Sleep Apnea Disorder
Sleep apnea is a disorder that prevents the body from getting a sufficient amount of oxygen during sleep. People with sleep apnea actually stop breathing for brief periods of time while sleeping. The most common form of sleep apnea is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). The name comes from throat blockage that is caused by the tongue or palate.
Being deprived of sleep and oxygen takes a considerable toll on the body over time. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, weight gain, diabetes, headaches, memory problems, and impotence. It can also cause job impairment and motor vehicle crashes. The net result is a reduced estimated life span of 5-7 years, not to mention the impact on quality of life.
Dr. Northway is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) and, in collaboration with the local sleep centers at Spectrum Health and Metro Health, remains up to date on the latest treatments for sleep apnea.
Learn More About Sleep Apnea
These symptoms can develop over years and, if left untreated, they can cause high blood pressure, heart attack, depression, diabetes, stroke, heart failure, and more. Contact us today for an evaluation and possible referral if you find yourself experiencing any of these warning signs:
- Excessively loud snoring which can be heard rooms away (or even by neighbors)
- A pattern of snoring interrupted by pauses, then gasps
- Falling asleep at the wrong times, such as at work or while driving
- Trouble concentrating, or becoming forgetful, irritable, anxious, or depressed
- Morning headaches or nausea, frequent trips to the bathroom to urinate at night, and loss of interest in sex
- Impotence or menstrual irregularities
- Excessive sleepiness
Clinical Testing for Sleep Apnea
In order to fully understand your sleep, various brain activities and body systems and their relationships will be observed throughout the night. On the night of a sleep study, you will be asked to arrive at the laboratory about two hours before your usual bedtime. Technologists will position tiny sensors at different points on your body to record your brain waves, muscle activity, leg and arm movements, heart rhythms, and other body functions during sleep.
Your sleep may be studied during the day as well, through a series of naps offered at two-hour intervals. This study, known as the multiple sleep latency test (MSLT), measures daytime sleepiness. The test may also be used to look for other causes of sleepiness, such as a brain disorder called narcolepsy. Various types of X-rays and direct examination of your breathing passage are sometimes used to provide a better picture of the throat in people with obstructive sleep apnea.
After the study, a sleep specialist will review and interpret the record to help you and your healthcare professional understand your specific sleep patterns and sleep problems. Treatment recommendations will be made if evidence of a sleep disorder is found.
Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea
There are a number of treatment options for patients with sleep apnea. Your medical specialists will work with you to find the right treatment for your situation:
- Positive Airway Pressure Masks: keep the airway open by providing a steady stream of air through a mask that you wear as you sleep.
- Oral Appliances: pulls the lower jaw and tongue forward, creating enough space to breathe unrestricted. These devices look much like sports mouth guards.
- Nasal Operations: removes blockages in the nose and repairs a deviated septum.
- Maxillomandibular Advancement (MMO): a surgery that involves cutting the upper and lower bones of the jaws.
Habits that Affect Sleep Apnea
For some people, certain changes in behavior can reduce or end sleep apnea. Contact Northway Family Dentistry or another qualified healthcare professional to see if these options might work for you. Some behaviors or habits can make obstructive sleep apnea worse:
- Losing weight and exercising regularly
- Quitting smoking
- Avoiding alcohol and sedatives
- Sleeping on your side or stomach
Improving Sleep Quality
These guidelines can help most people sleep better, as well as many individuals with different types of sleep disorders. For more specific guidelines about your own sleep problem, consult your healthcare professional.
- Maintain a regular wake time, even on days off work and on weekends.
- Try to go to bed only when you are drowsy.
- If you get in bed and are not drowsy, and unable to fall asleep after about 20 minutes, leave your bedroom and engage in a quiet activity elsewhere. Do not permit yourself to fall asleep outside the bedroom. Return to bed when, and only when, you are sleepy. Repeat this process as often as necessary throughout the night.
- Use your bedroom only for sleep, sex, and times of illness.
- If you have trouble sleeping at night, don’t nap during the daytime. If you do nap, try to do so at the same time every day and for no more than one hour. Mid-afternoon (no later than 3:00 pm) is best for most people.
- Establish relaxing pre-sleep rituals such as a warm bath, light bedtime snack, or ten minutes of reading.
- Exercise regularly. Confine vigorous exercise early in the day, at least six hours before bedtime, and do mild exercise at least four hours before bedtime.
- Keep a regular schedule. Regular times for meals, medications, chores, and other activities help keep the inner biological clock running smoothly, allowing you to sleep more easily and soundly.
- A light snack before bedtime can help promote sound sleep; avoid large meals close to bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, soda pop with caffeine, cocoa, or chocolate) within six hours of bedtime.
- Don’t drink alcohol when sleepy. When you are sleepy, even a small dose of alcohol can affect activities like driving. Do not drink alcohol while taking sleeping pills or certain other medications (consult your healthcare professional). Don’t use alcohol to help you sleep at night. While alcohol may help you to fall asleep more quickly, it severely affects the quality of your sleep later in the night and may even keep you from sleeping through the night.
- Avoid tobacco close to bedtime or during the night.
- Sleeping pills should be used only conservatively. Most healthcare professionals avoid prescribing sleeping pills for periods longer than two or three weeks. Remember to tell your healthcare professional about any symptoms of breathing problems during sleep (snoring, stop-breathing episodes, waking up short of breath, waking up with a headache or nausea) when being prescribed sleeping pills.
If you suspect you have sleep apnea, contact Northway Family Dentistry today to discuss your options, including possible referral to a local sleep center.