Catching a good night’s sleep can be hard when your spouse or roommate snores. What you might not know is that it’s even harder for them. Sleep apnea affects roughly 22 million Americans. While the snoring can be easy to poke fun of, in reality, obstructive sleep apnea is no laughing matter.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Our body needs a clear pathway to breathe and take in the proper amount of oxygen. Someone with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) has structures in the back of the mouth and throat that collapse against each other during sleep, sealing off the airway.
The problem doesn’t happen during waking time, because the nervous system is alert and keeps the airway clear. But when drifting toward REM sleep, the state of relaxation allows the soft palate, tongue, and throat to soften and close together. As the airway gets smaller, the breathing comes in the form of snores and gasps as soft tissues rattle in the force of the inhalations. But eventually, the structures close completely, preventing the sleeper from taking a breath.
Are You Waking Up Without Realizing It?
As soon as the breaths stop coming, the central nervous system begins to wake the sleeper. This may happen in different ways for different people: Some feel the urge to go to the bathroom, others kick and shake the bed, most people simply have brief waking episodes where they gasp for air. The waking episode is never long, most OSA sufferers don’t even remember waking, but it’s long enough to drag the body from deep restful sleep. The more the person wakes, the less quality sleep they get.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Most patients with a sleep apnea diagnosis have a partner who observed their snoring and waking cycle. These are the classic, tell-tale symptoms of OSA. But there are signs during waking hours as well:
- Excessive Sleepiness
- High Blood Pressure
- TMJ/TMD and Grinding Teeth
- Brain Fog
Too Tired? It’s Time to Do Something About It
The sleep cycle is your way of resetting each night. When it is disrupted, your body will do anything it can to reclaim what it has lost. Sleep Apnea sufferers often find themselves falling asleep whenever they sit down. This can make it extremely dangerous for them to drive.
Overweight and Obesity
The heavier you are, the more likely you are to be at risk for OSA. For men, a neck circumference greater than 17 inches is a risk factor for the disease. In women, the measurement is 16 inches.
As sleep apnea robs the body of the rest it needs each day, it creates a stressful situation for the nervous and circulatory systems. The blood pressure will rise and may need to be controlled with medications.
Jaw Pain and Bruxism
One of the ways the body attempts to wake up to breathe is by grinding the teeth together. If this happens enough, the teeth will wear down, and the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) may become tight and painful. Though typical TMJ treatment involves a night guard or a splint to keep the teeth in the right position, tit takes a different type of oral appliance to address sleep apnea.
The Mental and Emotional Toll
Without the necessary rest for your body and mind, chemical levels also get out of balance. For instance, the neurotransmitter adenosine, which is responsible for attention and clarity will not clear the synapses the way it should. Serotonin levels will also fall. Because of this, people with OSA are frequently irritable and feel as though they’re living in a fog. They may also experience higher anxiety or depression levels.
Copperas Cove Sleep Dentistry Appliances
If you suspect you have sleep apnea, you may be putting off a diagnosis or treatment because you don’t like the idea of the CPAP. It can be intimidating to think of being hooked up to a mask and hose every night for the rest of your life. But Cove Family Dental has another option to offer: Oral Sleep Appliances allow mild to moderate apnea sufferers to have a good night’s sleep without a mask! Sleep Appliances are a great choice for several reasons:
- Custom Fit to Your Mouth
- Fits in a Pocket or Purse for Travel!
- No Electricity Required
- Discreet and Quiet
After you have a sleep study (whether through a take-home kit or in a sleep clinic) your doctor/pulmonologist will review the possible treatments available for your situation. If he doesn’t mention an oral sleep appliance, ask whether it’s right for your particular type of apnea. Once you have a prescription for the device, Dr. Grantham can make one to fit you. It will align your jaw in such a way that prevents the collapse of the soft tissue while you sleep. Many of our patients see results the first night!
Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition to have. Don’t let the fear of a CPAP keep you from diagnosis and treatment. For your health and your loved one’s benefit, contact Cove Family Dental to learn more about oral sleep appliance therapy in Copperas Cove.