Sleep Apnea & Snoring
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times. This means the brain — and the rest of the body — may not get enough oxygen.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep.
Am I at Risk for Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, even children. Risk factors for sleep apnea include:
- Being male
- Being overweight
- Being over age 40
- Having a large neck size (17 inches or greater in men and 16 inches or greater in women)
- Having large tonsils, a large tongue, or a small jaw bone
- Having a family history of sleep apnea
- Gastroesophageal reflux or GERD
- Nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum, allergies, or sinus problems
What Are the Effects of Sleep Apnea?
If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in a growing number of health problems, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure, irregular heart beats, and heart attacks
- Worsening of ADHD
In addition, untreated sleep apnea may be responsible for poor performance in everyday activities, such as at work and school, motor vehicle crashes, and academic underachievement in children and adolescents.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Common sleep apnea symptoms include:
- Waking up with a very sore or dry throat
- Occasionally waking up with a choking or gasping sensation
- Sleepiness or lack of energy during the day
- Sleepiness while driving
- Morning headaches
- Restless sleep
- Forgetfulness, mood changes, and a decreased interest in sex
- Recurrent awakenings or insomnia
Oral appliances (OA) are the most common treatment for patients with mild to moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Another way of treating Sleep Apnea is a (CPAP) machine or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. This machine is a large mask that is worn at night and it supplies the lungs with a burst of oxygen. The problem with a CPAP machine is that it is very large and uncomfortable so many patients can’t or won’t use it. For those patients who want something more comfortable a small plastic device fits in the mouth during sleep like a sports mouth guard or orthodontic retainer. This appliance prevents the tongue from falling back into the airway and it prevents blockage to the airway from the soft tissues in the back of the throat. This mouthpiece promotes adequate air intake by moving your jaw forward to a comfortable position. Oral appliances may be used alone or in combination with other treatments for sleep-related breathing disorders, such as weight management, surgery or CPAP.