Snoring-Sleep Apnea

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea can be a serious sleep disorder. People who have sleep apnea stop breathing for 10 to 60 seconds at a time while they are sleeping. These short stops in breathing can happen from 0 to 100 times every hour you sleep. If you have sleep apnea, these periods of not breathing may make you wake up from deep sleep. If your are constantly waking up all night long, you aren't getting enough rest from sleep.

There are two kinds of sleep apnea. obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and central apnea. OSA is the most common type. Nine out of 10 people with sleep apnea have OSA. If you have OSA, something is blocking the passage or windpipe (trachea) that brings air into your lungs. When you try to breathe, you can't get enough air because of the blockage. Your trachea might be blocked by your tongue, tonsils or uvula (that small piece of the soft palate that hangs down in the back of your throat). It might also be blocked by a large amount of fatty tissue in the throat or  by relaxed throat muscles.

Central sleep apnea is rare. This type of sleep apnea is related to the function of the central nervous system. If you have this type of apnea, the muscles you use to breathe don't get the "go-ahead" signal from your brain. Either the brain doesn't send the signal, or the signal gets interrupted.


Is OSA common?

Doctors estimate that more than 12 million Americans have OSA. OSA is more prevelant in men , but  anyone who is overweight, or over 40 years old, are more likely to have OSA, but it can affect anyone of any age.

How do I know if I have OSA?

Because some of the symptoms of OSA occur while you're sleeping, the person you sleep with may notice it first. You, or that person, may notice heavy snoring or long pauses in your breathing during sleep. Even if you don't remember waking up during the night, you may notice daytime sleepiness (such as falling asleep at work, while driving or when talking), irritability or fatigue. You may also experience morning headaches, forgetfulness, mood changes and a decreased interest in sex. 

A discussion with your sleep partner and possibly your physician might be appropriate.

Is OSA dangerous?

Sleep apnea can cause serious problems if it isn't treated. Your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, is higher if serious sleep apnea goes untreated. You are also more likely to have auto accidents if you drive while sleepy. If you have sleep apnea, it is very important to get treatment.

Is there anything I can do to help my sleep apnea?

Yes. The following steps help many people who have sleep apnea sleep better.

        Stop all use of alcohol or sleep medicines. These relax the muscles in the back of your throat, making it harder for your to breathe.

        If you smoke, quit.

        If you are overweight, lose weight.

        Sleep on your side instead of your back.

How is sleep apnea treated?

A common treatment for sleep apnea is called "continuous positive airway pressure", or CPAP.  In this treatment, a pump pushes room air through a hose into a mask that covers your mouth and nose. This blows open your airway and allows you to breathe. While very effective, this is not tolerated by over 50% of the people with sleep apnea. 

An alternative treatment is a mandibular repositioning device (MRD). This is custom fitted appliance made by Dr Betz and advances your lower mandible forward to open the airway. It is effective in mild to moderate OSA. It sometimes is used in conjunction with other therapies, such as surgery or CPAP. Surgery may be done to remove enlarged tonsils, shorten or remove portions of the soft palate, advance the tongue, or place stiffeners in the soft palate.

Will this problem change my life?

Actually, sleep apnea or OSA may have already affected you more than you know. Daytime drossiness, loud snoring,  traffic accidents, spouse requiring you to sleep in another room, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, these are just a few of the effects of sleep apnea.

contact our Whittier dental office if you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment

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