What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that involves cessation of or significant decrease in airflow in the presence of breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common form of sleep apnea and is characterized by recurrent episodes of upper airway collapse during sleep. When the tongue and soft palate collapse onto the back of the throat, the upper airways are blocked, stopping the airflow in the nose and mouth. When the oxygen level drops low enough, the brain moves out of deep sleep and the individual partially awakens. The airway then opens, causing the obstruction in the throat to clear. The flow of air starts again, usually with a loud gasp. This scenario may occur many times during the night, with apnea episodes lasting between 10-30 seconds or longer.
It is important to determine if you have OSA, because of its strong association with and potential cause of many debilitating medical conditions, including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, insulin-resistant diabetes, depression and sleepiness-related accidents.
Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea. While snoring is caused by narrow airways, sleep apnea is a true breathing obstruction, which requires the sleeper to awaken to begin breathing again. A person with sleep apnea wakes up many times a night to regain breathing, but usually remembers nothing at all about the awakenings. Snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea, but snoring by itself does not involve the cessation of breathing.
Snoring can get in the way of a good night’s sleep and a healthy relationship with your spouse or partner. Many couples affected by snoring resort to sleeping in separate bedrooms in order to get a good night’s sleep. This arrangement may help both people sleep better, but it can disrupt communication and intimacy.
The most typical health problem associated with snoring is loss of sleep for both the person snoring and the sleep partner. The snoring noise combined with tossing and turning, often keeps both people from sleeping soundly. Sleep deprivation has significant consequences, including excessive sleepiness, irritability and lack of productivity during the day as well as negative health repercussions. Finding a cure for your snoring problem can result in an improved quality of life for you and your loved ones.
Treatments for Sleep Apnea
As we mentioned, OSA is a serious medical condition. Diagnosis is often accomplished through an overnight sleep study. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) for the treatment of moderate to severe sleep apnea. However, if CPAP hasn’t been successful for you, Dr. Caracioni may recommend an oral appliance.
Oral appliances that treat snoring and obstructive sleep apnea are small plastic devices worn in the mouth, similar to orthodontic retainers or sports mouth guards. These appliances help prevent the collapse of the tongue and soft tissues in the back of the throat, keeping the airway open during sleep and promoting adequate air intake.
Oral appliance therapy is indicated for:
- Those with primary snoring or mild OSA who do not respond to or are not appropriate candidates for treatment with behavioral measures such as weight loss or sleep-position change.
- Those with moderate to severe OSA who are intolerant of or refuse treatment with nasal CPAP.
- Oral appliances are also indicated for those who refuse or are not candidates for surgery.
At Enchanted Smiles, our treatment includes the latest in FDA-approved oral orthotic therapy, also known as mandibular advancement devices (MAD). A MAD keeps the tongue below the airway and provides positive airway space to limit apnea episodes and their related loss of sleep.
If you are interested in knowing your risk for sleep disorders and how treatment can improve your sleep and your life,for a professional sleep consultation.