Consider this—12 million Americans have sleep apnea, but only 10% of them know it.
This is a scary thought because sleep apnea is a dangerous condition that can cause severe physical and mental symptoms and, in some cases, early death.
Some signs of sleep apnea are:
- Headache, dry mouth, or irritated throat (especially upon waking)
- Chronic fatigue
- Loss of energy and interest in the things you love most
- Heart disease
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Those who suffer from sleep apnea stop breathing during the night. This could happen up to hundreds of times every evening, and many patients are not aware it’s happening. There are two forms of sleep apnea, and while there are some patients who have both forms, it is most likely that you have one of the following:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This is the more common of the two varieties. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles that hold your airway open relax, causing it to close. This type is associated with snoring.
Central Sleep Apnea: This type happens when your brain stops sending signals to your body to tell it to breath.
Effects of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea starts a chain of reactions in your brain and body. When you stop breathing, your brain wakes up partially to restart your breathing after sensing a lack of oxygen. Your heart responds to the lack of oxygen as well, pumping harder and faster.
This dangerous combination of lack of sleep and stress on your heart can result in:
- Falling asleep during work or driving
- Heart attack
- Depression and other mood disorders
- Chronic headaches, especially headaches on waking
- Memory problems
- Lack of concentration
- Loss of motivation
- Chronic fatigue
- Coronary artery disease
- High blood pressure
- Daytime sleepiness
- Weight gain or inability to lose weight
Suffering from one or all of these may indicate that you also have sleep apnea. We will refer you to a sleep clinic and, if diagnosed, we will work on a treatment plan that is best for your particular case.
Treatment Plans for Sleep Apnea
Several forms of treatments exist for sleep apnea, so it’s important to understand your options.
- Lifestyle Modification: This tends to be first in the line of defense and works well when coupled up with another type of treatment. Typical modifications include losing weight, drinking less alcohol before bed, and adjusting sleeping position. It is also a good idea to check allergies and reduce things in your environment that you may be allergic to.
- Oral Appliance Therapy: This works by repositioning your jaw to help hold your airway open. It’s quiet, portable, and easy-to-use.
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): This is the most common prescribed option, and the only option available for central sleep apnea. CPAP machines have a mask and air pump that fills your lungs and airways. While these may work well, many patients find them difficult to use. The pump and tubes are noisy and inconvenient, and the mask can be uncomfortable. This results in many patients not sticking to their treatment.
- Sleep Apnea Surgery: Surgery is seen as the last resort for sleep apnea treatment. This consists of surgically modifying your airway. Those who aren’t successful with CPAP are at increased risk for complications, and this surgery is often not successful.
Colorado Family Orthodontics Can Help
Dr. Paul A. Hamersky is an expert at treating obstructive sleep apnea and snoring. He also is the head of Denver Dental Sleep Care. Whether you have been diagnosed or not, Dr. Hamersky will help to find you a treatment plan that is comfortable and effective.
Dr. Hamersky is constantly furthering his knowledge base and education regarding dental sleep medicine. He is an active member and participant in the Colorado Sleep Society, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine.
Schedule a consultation today to start treating your sleep apnea and snoring.