By Dr. Amy L Golden
For many people, snoring is just an annoyance that interferes with a good night’s sleep. However, for many people, snoring can lead to a serious medical condition called sleep apnea. This condition is often noticed by a family member or bed partner who first hears the snoring and then notices a gasping for breath. Left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, increased risk for heart attack, irregular heartbeats and stroke, as well as diabetes and depression.
What is sleep apnea?
When you sleep, your throat muscles and tongue can relax and close off the airway, causing breathing to become harder and actually stop. When there is reduced air flow into the lungs, the amount of oxygen in your blood decreases. Your brain senses the lack of oxygen and wakes you up so you can re-open your airway. People with sleep apnea can wake up anywhere from 5 to more than 50 times an hour, gasping for breath!
How do you know if you need to be tested for sleep apnea?
The main symptom of sleep apnea is excessive daytime sleepiness. The most serious warning sign that you may experience is falling asleep while driving. Many people who have sleep apnea have problems with memory and concentration, and half of all patients report morning or night headaches. Restless tossing and turning during sleep, waking up often, and of course, snoring are all signs that you may have sleep apnea.
Can children have sleep apnea?
Yes! Children with large tonsils or allergies may be mouth breathers and may frequently wake up during sleep. Other symptoms include bed wetting, doing poorly in school, forgetfulness and irritability.
How do I find out if I have sleep apnea?
If you think you have sleep apnea, your doctor may suggest an overnight sleep study. This test is usually done at a sleep center. Your breathing, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and other body functions are measured while you sleep. The recordings are analyzed by a qualified sleep specialist to determine whether you have sleep apnea or another type of sleep disorder.
How is sleep apnea treated?
The most common way to treat moderate sleep apnea is to wear a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure machine). This is a mask that is worn over the nose and/or mouth while you sleep. The mask is hooked to a machine that provides continuous air flow to the nose, helping to keep the airway open so breathing stays regular and oxygen levels to the lungs stay constant. The CPAP is considered by many experts to be the most effective treatment for sleep apnea.
What if I just can’t wear the CPAP?
The second most effective nonsurgical method to treat mild or moderate sleep apnea is with a dental device. An Anti-snoring appliance is an affordable dentist-prescribed product that opens the airway to prevent snoring while treating sleep apnea. Accurate impressions of your teeth will be taken and these impressions will be used to have a dental laboratory fabricate an appliance that is specific for your needs. The cost of these snore guards are often covered under medical insurance, since sleep apnea is considered a very serious medical disorder.
Why am I writing about sleep apnea?
I got tested for sleep apnea after falling asleep while driving. Fortunately, no one was hurt when I crashed my car. The first sleep test was normal. Many years later, I began to snore and to have irregular heartbeats. My second sleep test was positive for sleep apnea. Now I have both a c-pap and a
dental anti-snoring device. The treatment has changed my life. When I wear my appliance, I feel better, can concentrate better and am no longer feeling sleepy during the day!
If you think you have sleep apnea, get tested immediately! If you can’t wear the c-pap, come see me for a dental appliance. It will change your life for the better too.
Dr Amy Golden has maintained family dental practice in Berlin, Nj for over 19 years.
For more information, go to www.agoldensmile.com
For an appointment, call 856-816-3071.