When you hear the term “sleep apnea”, do you immediately think of someone who snores loudly every night? (Does you think of your spouse too?) Disruptive and loud snoring is one of the tell-tale characteristics or symptoms of sleep apnea.
Without Sleep Apnea Treatment, More Than Your Sleep Can Be Affected! As sleep apnea is a dangerous and chronic disorder that if left untreated, may increase the risk of developing additional issues such as:
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- complications during pregnancy
- other health problems
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a chronic and relatively common disorder in which the sufferer will experience shallow or frequent pauses in breathing during an average night’s sleep.
The Signs & Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Signs of sleep apnea are frequently indicated by:
- explicitly loud snoring and/or breathing
- insomnia and poor sleep
- simultaneously experiencing progressively shallow wheezing
- irregular breathing
- frequent lapses in breathing patterns during sleep
- frequent tiredness
- difficulty concentrating while awake
Related Article: 10 Signs You May Have Sleep Apnea
Because these signs seem annoying to the sufferer and their sleeping partner, most people don’t realize they’re actually a much more serious health concern that may bring additional complications.
What happens to your body when you sleep (or try to sleep)?
As you rest, your body becomes less tense because your muscles relax. Sleep is the time when your body heals and repairs itself to prepare you for the following day. However, sleeping for some can be problematic especially for those with sleep apnea, because it limits their ability to rest and restore their bodies properly.
Primary symptoms of the disorder are irregular breathing, excessive snoring, and occasional breaks or pauses in breathing, which occur due to the complete relaxation of the throat muscles or airway blockage.
Other symptoms may include:
- constant fatigue
- chronic headaches
- high blood pressure
- complications during pregnancy
If these symptoms are left dismissed, and sleep apnea persists, heart failure, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, death, and other serious health issues can result.
It may even be indicative of other serious underlying health issues such as:
- neurological illness
- mental illness
- heart disease
Related Article: Signs of Sleep Apnea: The Bedtime Battle
What Are Sleep Apnea Causes?
The overall success in treating sleep apnea remains relatively high; however, the rate of success depends heavily on finding the exact cause of the disorder and selecting the best method of treatment.
Various causes can contribute to sleep apnea. However, one of the most common causes of this disorder is obesity; as fat deposits that accumulate around the neck place pressure on the throat, limiting the body’s ability to breathe sufficiently. Large tonsils are also a cause of sleep apnea as they tend to obstruct the passage of air into and out of the body.
Other sleep apnea causes include premature births and genetic syndromes that impact facial structures such as congenital central hypoventilation syndrome. Heart and kidney failure, PCOS, hypothyroidism, and conditions that interfere with the brain’s signals can also contribute to a person’s development of sleep apnea.
Related Article: How Would You Know if You Suffer from Sleep Apnea?
Big Three: Types of Sleep Apnea
While usually following a similar pattern, identifying and classifying your specific type of sleep apnea is indeed a crucial part of resolving the disorder, as sleep apnea can have multiple causes, and can manifest itself in several different variations.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea:
Obstructive sleep (or OSA) apnea is without doubt, the most common form of sleep apnea, as it affects approximately 3.6 million Americans today. However, despite such staggering statistics, it is believed that only 10% of those suffering from OSA recognize the symptoms and actively seek treatment for the condition, thereby leaving most suffers untreated.
Some of the signs and symptoms of OSA are:
- Noticeably loud snoring
- Dry mouth
- Excessive drowsiness or sleepiness throughout the day
- Repeated shortness of breath (abrupt awakenings) while asleep
Generally, the root cause of OSA, is attributed to relaxation of muscles while asleep, during which the tongue may cause a partial blockage of a person’s airway.
Central Sleep Apnea:
As opposed to being something of a mechanical problem like OSA, central sleep apnea (or CSA) is more of a muscle signal or miscommunication problem that originates within the brainstem. Although considerably less prevalent than OSA, CSA should not be taken lightly as it may likely be indicative of serious underlying health issues such as heart failure or Parkinson’s disease.
Common symptoms of CSA may include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Poor concentration
- Shortness of breath
- Repeated abrupt awaking
With the central nervous system compromised, both voluntary and involuntary muscle movement becomes increasingly restricted, therefore causing interruptions in involuntary actions such as breathing. This can be particularly problematic during sleep, as the suffer may repeatedly experience abrupt awakenings while attempting to rest, as a natural reaction to the sudden lack of oxygen.
Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome:
The final and as its name implies, most severe and advanced form of sleep apnea is complex or mixed sleep apnea syndrome. Complex sleep apnea (or perhaps more appropriately referred to as Mixed Sleep Apnea) is a combination for both OSA and CSA, and typically presents symptoms of both. Often in the cases of complex sleep apnea, a sufferer should seek immediate treatment as the standard of living with this condition may deteriorate rapidly. (e.g. going for too long without the adequate amount of sleep).
How Can Sleep Apnea Be Cured?
Thanks to a combined effort from both professional dentistry as well as the general and specialized fields of orthodontic and respiratory therapy research, signs of sleep apnea can be identified and treated in several ways.
Mask or Mouth Guard? Finding the Right Solution for You
Sleep Apnea Solution: CPAP Mask
There are treatments available to combat the difficulties of sleep apnea. One of the most common forms is the CPAP mask. A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine is used to deliver continuous air pressure to the throat, eliminating the blockage of breath that results when the throat collapses. This apparatus has proven to be beneficial for many sufferers of sleep apnea.
To combat and alleviate the various issues caused by sleep apnea, the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine, (better known as the “CPAP Mask”) was developed during the early 1980s. Being the only device of its kind at the time, the CPAP mask has been widely successful since its inception and continues to be the most commonly used therapy when treating the disorder.
Despite its undeniable success, the CPAP mask is not without its flaws as the cumbersome and somewhat awkward facial apparatus has been known to cause varying degrees of discomfort, thus leading to a less then desirable or even intolerable experience among some users.
Sleep Apnea Solution: Mouth Guard
For several years now, the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine (or CPAP mask) has been the “go to therapy” among sufferers of sleep apnea. While this device has proven itself as an extremely effective method of treatment, many people who suffer simply cannot tolerate the awkward and sometimes uncomfortable facial apparatus and may require an alternative type of treatment. Therefore, to accommodate patients with this issue, the dental community has developed a less invasive alternative treatment; a custom mouthguard!
A custom mouth guard closely resembles a sports mouth guard. A Mandibular Advancement Device, or a MAD mouthguard, is designed to realign the jaw. For those with obstructive sleep apnea, this device aids in preventing any obstruction of airflow. It provides better sleep and limits symptoms of loud snoring, wheezing, cessation of breathing, and other factors that impede a successful night’s rest.
While historically a mouthguard is best known for being an essential piece of equipment for athletes in various sports; however, more recently they have become known serving another important purpose. This purpose, (of course) is providing an alternative method in the ever-consistent battle against sleep apnea.
Used primarily in treating the much more common Obstructive Sleep Apnea, the Mandibular Advancement Device (or MAD mouthguard as its often called) is a night-time mouth guard that at first glance, resembles a standard sports mouth guard in general appearance.
However, unlike the sports mouth-guard, the unique MAD mouth guard is designed to shift forward and re-position your jaw, thus preventing the tongue (or anything else) from obstructing and blocking airflow. This not only reduces the signs of sleep apnea, including excessive snoring and wheezing during sleep, but also allows the sufferer to experience a much deeper and uninterrupted nightly rest, thus significantly improving the health and overall well being of the individual!
Related Article: Get Some Sleep: Custom Mouthguard for Sleep Apnea
GPS Dental Can Help Those with Sleep Apnea
At GPS Dental, we have helped many patients suffering from sleep apnea for several years now and look to continue doing so as the annual number of sleep apnea suffers within the U.S. continues to increase.
If this sounds like you, come see us here at GPS Dental as by visiting our offices, Dr. Skrobanek can assess your sleep apnea and determine if the MAD appliance is right for you!
Related Article: Sleep Apnea Treatment in San Antonio
Read more sleep apnea blogs by GPS Dental.
Dr. Gary P. Skrobanek’s experienced and friendly team at GPS Dental offers family dentistry for all ages in San Antonio, TX area. Our Brooks City Base dentist office is conveniently located and offers early morning appointment times Monday through Friday to meet your needs. At GPS Dental, we promote dental health awareness to our patients and provide most dental services, from family and general dentistry to dental implants, sleep apnea, TMJ / TMD Treatment, cosmetic dentistry and much more. We accept most dental insurance plans and offer affordable financial solutions for any budget. Call us at 210-633-3477 to make an appointment.