigeonhole an array of breathing-related sleep problems.
It starts with snoring, the mildest form of SDB. Snoring is loud breathing due to a narrow airway during sleep. If you experience interrupted sleep due to the collapsing of your airway, it’s called upper airway resistance syndrome. Some doctors claim that upper airway resistance syndrome is just a form of obstructive sleep apnea – the most severe form of SDB.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms To Look Out For:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Loud, disruptive snoring
- Irregular breathing during sleep (e.g., Gasping, Choking, Long pauses)
- Restless Sleep
- Difficulty concentrating
- Morning Headaches
- Dry Mouth and throat
- TMJ Symptoms
If you have one or more of these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor or a sleep dentist about sleep apnea. Dr. Nehawandian is happy to refer you to a local sleep clinic for diagnosis.
Snoring – Main Warning Sign
Snoring is a widespread phenomenon, roughly 90 million Americans snore. While snoring can be harmless, it’s important to note that it’s not normal. It’s your first clue that you might have a more severe condition like OSA or that you may develop it. It can also be disruptive to your home life, waking your partner up throughout the night due to the noise. Snoring can also have health consequences, including atherosclerosis (hardened arteries), stroke, and falling asleep at the wheel.
The Consequences of Untreated Sleep Apnea
Obtaining a diagnosis and finding treatment for your sleep apnea is imperative to a long and healthy life. Read through the list of common consequences if left untreated.
- Heart attack
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Right and left congestive heart failure
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
- Cognitive Impairment
- Sexual dysfunction
- Type II Diabetes
- Injury/death due to automobile accident from excessive daytime sleepiness
Consequences of Sleep Apnea in Children
Most people think of obstructive sleep apnea as an older, overweight man’s condition. But that’s far from the truth. Women and even children with no weight problems can suffer from sleep apnea. Look for these symptoms in your children.
- Failure to Thrive
- Attention problems
- Behavioral Issues
- Academic underperformance
- ADD/ADHD and bed-wetting
Sleep Apnea Diagnosis
The only way to diagnose sleep apnea is to perform an overnight sleep study in a sleep clinic or at home. We may use questionnaires or other screening tools to decide if you will benefit from a sleep study. The study measures how often your breathing is interrupted, the quality of your sleep, the oxygen levels in your blood, your heart rate, and your body movements.
Serving patients in the San Jose area, Dr. Nancy Nehawandian of Top Down Dental in Los Gatos will examine the results of your sleep study and work collaboratively with your sleep physician to determine the most effective sleep apnea solutions for you. Call (408) 354-5600 or make an appointment online today.
Why Does It Go Undiagnosed?
The most insidious thing about sleep apnea is that its most apparent symptom is present while you are asleep. Unless you have a bed partner who’s woken up to observe it (they usually do because your snoring is so noisy!), many people have no idea they have a night-time breathing problem. Studies show that, depending on the population, 80-95% of people with OSA do not have a diagnosis.
Treatment For Sleep Apnea
There are some simple ways you can contribute to your treatment at home. If you are overweight, shedding some pounds will help reduce the amount of airway blocking tissues in your neck and throat. But don’t feel surprised if this is hard. Sleep apnea interferes with your body’s metabolism. You are more likely to eat more and store fat when you have sleep apnea. In addition, this interferes with your ability to exercise.
You can also practice good sleep hygiene by not going to bed completely exhausted. Going to bed overtired causes you to sleep so deeply your throat muscles become over relaxed and cut off your airway. You’ll also benefit from sleeping on your side (you snore most when you sleep on your back), quitting smoking, exercising regularly, and avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and heavy meals near bedtime.
However, you’ll probably need a medical or dental sleep apnea solution if you have moderate to severe sleep apnea. That’s where Dr. Nancy Nehawandian comes in. Her dental practice, Top Down Dental in Los Gatos, offers many sleep apnea solutions for patients in the San Jose area:
Oral Appliance Therapy: Oral appliances are custom-made devices designed to keep your airway open by repositioning your lower jaw, tongue, soft palate, and uvula, stabilizing your lower jaw and tongue and increasing the muscle tone of your tongue.
DNA Appliance Therapy: DNA appliances are similar to oral appliances, but rather than the temporary solution of keeping your airway open through mandibular advancement, they holistically treat your sleep apnea by expanding the jaw while using it in the hope of not having to use an oral appliance or CPAP in the future.
CPAP Machine: Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines deliver pressurized air through a tube and mask covering your nose. Like blowing up a balloon, the force of the pressurized air acts as a splint to keep your airway open. Surgical procedures are another treatment modality for OSA.
The Last Resort – Surgery: Surgery usually consists of removing the excess tissue in your throat. It may also be necessary to remove your tonsils and adenoids (especially in children), your uvula, or parts of your soft palate and throat.
For children, sleep apnea treatments are a bit different. See here for more information.
Get Healthier Sleep With Treatment in San Jose
Sleep apnea is a severe condition. Luckily there are many effective treatments. If you have symptoms, it’s essential to address them sooner than later. At Top Down Dental, Dr. Nancy Nehawandian can work with your physician to find the right treatment for you. Dr. Nehawandian is committed to helping patients treat sleep apnea and is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM). Contact her for treatment in the San Jose area at her dental office in Los Gatos.
Sleep apnea treatment gives immediate benefits. It helps you sleep better, feel healthier and happier, increase energy, and sleep quieter. To learn more about treatment, contact Top Down Dental by scheduling an appointment online or calling (408) 354-5600.