Sleep apnea is a severe sleep-related issue that causes breathing to stop involuntarily for brief periods when sleeping. Generally, the flow of air from the mouth, nose, and lungs is smooth. The short period when the breathing stops is known as apnea or apneic episodes.
Obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea are the two most common varieties affecting people where the normal flow of air is repeatedly interrupted throughout the night. The interruption is because the throat is too narrow for the airway space. Sleep apnea is characterized by snoring, which is caused by the squeezing of the airflow through the narrowed opening. If left untreated, sleep apnea can cause severe health issues such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and strokes. Therefore proper diagnosis and treatment become essential to prevent complications.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Sleep apnea results in decreased oxygen supply to the brain and other parts of the body. Affected people suffer from low sleep quality, daytime drowsiness, lack of clarity during the day, and other issues. People affected by sleep apnea may also experience the following symptoms:
- Challenging to treat headaches.
Some other symptoms associated with sleep apnea include worsening depression, hyperactivity in children, poor performance in school and work, and lack of interest in sex. Daytime drowsiness because of sleep apnea puts affected people at risk for accidents when operating vehicles or machinery. Treatment for the condition can help people who find relief from daytime drowsiness caused by sleep apnea.
Risk Factors Associated With Sleep Apnea
The risks of sleep apnea increase among people who have conditions or features that narrow the upper airway. The risks associated with sleep apnea include:
- Men with a collar size of 17 inches and women with a collar size of 16 inches or more.
- Large tongue blocking the airway.
- A narrow palate or airway that collapses easily.
- A lower jaw that a shorter than the upper jaw.
Obesity is also a risk factor of sleep apnea and heart disease and hypertension.
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
Diagnosing sleep apnea begins with a physical exam and the entire history of the patient. Essential information patients must share with the doctor include daytime drowsiness and snoring. The doctor will examine the patient’s head and neck to identify any physical factors associated with sleep apnea. Patients are requested to complete a questionnaire about daytime drowsiness, quality of sleep, and sleeping habits.
Doctors recommend sleep study tests performed in a sleep clinic by undergoing a polysomnography test. This test will measure the activity of various organ systems associated with sleep. The test is uncomfortable and intrusive besides being expensive. Numerous wires and tubes are attached to the patient’s body, who must endure the same for the entire night. However, the polysomnography test is the gold standard for evaluating sleep apnea and is essential for the diagnosis.
Presently home sleep apnea tests are also available and are recommended by many doctors. Despite being a convenient option, the results from home sleep apnea tests are not considered as reliable as the polysomnography test. Therefore doctors may recommend testing at a sleep clinic even after the portable devices deliver the expected results.
Treatment For Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea therapy aims to ensure the airflow is not blocked when sleeping. The treatment suggested by doctors may include weight loss, nasal decongestants, and the CPAP or BPAP devices that are effective but uncomfortable and difficult to adhere to.
Surgery is recommended to remove extra tissues from the back of the throat for people affected by sleep apnea.
The Mesa dentist also has a sleep apnea therapy that is not just comfortable but also portable and quickly adopted by most people affected by this problem. Dentists have pioneered an oral appliance for sleep apnea, which prevents the airway from collapsing.
The device pioneered by dentists is similar to a custom made night guard that must be worn when sleeping. The nightguard helps keep the lower jaw in a forward position to prevent the airway from collapsing. The oral appliance is an affordable alternative for people who cannot adhere to the traditional treatments. However, getting diagnosed for sleep apnea from a sleep medicine specialist is an essential requirement, and any tests recommended for the diagnosis. People with sleep apnea can undoubtedly visit the Mesa dentist with information about their symptoms. However, it would be helpful if people remembered the oral appliance would only be provided after confirmation of their condition from a sleep medicine specialist.