Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes breathing to stop briefly and repeatedly throughout the night. The pauses last about ten seconds and are often followed by a loud choking or gasping sound. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the type that occurs when the soft tissues of the mouth collapse into the air passages, stopping the flow of air. Another example is central sleep apnea, where the brain fails to send the signals required to control breathing. OSA is more common and widespread, and sadly often goes undiagnosed.
Treatment options for Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can cause poor sleep and reduced oxygen level in the blood. Deprivation of good sleep and oxygen can predispose sleep apnea patients to the risks of heart disease, hypertension, anxiety, and memory issues. Sleep apnea also causes daytime drowsiness. Patients that are experiencing the symptoms of sleep apnea need to consult a sleep dentist for treatment. The options available include:
CPAP device: CPAP, which stands for continuous positive airway pressure, is the treatment of choice for sleep apnea. The CPAP device has a mask that fits over the nose and mouth and delivers air into the airway to ensure it stays open throughout sleep. This option is highly effective and usually recommended by dentists.
Nasal expiratory positive airway pressure: This comprises of a disposable valve that covers the nostrils.
Hypoglossal nerve stimulation: A stimulator is inserted into the patient’s chest with leads linked to a breathing sensor and the hypoglossal nerve that controls throat movement. The sensor monitors the patient’s breathing while sleeping and prompts the hypoglossal never to shift the tongue to keep the airway open.
Dental Appliances – These may shift the lower jaw and tongue forward to prevent airway blockage.
Specific lifestyle changes can reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea. The following may help minimize the severity of apnea:
Weight loss: Overweight patients may be able to cure their condition by losing weight or adjusting to a healthier diet.
Avoid alcohol: Alcohol often makes the breathing muscles in the upper airways collapse. This can cause recurrent nighttime awakenings.
Quit smoking: Smoking cigarettes can cause swelling in the upper air passages, which can make apnea and snoring worse.
Patients with mild sleep apnea or who snore heavily may curb some of the symptoms by lying on their sides rather than their backs.
Living with sleep apnea
The most vital aspect of treatment for sleep apnea patients is using the CPAP machine or a breathing device when they are ready to sleep. The health benefits of sleep apnea devices are immense, but they must be used correctly. Patients who have had issues with their breathing devices or who experience side effects need to consult the dentist that recommended it for assistance.
Getting enough sleep is crucial for excellent health, especially in sleep apnea patients. If you notice symptoms such as inability to fall asleep, difficulty sleeping through the night or waking up abruptly, you need to talk to your dentist about treatment. Remember that getting over-the-counter sleeping aids without the doctor’s recommendation may worsen the condition.
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