Do you find yourself waking up throughout the night, gasping or choking for air? Are you struggling to remember the last time you had a good night’s sleep? Are your loved ones complaining of your loud snoring? If so, you could be suffering with a serious sleep disorder known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
OSA is a chronic condition that is categorized by repeated patterns of interrupted breathing while sleeping. The condition is caused by an obstruction to the airway from overly relaxed muscles that block your airway. When OSA is left untreated, your body is being deprived of necessary oxygen and sleep, which can negatively impact you or your child’s overall health and wellbeing, leading to heart disease, hypertension (i.e. high blood pressure), mood changes, and depression.
Who’s Affected by Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
OSA occurs most commonly in adults, but children can also suffer from it. According to Medical News Today, “Approximately 18 million Americans have this condition, but only 20 percent have been diagnosed and treated.”
How Do You Know If You Have Sleep Apnea?
Even though you’re not able to really monitor yourself as you’re sleeping, there are some symptoms and signs you may be experiencing that could indicate you have sleep apnea:
- Loud snoring that may wake you and/or your significant other up
- Waking up frequently with gasping, coughing, snorting, etc.
- Waking up with shortness of breath
- Waking up with an irritated, sore, or dry throat
- Feeling tired even after a full 7-8 hours of sleep
- Fatigue and sleepiness throughout the day
- Waking with a headache
- Decreased libido
- Higher blood pressure
- Impaired memory and concentration, especially at work or school
- Lower cognitive scores
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
It’s important to know that there are different types of sleep apnea, and each are caused by different factors. For those with Central Sleep Apnea (CSA), the brain’s lack of signaling the muscles to control breathing causes the sleep apnea, while in OSA, there are several risk factors that can contribute or cause the relaxed-muscle obstruction of the airway, including the following:
- Excessive weight
- More sedentary lifestyle
- Nasal congestion
- Sleeping on your back
- Certain medications (i.e. muscle relaxers, etc.)
How to Treat Sleep Apnea
The first step towards treating your sleep apnea is to confirm the diagnosis with a polysomnography (i.e. sleep-study test), where you’ll have your brain activity, heartrate, oxygen levels, breathing patterns, and physical movements monitored while you’re sleeping. While most doctors may schedule an overnight sleep study to be performed in a medical center, there are also at-home polysomnography devices that your Dakota dentist may order to test for OSA.
After you’ve determined you have OSA, there are different treatment options to help you manage your sleep apnea, and which one works best for you depends on your unique condition, the severity of your sleep apnea, and your doctor or dentist’s recommendation:
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)—this is a breathing machine that you wear whenever you’re sleeping, and it works by applying continuous airflow to encourage the airway to remain open and unobstructed. While CPAPs often come in a variety of face mask sizes, there’ll be a learning curve for most people. If the mask becomes too drying or cumbersome, your doctor can work with you to find a solution, like adding a humidifier, trying different head straps, etc. Despite requiring a learning curve, the CPAP is the most traditional treatment for OSA.
- Surgery—depending on your unique situation, your doctor may recommend surgical intervention to treat your OSA (e.g. removing excess tissue, etc.).
- Oral Appliance Device—this device is essentially a sleep apnea mouth guard that’s designed to push your lower jaw forward, improving breathing by allowing more space for your airway. This device is particularly effective for mild-to-moderate sleep apnea cases, and a dentist who specializes in dental sleep medicine can help you determine if it’s a beneficial treatment method for your sleep apnea. Similar to an orthodontic retainer, oral appliance devices are completely removable, and they consist of upper and lower trays that are securely hinged together for stable, continuous support. Because they’re small and removeable, oral appliance devices are more discrete and comfortable to wear and to take traveling.
If you or your child are struggling with interrupted breathing while sleeping, daytime exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, etc., consider contacting Dakota Dental today for a home sleep test. Once you’re diagnosed with OSA, our experienced dental team can help find the best treatment method for your sleep apnea, so you can get back to feeling like yourself again!
Find Support for Your Sleep Apnea at Dakota Dental
At Dakota Dental, we understand how scary obstructed breathing is, and we specialize in airway focused dentistry, so we can provide relief to patients with effective treatments to improve their breathing. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation, or visit our website for more information on our sleep apnea treatment.