Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Snoring occurs when the air is obstructed during sleep, often caused by a narrow airway, soft tissue abnormalities, or the position of your tongue. Poor sleep posture can also lead to snoring. Snoring is a signal that your airway is not functioning properly. It may be annoying to your sleep partner, but it could be deadly to you.

Quality sleep is necessary for health, and snoring is not the only interference of getting a restful night’s sleep. While we all experience the occasional sleepless night, many people think they are sleeping well, when in fact, they wake up feeling tired every day. How is this possible?

One reason is a common, potentially dangerous disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a chronic disease that requires treatment. Sleep apnea sufferers usually will have airway occlusions while sleeping, which causes apneic episodes—these pauses in breathing result when the throat (directly behind the tongue) narrows.

The tongue may be to blame for narrowing the airway due to insufficient space, underdevelopment of the upper dental arch and lower jaw, a misaligned bite, overly large tongue, or tongue-tie. In some cases, enlarged soft tissues, such as adenoids and tonsils, may be to blame for blocking airflow. These airway restrictions cause apneic episodes in which breathing completely ceases or pauses. Breathing pauses may last several minutes before normal breathing resumes, which may occur dozens of times per hour (50 or more), resulting in sleep fragmentation and lower oxygen saturation. While the sufferer may be unaware of these occurrences, the brain is not. Instead, the brain compensates by elevating its fight or flight response to stabilize the body’s normal function. This compensation affects all cells throughout the body, attempting to relieve its cellular disease. Remember, it is responsible for stress chemicals to be released throughout every blood vessel, organ system, and cell in the body, and therein are the consequences that result. These frequent awakenings, although you may be completely unaware that they are occurring, will leave you feeling chronically fatigued. This could explain why you still feel so tired even after going to bed at a decent hour, and waking up at the same time every day.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

A sleep medicine doctor is the only physician that can diagnose sleep apnea. You should be aware of these warning signs to know when to schedule a consultation with an airway-focused dentist in Raleigh:

  • Snoring
  • Frequent awakenings
  • Insomnia
  • Restless sleep
  • Sore or dry throat upon waking
  • Choking or gasping while sleeping
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Morning headaches
  • Daytime sleepiness/lethargy
  • Forgetfulness
  • Mood changes- anxiety, depression, edginess
  • Clenching and/or grinding of the teeth
  • Frequent urination
  • Uncontrolled High blood pressure, arrhythmia
  • Uncontrolled blood sugars

It is essential to schedule a consultation for proper diagnostics and screenings if you experience signs or symptoms of sleep apnea. Treatment options vary and are dependent upon the severity of your condition. The important factor is to understand that sleep apnea or other airway disorders will not go away on their own.

Eventually, if left untreated, UARS or OSA may lead to life-threatening risks including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Forgetfulness or memory loss
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Treating Sleep Apnea

You can immediately begin to relieve some symptoms by losing weight, exercising regularly, and practicing good sleep hygiene. However, you still should seek proper treatment for your condition. Other treatment options may include CPAP machine, surgery for severe cases, or oral appliance therapy, which uses a custom-designed and fitted oral orthopedic device. Facial growth and development, myofunctional therapy and frenuloplasty has also been proven to be effective treatments for obstructive sleep apnea. Our doctors have extensive understanding and experience with these procedures. Our focus in the elimination and management of sleep apnea is based around structure (facial growth and development), function (tongue and swallow therapy and proper nasal breathing) as well as behavior (sleep hygiene and behavioral breathing techniques).

Worn during sleep, the appliance supports facilitated breathing by maintaining an open, unobstructed airway, so the pausing in your breathing decreases, allowing you to get the healthy, restful sleep you have been missing. These appliances have been approved by the medical community to treat patients with mild to moderate OSA and for those with severe OSA that cannot tolerate CPAP therapy. Oral appliances can also be helpful for those with severe OSA that need some additional help as they can be used concomitantly with the CPAP. If you would like to see whether oral appliance therapy could help relief your sleep apnea, contact About Face Collaborative today.