Understanding Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a common condition affecting millions of Americans every day. But because its symptoms are so subtle, many people who suffer from the disorder don’t recognize or misattribute their symptoms. That’s why Dr. Stern recommends learning about the signs to help recognize when it may be happening to you or a loved one.
Sleep apnea is a classification of sleep-disordered breathing that’s characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. There are two different types of sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which occurs when your throat muscles relax and allow your tongue to fall back into your airway, and central sleep apnea (CSA), which occurs when your brain stops sending proper signals to the muscles that control your breathing.
A medical examination or self-assessment might indicate the potential for sleep apnea. However, the only way to accurately diagnose sleep disorders is with a sleep study, which may be performed in a laboratory or with an at-home test. Once you have a diagnosis, Dr. Stern can help you find a treatment method that works best for you.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
There are several potential factors. Some people naturally have a narrow airway, or it may be restricted by facial anatomies, such as a small jaw. In other cases, obesity, inflammation, or a lack of control over soft tissues in the area.
The main symptom of sleep apnea is repeatedly gasping for air throughout the night. However, there are other symptoms to look out for, including:
- Snoring: Every person is different. While it’s possible to have apnea without snoring, it’s the most common and recognizable symptom. Patients typically have frequent, loud bouts of snoring intermixed with brief silences.
- Nighttime choking: Immediately after an apneic event, the person may gasp, cough, or snort, often without fully waking.
- Fatigue: People suffering from sleep disorders don’t get adequate rest most nights, leading to possible trouble waking up in the morning, dozing off during the day, or simply feeling exhausted.
- Insomnia: Some patients may wake up throughout the night unexpectedly or have trouble falling asleep, no matter how tired they are.
- Headaches: It’s common for patients with sleep apnea to wake up with a headache in the morning that usually fades gradually throughout the day.
Potential Sleep Apnea Health Risks
Sleep apnea is more than something that interrupts your sleep and disturbs your partner throughout the night — there are physical and mental effects as well. During an apneic event, the body is very briefly subjected to coronary strain, oxygen deprivation, and more. It can happen as often as hundreds of times every hour, with a potentially devastating cumulative impact on your health.
Sleep Apnea and Your Physical Health
OSA not only drains your energy but can also lead to severe health conditions. Untreated sleep apnea has been associated with:
- Stroke & Heart Disease
- Cognitive Dysfunction
Sleep Apnea and Your Weight
There is a connection between your weight and sleep apnea symptoms. Carrying excess weight, especially around the neck area, can restrict your breathing while you sleep. In a vicious cycle, sleep apnea can lead to other health issues such as type 2 diabetes that become more aggravated as sleep apnea persists.
Sleep Apnea and Your Mental Health
Sleep apnea also has a connection to your mental health, and poor mental health oftentimes goes hand-in-hand with poor sleep. Unfortunately, patients who suffer from mental health issues are more susceptible to sleep disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia.
Tips for Dealing With Sleep Apnea
Treating sleep apnea can prevent these health conditions and help you feel more energized throughout the day. It’s crucial to seek a diagnosis and get treatment as soon as you feel you may be having issues with sleep apnea, saving you from unnecessary stress. Additionally:
- Avoid sleeping on your back. Side sleeping can alleviate symptoms.
- Be proactive when treating your apnea. Coping with sleep apnea can lead to aggravated health issues. If you’re unhappy with your current solution, visit our office to find an alternative.
- Adopt a healthier lifestyle. Just as sleep apnea can affect your overall health, your overall health can also worsen the symptoms of your sleep apnea. Managing your weight, diet, and adopting healthy sleep habits can provide some relief from your symptoms.
Frequently Asked Questions
It can affect anyone, at any age. However, some people have a greater risk including: people over the age of 40, anyone with a large neck, obese or overweight people, and males.
No. Snoring is the sound produced when the airway is restricted, but not closed. In and of itself, snoring is harmless because the person is still breathing, although loudly. However, it is also a red flag, because snoring is the number one symptom of apnea. There is no breathing during an apneic event, but there is usually loud snoring immediately after, when the airway is beginning to reopen.
No. Snoring is a common symptom. However, every person is different. It is possible to have apnea without snoring.
A medical examination or self-assessment might indicate the potential for sleep apnea. However, the only way to accurately diagnose sleep disorders is with a sleep study, which may be performed in a laboratory or with an at-home test.
There are several potential factors. Some people naturally have a narrow airway, or it may be restricted by facial anatomy, such as a small jaw. In other cases, obesity, inflammation, or excess laxity of soft tissues in the area.
CPAP (continued positive airway pressure) is a machine that forces air into the airway, keeping it open during sleep. It is considered very effective when used correctly and consistently. However, patient compliance is low because many people object to the uncomfortable mask, constant noise, and cumbersome machine.
Yes! Many patients who cannot tolerate CPAP find relief with a comfortable, convenient, custom-made oral appliance. It works by stabilizing oral structures during sleep, preventing airway collapse.
Some patients report mild muscle soreness in the mornings, especially for the first few days. Most people adjust to wearing the appliance within about ten days, and find it to be very comfortable. They are considered safe and effective, with over 100 appliances having earned FDA clearance.
We test the effectiveness of the therapy with a follow-up sleep test. The results are compared to those of the pre-treatment test to measure improvement.
That depends entirely on the specific insurance carrier and policy. Generally speaking, dental insurance rarely covers apnea appliances, but medical insurance may. Please contact your provider to find out the limits of your coverage. We would be pleased to research your medical coverage as well!
Avoid sleeping on your back. Side sleeping is much better. Most importantly, treat your apnea, don’t just cope with it. If you are unhappy with your current solution, look into alternatives.
Just contact our Snoring & CPAP Solutions LLC office in Willoughby Hills (near Classic Lexus) and arrange a free apnea consultation with Dr. Stern.
Schedule a Consultation with Dr. Stern
If you feel you’re living with sleep apnea or experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned, schedule a consultation with Dr. Stern. Both our experienced dental team and Dr. Stern are committed to helping our patients with sleep disorders to provide them with the best solutions for their unique cases.
Contact our Lake Country practice by calling (440) 833-6008.