08 Apr I think I may have sleep apnea: What steps should I take?
Sleep apnea is a very serious condition where the individual experiences shallow breathing or stops breathing altogether multiple times during periods of sleep. This is due to soft tissues in the mouth and/or throat that collapse cutting off the airway depleting oxygen to the brain.
The patient may awaken abruptly often coughing; loud snoring can be a symptom, but is not a definitive diagnosis. A partner may be more aware of a persistent issue than the patient.
In order to determine whether the patient is actually suffering from sleep apnea, a sleep study may be prescribed. A sleep study is done in a clinical setting where the patient’s breathing is monitored and the number of incidences is recorded. This allows an accurate diagnosis to be provided.
A number of suggestions may be recommended before a sleep study is done:
Weight loss – Since many patients are over their healthy weight, even a small loss may be beneficial.
Sleep on your side – Patients that sleep on their back may get relief by switching to their side. Sleeping in an elevated position may also help.
Sleep aids – Many believe being more relaxed is the answer; however, the problem with sleep apnea is the tissues are relaxing to block the airway. Additional relaxation with sedatives or alcohol is not helping.
Smoking – Studies have shown smokers have a three times greater chance of experiencing sleep apnea.
Oral appliance – A mouth guard made specifically to reduce episodic sleep disturbances may be tried. Your dentist can fabricate a mouth piece that will position the jaw in such a way that soft tissues do not collapse. Oral appliance therapy has been shown to be very successful.
The concerns and side effects of leaving sleep apnea untreated are numerous. In addition to persistent fatigue due to a lack of restful sleep, the patient may eventually be at risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, or stroke.
Poor daily performance on the job or at school is possible; headaches may accompany fatigue.
While there are several things you can try to find a solution to a better night’s sleep, a diagnosis is the first step to determining if you actually have sleep apnea. Your dentist is a great place to start for education on the issue, and your recommended next step. Contact Friendly Dental Care at 740-687-6105 today to learn more.