During sleep, our bodies perform many vital functions. The brain encodes memories and removes damaging waste products. The body resets hormone levels related to energy use and fat storage. Growth and healing occurs in all systems. When our sleep is disrupted, the health consequences can be catastrophic. Unfortunately, there are many things that may disrupt our sleep: Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB), Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS), and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) are among the most common.
Critical Information on Sleep Disordered Breathing
The term sleep disordered breathing is used to pigeon-hole 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, while you are snoring, your airway collapses to the point that your sleep is interrupted, 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 serious form of SDB. This is a complete collapse of your airway. During an apnea, you cannot breathe at all and your body must wake you up to begin breathing again.
Snoring is a warning
Snoring is a very common 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 serious condition- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)-or that you may develop it. It can also be disruptive to your home life. Snoring can also have health consequences, including atherosclerosis (hardened arteries), stroke, and falling asleep at the wheel.
Obstructive sleep apnea can be deadly
The word apnea means to stop breathing. When you have obstructive sleep apnea, your tongue, soft palate, or other soft tissues collapse onto the back of your throat completely cutting off your airway. People who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea stop breathing for 10 or more seconds at a time, sometimes more than 100 times a night. To start breathing again, you need to partially awaken, though you may not become aware that you’ve awoken.
During sleep apnea, your own body is literally choking you to death. The constant waking, even if you are not aware of it, causes daytime sleepiness at its mildest, or sleep deprivation at its worst. The lack of oxygen your body gets at night can lead to a host of serious health conditions.
Obstructive sleep apnea has been linked to:
Right and left congestive heart failure
Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Type II Diabetes
Injury/death due to automobile accident from excessive daytime sleepiness
Sleep apnea can affect both adults and children.
For children, it can cause:
Failure to Thrive
Academic under performance
ADD/ADHD and bed-wetting
As Much as 95% of People with Sleep Apnea Are Undiagnosed
The most insidious thing about sleep apnea is that it sneaks up 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 sleep apnea may be undiagnosed.
Here are some sleep apnea symptoms to look out for:
Excessive daytime sleepiness
Loud, disruptive snoring
Irregular breathing during sleep (e.g. Gasping, Choking, Long pauses)
If you have one or more of these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor or a sleep dentist about sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Diagnosis
The only way to diagnose sleep apnea is with an overnight sleep study, which can be performed 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 will measure how often your breathing is interrupted, the quality of sleep you get, 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.
Treating Sleep Apnea
There are some simple things you can do at home to contribute to your sleep apnea treatment. If you are overweight, shedding some pounds will help reduce the amount of airway blocking tissues you have in your neck and throat. But don’t be surprised if this is hard. Sleep apnea interferes with your body’s metabolism. You are more likely to eat more and more likely to store fat when you have sleep apnea. In addition, sleep apnea interferes with your ability to exercise.
Good sleep hygiene – making sure you don’t hit the sack exhausted – will help as well. 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, getting regular exercise and avoiding alcohol, caffeine and heavy meals near bedtime.
However, if you have moderate to severe sleep apnea, you’ll probably need a medical or dental sleep apnea solution too. 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 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 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 any oral appliance or CPAP in the future.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines deliver pressurized air through a tube and mask that covers your nose. Just 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.
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.
Sleep apnea is a serious condition. Luckily there are many effective treatments. If you have sleep apnea symptoms, it’s best to look into them sooner rather than later. At Top Down Dental, Dr. Nancy Nehawandian can diagnose your sleep apnea causes, and find the right sleep apnea solutions for you. Dr. Nehawandian is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM), and she helps people in the San Jose area from her office in Los Gatos.
Sleep apnea treatment gives immediate benefits. Feel healthier and happier. Have more energy to do the things you love. Stop disrupting the sleep of the entire house. To get sleep apnea treatment, you can reach our office by emailing us, or calling (408) 354-5600.
Want to learn whether you’re at risk for sleep apnea?
Take this quick questionnaire to learn your risk level.